Lionsgate // 1997 // 112 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // September 26th, 2011
A restoration of Guillermo Del Toro's vision for this chilling modern cult classic.
"This is our meal ticket."
Three years ago, New York City cockroaches were spreading a horrible disease. Fortunately, romantically entangled scientists Dr. Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino, At First Sight) and Dr. Peter Mann (Jeremy Northam, Gosford Park) were able to genetically engineer larger bugs designed to wipe out the cockroaches. The plan worked, and New York averted a major crisis. Alas, it seems you can't just go genetically engineering giant bugs without being forced to deal with a few consequences. Though the bugs were designed to be sterile, it seems they've found a way to reproduce. Even worse, they've grown big -- really, really big. Can Susan and Peter find a way to handle this new crisis before it's too late?
Guillermo Del Toro had announced himself as a capable director with a unique voice with the release of his fine 1993 debut Cronos, so it was no surprise that Hollywood quickly snatched him up and handed him a project with a much larger budget. Mimic was initially to be part of the the Miramax anthology The Light Years Trilogy, but producers were so enamored with what Del Toro had done that they decided to green-light a feature-length effort. Unfortunately, the production was plagued with problems, as Bob Weinstein interfered with Del Toro's work on a near-daily basis and tossed out some of the director's more ambitious ideas in favor of driving the film into more conventional territory.
Now Del Toro has been given the opportunity to revisit the film and craft a director's cut, but his original vision can never be fully restored as much of it (including the ending Del Toro had in mind) was never even shot. Even so, this new version of the film does make a number of minor but essential improvements: slowing the build-up to the reveal of the creatures, removing cheap scares inserted by second unit directors and giving the film a greater sense of slow-burning tension. Del Toro still regards Mimic as a missed opportunity, but in his video introduction he claims that this version better enables viewers to, "look through the cracks and see the movie that got away."
To this reviewer's eyes, Mimic is still Mimic, if a bit more satisfying this time around. It remains an above-average creature feature in spite of its flaws; a film which elevates its somewhat generic story with wonderful atmosphere, compelling fairy tale subtext, and some fun pseudo-science which may remind viewers of ideas Michael Crichton tossed around in Jurassic Park. It's certainly lesser Del Toro (the director would follow Mimic with his first great movie, The Devil's Backbone), but still a solid effort by genre standards and a film which bears the director's unmistakable fingerprints. Perhaps that's the largest virtue of this director's cut: by removing some of the more generic material, Del Toro has also dispelled suggestions that Mimic was a rather impersonal assignment for him.
The film is best during its first hour, when it spends time introducing characters, pondering its ideas and building up the ferocity of the beasts it will eventually unleash. The conversations on evolution and generic engineering are most enjoyable, and the characters mostly act like intelligent adults instead of meatbags in a horror movie. Sorvino and Northam are capable leads, but the best work comes from Charles S. Dutton (who between this and Alien3 is the unofficial patron saint of Sci-Fi/Horror Flicks Made By Ambitious Directors Which Suffer From Studio Interference But Still Hold Up Pretty Well Anyway) as a disgruntled cop and Josh Brolin (No Country for Old Men) as a bedraggled CDC employee.
Mimic looks okay in hi-def, offering a 1080p/1.85:1 transfer which is free of troublesome tampering but which reflects some weaknesses in the source material. There's a good deal of noise during many darker scenes -- and there are many darker scenes. Some of the special effects shots look particularly rough; serving as an occasional signal of when CGI is kicking in. Still, the level of detail is sturdy, blacks are acceptably deep and flesh tones are warm and natural. Even so, a restoration demonstration in the supplements reveals that this flick has been cleaned up considerably; it's unlikely that the picture will ever look much better than this. The audio is exceptional, allowing viewers to appreciate the detailed sound design Del Toro offers. The flick also benefits from an enjoyably creepy score (with just the right amount of lyricism; a hallmark of scores for Del Toro flicks) courtesy of Marco Beltrami, which sounds clear even if it's a little buried at times. Dialogue is also superb throughout, never getting crushed by any other elements of this busy track. Overall, an impressive mix.
Del Toro seems to regard this Blu-ray release as an opportunity to educate viewers on the frustrations of working in Hollywood, meaning that the special features are considerably more involving than usual. After a brief introduction (1 minute), you can hear plenty of Del Toro's honest, melancholy reflections on the film in his audio commentary (a riveting listen, as usual) and a featurette called "Reclaiming Mimic" (15 minutes). Both are quite compelling, though there's a bit of overlap between them. You also get some older EPK-style featurettes ("A Leap in Evolution: The Creatures of Mimic" and "Back Into the Tunnels: Shooting Mimic"), some deleted scenes, storyboard animatics, a gag reel and a theatrical trailer. You also get a digital copy.
Things get murky during the film's second half, as characterization starts to suffer at the expense of action. Mira Sorvino, who has essentially been the lead up until midway through the film, suddenly begins to feel like a marginalized ensemble player. Giancarlo Giannini (Hannibal) occasionally seems to forget exactly what his character motivation is. He's supposed to be searching for his son, but doesn't really acknowledge that until the son turns up again. Speaking of which, I'm not a huge fan of the way Giannini's autistic kid is used as a cutesy plot device (he'll deliver his key catchphrases in a monotone voice as ironic counterpoint to horrific situations -- "Mr. Funnyshoes," he states when a giant bug appears).
Mimic will never be great, but it's better than ever before thanks to Del Toro's thoughtful reworking of the existing material. Similarly, Mimic will never look great, but it looks better than ever before on this new Blu-ray disc.
Review content copyright © 2011 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 7.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 112 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Gag Reel
* Digital Copy