Evolution is what happens when you try and remake the Ghostbusters for the 21st century, not realising that what made the ghostbusters great and what makes Evolution bloody awful is that it is completely of its time and yet somehow timeless. Evolution, on the other hand is dated, regressive, and utterly stupid.
It is easy to write off the 2001 summer blockbuster which failed to bust anyone’s proverbial block simply as a harmless, middle of the road popcorn movie, and I feel that that’s exactly what happened when the early noughties critics witnessed it. The movie is a perfect example of a who cares flick. Looking back on it 17 years post release, it boggles the mind how people don’t hate on this film more, because if there’s one thing this film deserves it is hatred.
The two leads, David Duchovny and Orlando Jones, play the parts of Ira Kane and Harry block, geology professors for an Arizona community college, investigate a mysterious asteroid which fell to earth and destroyed Sean William Scott’s car. The two scientists discover that the asteroid carries complex microorganisms that grow and reproduce faster than gremlins at a pool party. Thus, the Ghostbusters equivalence rears its poorly rendered head, as dated CGI mutant dinosaurs run amok
Sounds like harmless fun, right? Sounds like the kind of movie that could capture the original spirit of the Ghostbusters, of course not quite rising to the heights that that movie did, but perhaps presenting itself as something to fill the void for fans of the original film. Surely with Ivan Reitman directing, Dan Aykroyd playing a supporting role and David Duchovny’s wry wit in the lead, this film could truly be entertaining, right?
Wrong. So very wrong.
First of all, the pacing is completely flat. The film meanders, choosing to have long extended scenes of people talking and explaining to the audience in a manner so condescending and uninteresting it would make the opening title crawl of Star Wars blush. The film cuts from these long, boring scenes to maybe a five minutes sequence of someone getting mauled by one of the mutant creatures, mistaking a hideous, clearly non-mammalian animal for a dog, possibly in an attempt to make you laugh.
The scenes of inane chatter wouldn’t be so offensive if the characters were anything other than cardboard cut-outs masquerading as people. Duchovny who is usually a compelling and witty actor totally fails to emote or communicate any slight indication that he may be feeling an emotion. He delivers his lines in a monotone drawl, and his attempts at comedy fall flat.
Orlando Jones’ performance does little in the way of saving it, going too far in the other direction where he is so frantic and loud that he becomes obnoxious. The portrayal of Harry Block is also one of the most offensive in the film. Every time he opens his mouth, it is to say something either sexist, racist or homophobic. The amount of sex jokes he makes in the film make you seriously question if the writers were professional Hollywood hacks, or twelve-year-old boys who copy and paste from Sickipedia. During one of his many sexist quips, a friend of mine simply muttered “you are a monster.” Perhaps the most apt use of that word I have ever heard.
Gillian Anderson makes a shocking appearance in the film as plucky female lead, who endures the most dull and simplistic female scientist stereotype. She is bookish, unwieldy, and clumsy. One of her key characteristics is her clumsiness, in fact. It doesn’t have a payoff. Her clumsiness never saves the day or anything like that. The writing of her character simply leeks of laziness. Of course, there is an eye rolling romance element, which feels totally unearned due to the lack of chemistry between Anderson and Duchovny.
Comparing the set-up of the characters to the ones in Ghostbusters makes one go red with embarrassment for the movie. The chemistry of Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson was the Atlas that held the flimsy premise of that wonderful film up. Any scene in Ghostbusters is a joy to watch – you don’t even need context, you just need to appreciate the carefully crafted brand of humour that the actors and writers brought together. Lightning in a bottle.
Evolution is the sorry step-son of Ghostbusters, fundamentally misunderstanding what makes that movie great, or perhaps even understanding it but missing the mark so hard it hurts.
The climax of the movie is sickening. Basically, the life forms from the asteroid accelerate their evolution when exposed to fire. The government plan to blow up the next obviously provides enough fire for there to be a huge growth, and the big bad final boss reveals itself as a Lovecraftian tentacle monster. If you can’t kill it with fire, what can you kill it with? Are you ready to find out? Im not sure you are. Ready?
Head. And. Shoulders.
The dandruff shampoo.
Product placement defeats the monsters.
So our plucky gang of stereotypes fill a fire truck with the shampoo which apparently holds the chemical which is poisonous to the creatures. In a final set piece, Orlando Jones climbs all the way up the fire truck ladder, inserts the hose pipe in the monsters rectum, and in Dan Aykroyd’s words, administers a “jumbo enema”.
If there’s one image that should tell you everything you need to know about the film, it’s the image of Harry Block being abducted by a tentacle monsters quivering sphincter.
Evolution is an embarrassing farce. It shouldn’t be seen by anyone, and fails to hold your attention for longer than five minutes, which incidentally is how long it takes for you to forget whats happening in the film. Boring, painful, obvious and gross, Evolution is the film that hurts the most.