The Film (2/5)
“Hey you know that meme where it shows a group of kids walking and looking at their cell phones and somebody wrote something witty about the zombie apocalypse already happening? Let’s make a movie about it!” – Some studio producer somewhere
Granted, that’s not exactly what happened – it’s based on a book by Stephen King (which I haven’t read, but it is dedicated to George Romero, so hell that pitch may still very well apply), but we all know that King adaptations aren’t afraid to stray from their source in both content and quality.
In terms of content – a crowded airport turns into a bloodbath when a mysterious pulse turns everyone that’s on their cell phone into a mindless killer (Subtle, ain’t it?). Of course there are a handful of people who weren’t using their cell phones when the pulse hit and it’s up to them to figure out what’s causing it and try to stop it.
And, well, that’s it. Seriously. There are some decent visuals and superficial plot beats but the film is happy to take the foundation, framework, and structure of literally every other zombie film that’s come before (and also The Stand) and just put a new coat of paint on it. I can imagine the writers/filmmakers felt like they were doing something hip and edgy with the cell phone pulse device (and again, King may very well have felt the same way), but it’s so heavy-handed and eye-rollingly cliché. And then it all marches ahead to an ending that’s either meant to be ambiguous and fails or is meant to be straight-forward and still fails, because it’s got one scene too many that turns it into a muddled incoherent mess.
Which is a natural bridge to the quality part – sure everything is as predictable as any cheap screenplay template, but sometimes you can pull decent things out of bad scripts. This isn’t one of those times. There’s nothing inherently *bad* about it; the cast does decent work, the photography looks nice, and the edit is fine, but…so? It’s all works in service of the blandest script in town instead of working to elevate it. I mentioned before that there were some decent set pieces – and there are – but they’re few and far between and only exist as good things independently of the film as a whole, as opposed to – again – helping elevate it. And then when it does try to stray and do some interesting things, more often than not it ends up just emulating OTHER movies (namely The Stand, and again that may be a carryover from the book, and King does have that tendency for sure), but emulating them badly, and almost seemingly just for the sake of emulating them, with no mind paid to how they tie into the story at hand.
It’s just…not good, and really there isn’t much more to say than that. You’ve seen this movie 100 times, and this particular iteration wouldn’t even crack the Top 75 of those 100.
It’s a good looking film! The makeup effects are solid, there’s decent use of light and sound, everything is mixed well and the 2.40:1 1080p transfer looks fine on an HD TV. If by some chance you enjoy the movie you’re definitely getting a good presentation of it.
There’s a Making of ‘documentary’ which is essentially the cast talking about the plot of the film and the makeup artists showing off their work, but it’s short, and almost feels like an obligation, and certainly isn’t something that adds any must-have value to the disc.
Same with Tod Williams’ commentary; he’s not boring, but he’s not necessarily compelling either, though I will say that had I not listened I would have missed gems such as “As I traveled around making this movie I noticed things in the airports; people actually using their phones when they went to the toilet. Which I confess, I’ve done…*ahem*…not number two but number one.” And “If I were a purist I would have shot this on film, as a statement against the digital, but we had to get it done quickly.”
I will admit I didn’t finish the entire thing though; watching the movie once was bad enough, and I just couldn’t bring myself to listen to someone else watch it all the way through.
Like I said earlier, you’ve seen this movie 100 times. And hey, maybe you can’t get enough of it and think this would make a great 101, and more power to you – I hope you enjoy it. But I didn’t. At all. A perfect example of why comes from my favorite nugget in the commentary, as the cast interacts with an upturned shopping cart: “Shopping carts, and I think this is a Danny Boyle thing, shopping carts in strange places suggest the end of the world. It’s kind of a classic – the overturned shopping cart. I dunno why.”
The director, in his own commentary, says ‘I really don’t know why this represents what everybody uses it to represent, but everybody uses it to represent that, so I will too.’
That’s pretty much every single thing you need to know about Cell.