“Returner” – Nathan’s Movie Challenge, Week 31
“El dente won’t be the same without you.”
I think the creators of Returner saw The Matrix, The Professional, Independence Day, Aliens, Terminator, Die Hard, Mission Impossible, and E.T., and thought, “Yeah, let’s do all of that! In one movie!”
Well, it’s a good effort – entertaining enough, but shows its limitations and influences a little bit too strongly for the film to overcome mediocrity. Also, it looks like a movie that should have been made in the 80s, but is somehow from 2002. You have to hand it to them for the attempt. It’s earnest. It’s like a pretty good cover band that isn’t dressed that well.
There is a whole lot of cheese.
At one point, someone says, “They’re here.” in the raspiest, most cornball way possible. It’s incredible.
At another point, something insanely obvious is seen on someone’s neck and – as unbelievable as it sounds – the film decides to take a second to graphically circle it and label it with “LOOK” on-screen, just to make sure you really, really saw it.
Al dente spaghetti is one of the emotional cornerstones of the movie. Seriously.
The music sounds like what a temp track “Prodigy-esque high intensity” score would sound like if an automated program composed it.
By the end, though, you just have to give into the cheese. It may have won me over despite itself. Maybe it’s worth watching for the cheese alone. It would make for an excellent RiffTrax/MST3K candidate.
Returner was at the time of this review at #8761 on my Flickchart list of shame (ranked #10168 among the best films of all time). Here’s how it entered my chart:
Returner vs. Bridget Jones’s Diary
When a romantic comedy is well-written, well-acted, and well-directed, I’m drawn into them. BJD is certainly one of them.
Returner vs. The Spirit
The Spirit feels way too try-hard next to Sin City, and gives a lot of good actors nothing to do. Remarkably boring.
Returner vs. Stephen King’s The Stand
The book is better. WAY better.
Returner vs. The Last Stand
Another movie with “Stand” in the name. Weird. Also, a fairly forgettable post-governership Arnold movie.
Returner vs. Elvira, Mistress of the Dark
Elvira is kind of a spiritual sister movie to Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. Unusual main character. Zany, hyper-reality fantasy extensions to the real world. Despite its crass exterior, is actually a fairly well executed supernatural yarn. It wins!
Returner vs. 10 Things I Hate About You
10 Things I Hate About You is another decent teen-rom-com thanks to a solid script and strong actors. A better movie than it should be.
Returner vs. Cube Zero
Cube Zero is not a great movie, but it has a great premise. Show the other side of the “Cube” – the outside, looking in. Show the humanity (or lack thereof) of the people in charge of placing people in the Cube. Really clever concept, lackluster execution. Still solid enough to win this matchup.
Returner vs. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil didn’t quite hook me, but it was a fairly clever horror comedy twist that hadn’t been seen before. Returner can’t say with any conviction whatsoever that it brings anything new to the table.
Returner vs. Synecdoche, New York
Synecdoche is a weird, weird movie – but you’d expect that with a Charlie Kaufman script directed by Kaufman himself. When I watched it, I wasn’t sure if it was a great movie or a terrible movie, and so it hangs in the middle area of my chart. It’s a defiant movie. Challenging. It wins for being assertive in its contrast to most movies.
Returner vs. Escape from Tomorrow
While Escape from Tomorrow similarly shows its lack of funds on-screen, it maybe reaches for something a little more interesting with is nightmare scenario underpinning the facade of Disney. Probably being an central Florida native for most of my life, I have a distinct take on it that people outside of Disney’s shadow wouldn’t.
Returner vs. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
I wasn’t all that impressed with the end of Potter, and the story never really moved me much as it got to some of its twists and resolutions. It felt like a lot of threads were left dangling, and went a little too far into the fantasy side. I imagine the books make for a much better ending to the saga. Still, it’s better than Returner on a purely visual level alone.
Returner is now ranked #861 out of 1529 movies on my Best Movies of All-Time chart.
Next up is Zorro, the Gay Blade and Flash Gordon. In the meantime, check out the other films I’ve ranked during the challenge.