Mimic is one of those typical Hollywood thrillers where people venture into areas no normal person would dare go. In one sequence, three men travel deep below the earth in search of nasty insect-thingys and find themselves stuck amidst murky shadows and rickety old construction platforms. Our interest wanes because, while the scene remains tense throughout, we stopped giving a damn about the characters’ fate the moment they decided to make the trip in the first place. My review of the Blu-ray after the jump.
The picture is directed by the famed Guillermo del Toro (who would go on to make the delectable Pan’s Labyrinth a decade later along with both Hellboy films) and is wrought with his signature styles. Del Toro loves dark underworlds filled with disgusting creatures and endless caverns. To his credit, Mimic serves as spectacular eye candy for Goth/horror enthusiasts what with its dimly lit hallways and overtly explicit death scenes. And yet, the film remains frustratingly disjointed.
The plot follows a scientist (played by Mira Sorvino, obviously hoping to capitalize on her new-found Oscar-glory after starring in Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite) who (slowly) uncovers a swarm of rapidly-evolving bugs nesting happily below the streets of Manhattan. These bugs, you see, “mimic” whichever victims they intend to kill. Unfortunately, said victims happen to be the poor denizens of New York City, none of whom notice the slimy creatures, so camouflaged are they behind thick wings that resemble trench coats.
Into this foray fall numerous side characters including the scientist’s lover (Jeremy Northam), a hapless cop (Charles S. Dutton), a blind kid (Alexander Goodwin) who communicates with the bugs by tapping spoons against his leg, and the blind kid’s pop/protector (Giancarlo Giannini). The five players must fight against hundreds of man-eating insectoids deep below the surface and stop the species’ evolution.
I’ll say it up front: I’m not particularly fond of Del Toro. Pan’s Labyrinth aside, I find his films frustratingly lacking; more involved with art and costume direction than story, structure, and pace. Mimic’s first and second acts follow this trend in that they spend far too long showing off remarkable set designs and slick special FX, neither of which advances the plot much.
That’s because Del Toro is so busy mimicking Ridley Scott’s Alien that he forgets to tell his own story. But where Alien felt like a calculated build-up, slowly unveiling its complex characters and disturbing, utterly alarming creature, Mimic feels painfully, abnormally dull.
I can’t blame the acting. Sorvino and Northam make a respectable couple. I found their personal story – involving a certain pregnancy test – dramatic and moving. And while Sorvino doesn’t quite pull off the Ripley-esque bits as well as Sigourney Weaver, she makes a commendable action hero. And Dutton does what he does best: playing the wizened old vet with a chip on his shoulder. The problem with these characters is their total disregard for intelligent decisions. Look, if a tunnel looks dark and smells like shit, you should probably wait for some back up before you decide to go searching for giant, man-eating insects. And stay the hell away from murky subway tunnels!
Actually, the most alarming aspect of Mimic involves the monsters. They’re not really as scary as Del Toro wants you to think they are. They’re giant bugs, cockroaches even, that resemble mosquitos when they sprout wings and fly. Perhaps the set-up took too long, but when Sorvino high tails it through a subway tunnel and gets snatched by one of the winged insects, I found myself thinking back to Will Smith fighting a giant bug in the original Men in Black. In other words: I was more amused than petrified.
Still, as stated, Del Toro and cinematographer Dan Laustsen do wonders with their sets. Del Toro knows how to build tension. Too bad he rarely has a payoff.
Mimic came in a deluxe three-film set that featured two God-awful direct-to-video sequels (one of which featured Aliens-alumni Lance Henriksen), and a director’s cut of the original film. I never saw the theatrical release, so I can’t say for sure what was added/taken out, etc. But that might account for some of the choppy editing early on.
I thought the picture presentation was okay. My TV has a tendency to show off excruciating detail, which always makes these films from the 90s look a little rugged. Especially if very little care was given to the transfer. At times the scenes looked sharp; other times I felt like I was watching a DVD.
Even the sound felt a little out of whack. The dialogue was difficult to discern, while the sound FX felt louder than normal. I did like Marco Beltrami’s atmospheric score, and felt it really enhanced the moody design of the overall film (even if said mood dragged on and on and on …).
There were no special features to speak of, so I’ll just conclude by saying this: many have tried to mimic Ridley Scott’s Alien, and few have succeeded (think The Descent). Scott utilized his sets to create a sense of foreboding doom and threw in some hapless passengers who had no idea what they were up against. Del Toro has spectacular images to show off, but can’t quite decide what to do with them. People run, point, and scream when really they should be looking for a large can of Raid.