Solar Crisis

Year: 1990

Production: Trimark / Gakken NHK

Director: Alan Smithee (Richard C. Sarafian)

Starring: Tim Matheson, Charlton Heston, Peter Boyle, Annabel Schofield, Jack Palance, Corin Nemec, Dorian Harweood, Tetsuya Bessho

Screenwriter: Joe Gannon, Crispan Bolt, Takeshi Kawata

112 minutes; Color


Like Fukkatsu No Hi (Virus) (1980), this is basically a Japanese movie, based on a popular novel (by Kawata), restructured and dotted with "international" guest stars to play down the heroic role of a Japanese character (Bessho) and spotlight American performers who are compelled to play characters enmeshed in a subtly wrong set of codes of honor and emotion. On top of the usual problems of such international hybrids, compounded by the built-in ridiculousness of the disaster-from-space genre, this was beset by production troubles that prompted Sarafian to sign the film with the Directors Guild of America all-purpose pseudonym.

In the future, scientists predict that a solar flare will soon destroy the Earth. Heston ("I can do anything I want to, I'm the Admiral") masterminds a scheme to save the world by firing an anti-matter bomb into the Sun to trigger the flare early so it will shoot harmlessly into space, but zillionaire villain Boyle, who doesn't believe the pessimist prognosis and sees an opportunity for profit, tries to sabotage the mission. The disaster movie plot, which has some echoes of The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961) and Meteor (1979), cuts between several sets of characters in crisis situations. Space commander Matheson, Heston's son, leads the potential kamikaze mission and has to deal with bio-engineered Schofield, who has been brainwashed to serve Boyle, along the way. Heston, meanwhile, hooks up with desert rat Palance on Earth as he searches for his grandson (Nemec), who has gone missing.

Aside from a loony Palance, the cast are uniformly earnest as they cope with dialog that sounds as if it has been translated ("The cremation of the planet is at hand", "I don't give a Martian's ass about anything except the performance of my ship", "Goddamnit, tell me you love me before you leave the room"). Paul Williams adds a strange touch as the voice of an insecure bomb who harks back to Dark Star (1974) but oddly plays for pathos rather than humor. The effects-heavy finale depicts a descent into the fires of the Sun that is not quite the 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) trip it would like to be and strangely omits depiction of the flare. Though it has quality opticals and an expansive Maurice Jarre score, this still feels like an outdated quickie, down to preposterous character names like Admiral "Skeet" Kelso and Freddy the Bomb.

The Overlook Film Encyclopedia - Science Fiction

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