Friday, April 8, 2011

This Script Has Been Done to DEATH: "Alien Hunter" (2003)

Sometimes the best ingredients of other science fiction films do not necessarily make one good science fiction film.

Linguist Julian Rome (James Spader) is called down to Antarctica. After a 1947 prologue set in New Mexico, we know some aliens keep crashing into Earth. At the South Pole, the group of hydroponic corn farmers have found something encased in the ice. The object is emitting a radio signal that Julian must translate.

The object is brought indoors to melt, and the rest of the scientific team naturally includes a lover from Julian's past, Kate (Janine Eser). Julian makes goo-goo eyes with Nyla (Leslie Stefanson), and we cheer when we discover the hot lady scientists work in their bathing suits around the corn.

Well, Julian figures out the message, the big piece of space stuff breaks open, and some nameless men in Washington, D.C. order the site destroyed as Julian and some possibly contaminated scientists try to figure out what to do.

If this sounds like an episode of "The X-Files," you would be right. Of course, you would also be right if you thought it sounded similar to "The Thing," "The Arrival," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." Heck, you can even throw in a Russian sub like "The Hunt for Red October," plus every B sci-fi flick released to video over the last ten years- thanks to the secret government underground lab that always seem to be impossible to escape from. Spader is a professor lusted after by a female student, giving us the modern day equivalent of the classroom scene in "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Therein lies "Alien Hunter"'s problem. Including the generic title, there are so many borrowed ideas from other sources, this film never comes into its own.

While these flaws make me not want to recommend the film, there are some bright spots. James Spader seems incapable of turning in a bad performance. He is totally believable as Julian, and the viewer cannot help but cheer him on. As he is aging, he is starting to resemble Jeff Goldblum, which mirrors the age of anyone who remembers him from the '80's' "Less Than Zero" or "Some Kind of Wonderful."

Also, Ron Strauss is a name to watch out for. I could see him directing a film on the scale of Roland Emmerich's "Godzilla," "Independence Day," or "The Day After Tomorrow." I almost felt Strauss' vision trying to break free from the tired script and standard characters with some great special effects and nice ending. It would be so interesting to see what he could do with a giant Michael Bay-sized budget, and a decent writer.

In the end, I wondered what Spader saw in "Alien Hunter." It had to have been his character, or he knew the director was going to be good. I know from watching this, Spader was right about playing Julian, and director Krauss, but not much else. (* *) out of five stars.