Monday, December 14, 2009

Planet 51: A for Animation, F for Everything Else

I loved the animation and visual design of Planet 51, but two-thirds of the way through the movie, if I hadn't been there with someone else, I'd have walked out on it. Boring. Worse than boring, annoying.

The plot
The plot is not only simple but simplisticly accomplished. Captain Charles T. Baker lands his ship on ... Planet 51, whose history parallels that of Earth and who has now reached the equivalent of the 1950s, complete with alien invasion movies. ANd indeed, the planet has apparently long been bombarded by space probes from earth, and has put together a team of soldiers to deal with the anticipated invasion.

Baker steps onto the planet not expecting to find any signs of life - when he does he doesn't try to contact it, but instead runs for his life. Even after his initial panic is over, he still doesn't go out and try to be a representative of Planet Earth, instead he just wants to get back to his spaceship and go home.

He enlists Lem to help him, and even remains hidden in Lem's car while demanding that Lem go out and disperse the crowd around his spaceship so he can get back into it!

While I thought Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) did a credible acting job in Race to Witch Mountain, his voice work here is sub-par. Of course, it isn't helped by the fact that his character, Captain Charles T. Baker, is a complete wimp. Baker lands on the planet, walks out, sees a bunch of aliens, and runs for his life. That's not how an astronaut is supposed to act - he takes off his helmet, says Hi, I come in peace. Kind of like my hero, Buzz Lightyear.

Later on in the movie, it also transpires that Baker got by on his looks and his charm, which is a slap in the face to all the astronauts who worked their butts off in school and college, and NASA to be astronauts. Of course he "redeems" hismelf in the end, because he has to pilot the spaceship instead of the autopilot when the location where the ship is kept is about to explode.

Equally, Lem, the main character (Justin Long - Mac from the IBM/Mac commercials) is a teenager who gets a job at a planetarium, and is too shy to ask the girl he loves out for a date. At the end of the movie, he kisses her, ya da ya da.

General Grawl, played by Gary Oldman, is a heroic figure in more ways than one. HE's the handsome 51-er (or whatever that planet is called), dashing, etc., and truly believes that Baker is an evil alien come to take them over. But on two occasion he's made to act really stupidly, which just diminishes the character. Oldman's voicework is excellent, though.

John Cleese's voice work is excellent, as one might expect.

There are a few funny bits, and a few salacious bits put in just because.... (the Rover character leaks oil when he's really scared, a character doesn't want to be probed so carries a cork around that is supposed to be inserted into a certain orifice in the nether regions - disgusting and totally unnecessary, the astronaut stands up, completely nude, tho thankfully we only see his chest from the back, and a character says, "I wondered where his antenna were." or something similar to that.

So overall, a disappointing experience. I may see it again, just to enjoy the animation and set dressing...although more than likely I'll wait for it to be shown on TV, as it isn't worth paying more money to see it again.

Dwayne Johnson ... Captain Charles T. Baker (voice)
Jessica Biel ... Neera (voice)
Justin Long ... Lem (voice)
Gary Oldman ... General Grawl (voice)
Seann William Scott ... Skiff (voice)
John Cleese ... Professor Kipple

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