“Silent Running” – Nathan’s Movie Challenge, Week 3
Oh, god… make the singing stop.
This was not supposed to be a comedy.
I’m a huge fan of Doug Trumbull (and apparently George Lucas was too, and tried to get him to work on Star Wars, but ended up getting his dad, Donald Trumbull, instead), but the effects in this movie are so flat. Everything is overlit, and the framing is very similar to TV – not cinematic at all. It reminds me a LOT of classic Star Trek episodes – in lighting, in framing, in color palettes… it’s fake, and I cannot suspend disbelief.
It’s surprising how so much of the same techniques look fantastic in the Star Wars films or Alien, but in this movie look like the cheapest toys and models ever made. I know the drones in this movie are also essentially the inspiration for the droids of Star Wars, but they’re so ridiculous in this, but so believable in Star Wars. Perhaps it’s all down to the direction of Trumbull. His effects work is so good in 2001, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and Blade Runner that it’s painful to see how badly Silent Running’s effects are realized.
I also had a really hard time believing or relating to the main character of our environmental terrorist-zealot played by Bruce Dern. His acting is so over the top, it becomes absurdly silly and cartoonish. When he stands in his forest dome and the falcon comes to rest on his arm, I laughed out loud. I’m sure this was not the intended reaction.
It’s also painfully 70s in styling, costuming, music; it doesn’t have a timeless quality, whatsoever. It’s permanently stuck in its era. The music is atrociously bad – especially when Joan Baez comes warbling in from time to time – another sure way to date the film.
I’m finding it hard to say anything positive about it, and that’s a shame. I was expecting more from it, for sure.
Silent Running was at the time of this review at #966 on my Flickchart list of shame (ranked #1503 among the best movies of all time). Here’s how it entered my chart:
Silent Running vs. City Slickers
Billy Crystal is always entertaining, and although I’m not a Western fan, I still have fond memories of City Slickers. It takes the match.
Silent Running vs. Dead Snow
Yes, Nazi zombies in the snow is a combination that’s kind of hard to beat.
Silent Running vs. Cube 2: Hypercube
Cube 2 is my least favorite Cube movie (the worst acting, and the worst effects), but it’s still at its core more interesting than anything going on in Silent Running.
Silent Running vs. Detroit Rock City
Detroit Rock City is not great, but it’s got protagonists I can relate to. It’s an interesting enough premise of teens trying to meet their idols. I’ll take it over the silly Silent Running.
Silent Running vs. Bull Durham
I’m not a baseball guy, but I can appreciate the script and chemistry between Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Robbins. It’s a good movie, and it wins here.
Silent Running vs. Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore
Yeah, I’ve seen the Cats & Dogs sequel (the kids love talking animal movies), but not the umpteen film masterpieces I should have already seen. Silent Running tried to make a statement at least, so it will win this matchup.
Silent Running vs. Superman III
Superman III is very bad, and terrifying. Silent Running is just not very good. Bruce Dern’s crazy eyes can win this one.
Silent Running vs. Just Married
When it’s a bad Ashton Kutcher rom-com vs. a bad sci-fi film, the sci-fi wins.
Silent Running vs. Red Heat
Arnie’s great. Red Heat wins.
Silent Running is scraping the barrel at #1318 out of 1356 movies on my Best Movies of All-Time chart.
Next week I’ll be watching Collateral, The Rocketeer, and Frequency. Here’s all the other movies I’ve ranked in the challenge so far.