Science fiction and fantasy                                            


directed by Ivan Reitman

Evolution cover 
Evolution opens with a meteor travelling towards Earth, whilst a firefighter does strange things with a blow-up doll. This made me wonder if the tone for the whole film would be a sort of American Pie with aliens. In fact Wayne Grey, played by Seann William Scott, is in the desert to practise for his firefighter exam. All he is doing is rescuing the doll from a burning shed. Moments later a meteor crashes into the ground just metres away from him.

The next day two college lecturers come to investigate the crater in Glen Canyon, Arizona. Dr Ira Kane and Harry, played by David Duchovny and Orlando Jones, are not the most serious or ethical of teachers. Harry is a United States Geological Survey Investigator, and he ropes Ira in to help him take samples of the rock. It's oozing a strange goo.

When Kane takes a sample back to school to study, he finds it full of alien lifeforms. What is more, in an afternoon they evolve from single-cell to multi-cellular organisms. On Earth that process took several million years. Kane wants to keep this discovery to himself and Harry, so they can take all the credit for it. So rather than alerting the proper authorities, they are back at the site the next day with a field trip of students. Things have already started to develop, and the creatures have multiplied and begun to create their own atmosphere. You can probably see where this is going already.

On the teachers' next visit to the crater they are incensed to find that the government has taken over and put the army in charge. What is more, they are denied access by the stereotypical inflexible general. We're introduced here to Alison Reed, the clumsy scientist played by Julianne Moore. She has her differences with Kane, who was not always a teacher. In fact he used to be in the army, but left under a cloud.

Inevitably Harry and Kane try to sneak back into the site in the hope of collecting more samples. By this time an entire ecosystem has evolved, with a whole range of insects and animals. Not all of these are safe, as Harry discovers in one of the more gross-out scenes of the film. They soon find they have more than a dictatorial general to contend with as the alien threat increases and spreads.

Seann William Scott plays to type as a goofy failed firefighter, and Dan Ackroyd makes an appearance as the bossy governor who keeps the general in his place. Most of the cast are experienced comic actors. It's refreshing to see Duchovny in a comic role too. There are plenty of gags to go round throughout this very light-hearted film. It doesn't take itself at all seriously, and the humour tends towards slapstick, gross-out and dumbness. It's rated PG however, so don't expect to be greatly offended by any of the jokes. Look out for the final gag, it's the best in the whole movie.

Sci-fi thrives on special effects. The effects in this movie are mostly silly rather than awe-inspiring, but they are still competently done. You might not see anything new that hasn't been done better elsewhere though.

The plot is a daft one, tapping into our basic fear of not being on top of the food chain. It's funny in a slight smirk kind of way rather than a deep belly laugh. This movie is consistently enjoyable and the cast are good, but it doesn't stand out. One to watch when you can't find anything better.

The bonus parts on the DVD include written personal biographies of the cast and filmmakers as well as production notes, again in text form. There is the usual gushing praise of the director, and the trailers. Nothing is in a great deal of detail, and in fact it manages to convey very little information at all. It's short but at least entertaining to watch. The extras are like the film in that you don't get anything out of the ordinary.

Film Details

Year: 2001

Categories: Films

  Science fiction

Classification: 15

If you like this, try:

Idiocracy cover    

Idiocracy by Mike Judge
500 years in the future all of the smart people have died out, and it is up to an average guy from our time to put things right.

3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson