“Stalker” – Nathan’s Movie Challenge, Week 3
“A man writes because he’s tormented, because he doubts. He needs to constantly prove to himself and the others that he’s worth something.”
I almost didn’t make it through this movie’s opening. It’s got a long, slow opening. Perhaps it’s purposeful, to drive home the drab monotony of the “real world”. The dialogue certainly helps drive this notion home. An impatient person might not be able to sit through the first 40 minutes to find out there’s more to this movie than what it first reveals.
The film nearly lost me until they made it into The Zone. Pulling from the Wizard of Oz playbook to switch from a nearly black and white sepia to a full color, the film opens up its intentions. The mystery is set, and we’re together with our three characters isolated from the bleak world they left behind.
Then, things slow down – again. They’re having to take their time through The Zone for reasons unknown. The Professor has to go back and get his lunch. Things are sort of weird here. What’s with the dog? Why won’t The Writer shut the hell up? Now it’s time for everyone to take a nap? I know how they feel.
I think the original novel this was based on, Roadside Picnic, might be a better version of the story. As a film, it takes much too long either in extended, drawn-out scenes of dialogue, or seemingly endlessly lingering visual shots. Perhaps it’s a Russian aesthetic, or an aesthetic of Tarkovsky’s, but it failed to hold and keep my attention. I often wanted the film to hurry up and get on with itself. I wished I could have seen the horrors the Stalker has so obviously seen. Instead, nothing happens. Just lots of flowery, pointless monologues. Then the movie just sort of ends. Disappointing.
I’m sure I missed something here, and if I read several dissections of its brilliance I might be swayed, but my general takeaway is this film just isn’t for me.
Stalker was at the time of this review at #109 on my Flickchart list of shame (ranked #220 among the best movies of all time). Here’s how it entered my chart:
Stalker vs. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Yeesh. I guess Crystal Skull? Bleh.
Stalker vs. Dead Snow
I don’t think Dead Snow is particularly good, but it’s at least a different spin on a zombie tale – with Nazis – in the snow. Stalker loses.
Stalker vs. Contact
I’ve gotta see Contact again at some point. I remember being super-impressed, so that memory sticks with me when it comes up in a matchup. It wins over Stalker.
Stalker vs. This is 40
Yeah. Even though I didn’t get Stalker as I probably should have, it’s still more interesting than This is 40.
Stalker vs. Steel Magnolias
Dolly Parton and a whole lot of sap is about all I recall of Steel Magnolias. I probably watched it with my mom at some point while she weeped. Stalker wins.
Stalker vs. Lilo & Stitch
I’ve seen Lilo & Stitch in passing recently, as my kids have watched it a few times. I think it’s actually pretty creative, and a big stretch during an interesting time in Disney’s animation history. It takes it over Stalker.
Stalker vs. The Jewel of the Nile
It’s an altogether blatant rip-off of Indiana Jones, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. This is another movie I’ve not seen in ages, but I want to – so that’s enough to win here.
Stalker vs. Sweet Home Alabama
Reese Witherspoon at her cute-rom-com peak. Too formulaic to impress more than Stalker – despite my reservations of it.
Stalker vs. Osmosis Jones
Even though Bill Murray’s involved, and it has some interesting animation, Osmosis Jones is a pretty weak film. Stalker wins for at least attempting something.
Stalker vs. King Ralph
It’s a classic fish-out-of-water comedy, and a fun role for John Goodman. I haven’t seen it in a very long time, but I recall it being simplistic, but full of heart. It takes the win.
Stalker is now down near the bottom at #1288 out of 1353 movies on my Best Movies of All-Time chart.
Silent Running will finish up the week next. Here’s the other films I’ve ranked in this challenge so far.