You know it’s a bad sign when Christian Slater is the best actor in a film, god bless him. Especially if, as in this movie, pretty much all he does is arch his brows in perpetually confused disbelief and rattle off a bunch of lines in a language I like to call “Galumphing Exposition.”
This incredibly bad sci-fi “thriller” (wait, did I say “incredibly”? I meant INCREDIBLY) is a flick I picked out to watch with my mom a few weeks ago. We have taken risks on such dubious pictures before, and have gotten lucky more than once; stumbling across a good-bad “trapped in space” movie can make for a truly excellent time. Unfortunately, Stranded (not to be confused with its other brother Darryl, Stranded, though it would be easy to mix them up since that movie sucked too) is so badly written, poorly plotted, and laughably designed it wasn’t even fun to pick on.
Well, while we were watching it, anyway. It’ll be fun to pick on NOW.
Let’s start with the story, such as it is — it’s about a group of scientists (ha!) who get trapped inside their moon base when an asteroid storm knocks out all their communications equipment (not hard to do, as it appeared from the opening shot that the moon base was built out of Legos). Because they’re scientists (ha!), they decide to take the opportunity to go outside and grab a chunk of asteroid to study. Might as well learn something, right?
Here’s where it starts to get ridiculous. The scientists (ha!), picking up a chunk of the rock, remark that it appears to be covered in “spores.” Then they take it inside the moon station completely as-is. No containment or anything — not even a plastic sandwich baggie. Heck, not even a vegetable-based compostable sandwich baggie. Just right in the front door and over to the lab, where they proceed to knock it into pieces, which, wonder of wonders, sends all the spores floating off into the air and up their noses.
Now, let’s pause here for a moment to remind ourselves of the definition of the word “spore.” A spore is a “minute, typically one-celled, reproductive unit capable of giving rise to a new individual without sexual fusion, characteristic of lower plants, fungi, and protozoans.” Most regular folk on the planet Earth think of mold spores when they think of spores, and then after they think “mold spores,” they think, “don’t breathe ‘em, ya idiots!”
Apparently, the crack team of scientists (ha!) we’re sending up to our moon stations in the future failed to learn even the most conventional wisdom about spores (“Spores bad!”), and, well, if you reread that definition up there, especially the “giving rise to a new individual” part, you can pretty much figure out the rest of the plot yourselves.
As if that weren’t dumb enough, after one of the scientists (ha!), a woman, becomes mysteriously pregnant with something that is growing crazy-fast, Slater’s character (the boss) locks her up in quarantine, and then proceeds to run in and out of her room like a bajillion times, for no good reason and without any protective gear on whatsoever. Oh, good god. I’m pretty sure that’s not what the CDC says you’re supposed to do when one of your scientists (ha!) is impregnated by an asteroid spore.
This movie’s tagline is “Fear is the infection!” which is kind of funny because, in reality, idiocy appeared to have been a much greater infection than fear for Team Strandeds. Unless what they meant was “fear of idiot scientists,” in which case, this film definitely effectively terrified me.
The truly sad thing about this movie, which I didn’t know until later, is that it was directed by Roger Christian, who won an Academy Award for set design on Star Wars. I can forgive the man his Lego exteriors, but I had to roll my eyes at his “spore creatures,” which weren’t creatures at all but instead simply the same cast, only scowling menacingly instead of gaping idiotically. Now, shape-shifting monsters that look like people can be very effective — think The Thing. Only, for that to work, it has to be plot point that feels like it was part of the plan all along — here it felt like something the filmmakers had to come up with on the fly when they realized their set designer had blown the whole FX budget on colorful interlocking plastic bricks from Denmark.
ANYWAY. It’s dumb. Is what I’m saying.
Genre: Science Fiction, Crap
Cast: Christian Slater, Brendan Fehr