Thursday, 27 September 2012

Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (Film Review)

To put this simply this isn’t Doctor Who. He’s not even in the title. You see Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. was a direct adaptation of an early serial, made by people trying to capitalise upon the wildfire popularity of the daleks and without much concern for anything else in the show. As such a lot of bits from that serial were dumbed down or removed to make it more accessible to audiences. In this, Doctor Who (yes, Who is his second name and he's played by Peter Cushing) is a human inventor from earth who invented a time machine called Tardis, no it’s not an acronym here, in his back yard in his free time. He’s accidently sent time travelling in the opening of Dr. Who and the Daleks and, since he’s still travelling, apparently decided to just keep going.

In this film the plot is… actually explained in the title. The Tardis crew are in 2150 after the daleks have invaded earth. They’re quickly separated, prevented from using their time machine and end up dragged into a war to save the earth etc. etc. The thing is though, even with the changed background this still might have worked. It was based off of a classic story, had a much bigger budget to film stuff with and about a billion more daleks to shoot with. Where it falls apart is the execution.

Say you were the creative powers working on this. You’re told that you’re adapting a very grim and dark story for its time. One of occupation; set in the ruins of a conquered city which seems to have suffered a more terrifying version of the blitz, focusing upon a scared few survivors and a time displaced family. What music do you give it? If you said something sombre or sad in any way; congratulations, you have a better idea of how to set tone than the people who made this. What did the filmmakers give this as a soundtrack? Big band jazz. No, you did just read that. When they run into a dalek for the first time, the film sounds like Dizzy Gillespie is playing just out of shot with a band. Halfway through the first act I wasn’t sure if Peter Cushing was going to end up facing off against the Dalek Empire or Spike Spiegel.

As if this weren’t enough, the directors decided that the film about genocide in a ruined city desperately needed scenes of slapstick comedy. While the Dr. Who and the Daleks might have had one too many jokey scenes trying to break up the tone; this film is littered with them. There’s an entire minor subplot where one character is pretending to be a dalek servant which is used purely for laughs. Guess what else: That specific subplot is introduced about ten minutes after the film shows a particularly lengthy massacre of resistance fighters at the hands of the daleks.

And this is just the start of the film’s problems.

As well as having no idea how to handle emotional themes or maintain consistency, the script and studio design came up with decisions which ranged from ludicrous to batshit insane. Just to pick out one particularly irksome scene; two of the characters are trying to escape a dalek command ship. Not only do they accidently set off a food dispenser in a, you guessed it, slapstick comedy routine but they then take the time to find a disposal chute for it all. A chute on an alien spacecraft which has been labelled in English
Later on we’re also shown that while the daleks are immune to high explosives and bullets; they can quite easily be taken out by moderately fast collisions with minivans.
Were this not enough bear in mind that the daleks seem to have chosen the same interior decorators as Ming the Merciless, often what isn’t chrome or shining in some way is fluorescent to the point of glowing in the dark. That includes most of the daleks themselves and also their weapons; their doomsday device in particular. The few humans and locations which avoid this look like they’ve come right out of the 1950s, leading you to wonder what the hell the costume designers thought the future would look like. The ending also features so much pyrotechnics that I get the feeling Michael Bay’s entire career has been a one continual effort to try and surpass it in its sheer ludicrousness and wanton destruction.

As for the acting, well, it’s either inconsequential or over the top. The script left Peter Cushing so little to work with even the acting legend couldn’t make him stand out and one of his companions, Louise, has so few lines there were times I forgot she was in the film. Add to that contrived motivations, insane decisions and mass sudden ineptitude to help drive the plot forwards and you can probably guess the rest yourself.

To put it simply, without turning this into a several million word rant, Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. gets nothing right. It abandons most of what little Who mythos there was at the time, has a script which seemed to be made up as time went by, and the few attempts at originality pale before the moderately budgeted BBC tv series. Even taken on its own merits without any link to the science fiction classic, it still simply isn’t very good. The previous film, Dr. Who and the Daleks, is inoffensive enough to warrant a look if you’re into campy sci-fi but this one doesn’t even reach so bad it’s good territory. 


Doctor Who and all related characters and media are owned by the British Broadcasting Corperation.

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