I was invited by the NY Sci-Fi and Fantasy Meetup groop to see the premiere of Lockout last evening. I had no real expectations from the movie, all I knew before seeing it was its poster and the fact that Luc Besson was involved in its production. I was hoping that seeing this movie for free would help enjoying it but eventually it didn’t. At all.
WARNING : May contain spoiler, but can you spoil what is already spoilt ?
A papier-mâché scenario
Staged in a near-but-not-too-near future, Lockout is about this maximum security prison in orbit around Earth where inmates are put into cryogenics sleep (called “stasis”) for the duration of their sentence. The daughter of the president of the United States visits the facility to check the side effects of stasis, things go wrong, the 5,000 inmates are awakened and released in the space station, she becomes a hostage, secret services send an badass ex-CIA agent framed for a murder he didn’t commit to rescue her.
That’s for the story, the rest is merely optional. Like the hastly end twist about the good guy being the bad, and vice versa, or the evil company that is using inmates as guinea pigs for inhabited space flight research, or the suitcase the hero manages to save from an army at the start of the movie.
A cardboard universe
But what really struck me is not the weakness of the scenario or the the clumsiness of the story telling, its all those details that make the background universe in which the story unfold. And for Lockout, the background universe is quite inconsistent. Here’s a quick list of what’s wacky :
- The maximum security prison space station is armed with fully automatic weapon turrets to repel eventual assailant space ships. But the only space ships we see in the movie are either conventional space shuttle launched from Earth, or police space fighters coming from…
- The Low Orbit Police Department, that does nothing else in the movie that acknowledging the fire alarm in the prison and sending space fighters to aboard then destroy the taken over space station ;
- In a matter of hours, they manage to launch the conventional space shuttle from Earth at least twice, while there is never less than a month between current launches ;
- In the prison space station, there’s a giant rotary machine (I didn’t get the name) in a bottomless pit that seems only make things float in the pit unless it’s turned off ;
- The hero triggers several explosions inside the space station without creating any outside breaches. If the prison is so well armored, why bother with automatic turrets ?
- There’s a giant red button to turn turrets on, but opening all prison cryogenic cells can be done only from a computer ;
- Breaking computer panels by brute force always does what you want (generally it’s closing a door forever) ;
- Which doors are activated by flattening the whole hand on the wall. Again, one movement fits all your need (opening, closing, sealing) ;
- When the main characters flee the space station about to be blown by a bomb, they put on space suits, enter an air lock, jump out in space and fall. Yes, fall. Like two bricks. They even spread their legs and arms to slow down their fall. IN SPACE ;
- Upon entering the atmosphere, they start to burn due to the friction, but only for a couple of second. After that, they can freely remove the space suit (which scatters nicely in pieces without harming its wearer) and breathe normally. At an altitude of 10,000 km ;
- Cherry on the cake, they have also parachutes ! From the beginning ! In a space station !
- About the bomb, it has been planted at the very heart of the space station in a kind of ventilation vent by a police space fighter. For that, ten or twenty of them had to fly through heavy fire from the automatic turrets. Why didn’t they blow up the space station from afar ? At least the turrets ?
And I must omit some, I was too busy shrugging probably. But maybe the image was good, right ? There must be something to make up for the lack of proper scenario and the inconsistencies ?
A styrofoam visual
Sadly not. Honestly, this movie will easily pass the test of time, as it looks already old now. The space stations look is old, the space fighter design seems old, the overuse of lens flare in space is so last (light)year, there was no research in costumes either, nor in weapons.
The movie poster is also another example of the famous Orange/Blue contrast in Holliwood action movie posters. Oh wait, they didn’t even bother to add blue.
And the screenplay is really too much. In the first ten minutes of the movie, you have a gunfight, some wrestling, a car chase, an helicopter, a motorcycle and a subway more or less combined. All that for nothing. You don’t know the hero, you don’t know why he’s doing this, it’s just random non-sense after another, like they wanted to impress me right at the beginning to avoid me leaving the movie theater too soon.
But at the same time, I had the feeling that I was taken for dumb. That’s one of the first movie I see where they put the name of the main characters in an overlay when you see them for the first time. An overlay, like in the news show. Really ?
They do that for the location too, but that’s a common practice so at first it didn’t bother me much, although it’s not very useful. So when the prison space station showed up and it’s labeled “Maximum security prison”, I didn’t blink. But when, no more than 10 minutes later, the space station showed up again, the label was still here. Just in case you forgot. Because there is two space station in the movie, so you could easily be confused, you know.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like been treated as if I didn’t have a functioning brain, and everyone in the room should have been offended.
But I didn’t talk about the actors !
A plastic acting
No miracle in this field either. The role of Guy Pearce has clearly been written for Bruce Willis. Witty punchlines, a badass hero, that’s all him. And Guy Pearce does it best to match its predecessor, but he’s clearly no match. Not because he’s a bad actor, simply because he’s not Bruce Willis.
The female role is anecdotic, only there to emphasize the male role. In fact, the only one who shed a little light on the film is Joseph Gilgun, playing the crazy guy as in Misfits Season 3. It was quite enjoyable to find out that he made it in Hollywood.
On another subject, am I the only one shocked by the two black roles ? The first is the bodyguard of the president’s daughter who involuntarily triggers the riot on the space prison. He will later sacrifice himself to let the daughter live 20 seconds more in an watertight space deprived of oxygen. The second is a secret service executive who seems to be the only friend of the main character during the movie, and at the end *SPOILER ALERT* he reveals himself as the traitor who framed the very same character.
A fumbler but loyal and a friend but traitor ? They clearly don’t have the best role here, and I sure hope that the fact they took black actors only to play those characters is unfortunate.
A concrete conclusion
Don’t ever go see this movie, even for free. If you want to see Guy Pearce, he’s better in Memento. If you want to see Maggie Grace, she’s better in Lost. If you want to see Joseph Gilgun, that’s because you probably already saw him in Misfits, and that’s fine, but don’t expect anything good from the rest of the movie.
And finally, if you liked previous film from Luc Besson, keep it that way and watch The Fifth Element instead. It has a real background universe, Bruce Willis, and the world’s president is black.