Have a nice end of the world.
Evolution was just one of the 2001 summer movies to be swallowed up and spit out among heavyweights like Jurassic Park III and Planet Of The Apes. Ivan Reitman, the director of Ghostbusters and Kindergarten Cop, brought together end-of-the-world science fiction with irreverent comedy in DreamWorks' Evolution. Starring David Duchovny (no stranger to aliens since he starred in TV's The X-Files), Julianne Moore (The Big Lebowski), Orlando Jones (Say It Isn't So) and Sean William Scott (Dude, Where's My Car?), Evolution crawls out of the primordial ooze from whence it sprang onto your DVD player.
Facts of the Case
The human race comes close to extinction when a huge meteor crashes in the Arizona desert with a life form unlike anything we've ever seen! When community college professors Ira Kane (Duchovny) and Harry Block (Jones) make a trip to the crash site, they discover that whatever organism that was on the rock is quickly evolving into something new and dangerous—and ugly to boot. With the military called in, lead by General Woodman (Ted Levine, The Silence Of The Lambs) and his assistant Allison (Moore), the situation seems safe and taken care of. However, as Block and Kane are shuffled off the case they find out that the military's answer to eradicate these beasties may actually be the food they need to grow! With the help of an inept firefighter wannabe (Scott), these underdogs have only a small window of time to save the world from becoming one big food chain for creatures from another world!
Evolution runs neck-in-neck with John Carpenter's Ghosts Of Mars for the award for "The Best Movie I Hated When It Was First In Theaters." I thought Evolution was as big a stinker as Dumbo after an all-night buffet at Taco Bell. I'm now slowly coming to the realization that certain movies play much better on the small screen than they do the big one. Evolution is a prime example—here is a movie that has some nice laughs, decent effects, and witty dialogue that just didn't catch my fancy when it was out in the theaters.
Ivan Reitman has certainly done better work. Truth be told, Evolution feels like a retread of Reitman's superior Ghostbusters films. There's the wacky foursome (Duchovny, Jones, Scott, Moore), the supernatural monsters, the offbeat humor…heck, even Ghostbusters alumni Dan Aykroyd pops in for a cameo. Even with all the seeming rip-offs, Reitman still manages to pump in some fresh blood and humor into the film (and for some reason the director seems to have a real fascination with rear ends and what comes in and out of them). Evolution originally started off as a serious script but in Reitman's hands turned into a full-blown comedy. Reitman had the good sense to cast deadpan David Duchovny and the endlessly entertaining Orlando Jones as his male leads. Jones and Duchovny make a funny pairing and play off each other well. While the snappy dialogue that made Ghostbusters such a classic may be lacking, Evolution still pulled a few good laughs out of me during the proceedings. Sean William Scott is also funny, though his brain-dead attitude seems to be somewhat out of place among the rest of the cast. Julianne Moore isn't given much to do except fall down (clumsiness is her "funny" character trait) and it's always a pleasure to see Ted Levine (the creepy killer in The Silence Of The Lambs) in any movie.
The creature designs by Phil Tippett (Return of the Jedi, Jurassic Park) are great, especially the flying lizards and blue monkeys (you'll know what I mean when you see the movie). The meteor site looks sufficiently "other worldly" as the use of puppets and CGI are melded together rather seamlessly. I was impressed with the vast array of aliens that the design team came up with for this movie.
Unfortunately, the movie is slowed down by some pacing troubles. It seems to take quite a while to get to the good stuff (the deformed monsters), and in between that time the comedy doesn't seem as quick and funny as it could have been. While everyone does a nice job with their roles, no gives does a real "breakout" performance (though with a few more good one-liners Orlando Jones would have come close).
Evolution is easily worth the price of a rental, if only to see a close-up of an alien sphincter and what happens when it passes some major gas. Evolution may be a big piece of fluff, but you could waste almost two hours of your life in a lot worse ways.
Evolution is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. If there are any major defects in this picture, I was unable to locate them. Aside of a few small halo effects, I was very happy with DreamWorks' work on this transfer. Colors look very bright and bold while the black levels are solid and very even. No digital artifacting or edge enhancement showed its face during the film. As Mr. Vader might say, "Impressive…most impressive"
Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish) as well as DTS and Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround. I was pleasantly surprised by both the 5.1 and DTS tracks, though in all honesty I couldn't really tell much difference between the two. After listening to both of these tracks, I can say that each sounded very aggressive, bombastic, and distortion free. There were some very good moments of surround sound use during the film (the end scene was especially impressive), and overall I thought that all the speakers were used to maximum effect. Also included on this disc are English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
Evolution doesn't have an official "special edition" label, though it does include some very nice extra materials. To start off with there is "a conversation with Ivan Reitman, Sean William Scott, Orlando Jones, and David Duchovny," or as I like to call it, a commentary track. This is a very amusing track that has Duchovny, Jones, and Scott cracking jokes all the way through while Reitman attempts to give as much information about the making of the movie as he can. There's a lot of laugher on this track, which means that it's well worth the listen.
Next up are six deleted scenes ("Denise leaves Ira," "Original hotel scene in Allison's room," "Allison orders satellite scans," "Chasing the bird," "Woodman and Flemming," plus an alternate ending), each of which are presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. On par with most deleted scenes, some of them are amusing, most are not. I think that I can safely say that the exclusion of the alternate ending in the final film was a good idea.
"HBO First Look: The Evolution of Evolution" is a 15-minute look at the making of the film. This decent promotional spot includes Orlando Jones doing some interviewing with the cast and crew, plus some behind-the-scenes footage from the production. This was a nice feature that runs all too short. The "Visual Effects" featurette lasts about ten minutes long and is, as you'd expect, a look at how the filmmakers pulled off some of the effects in the movie. Some "Storyboard Selections" are included and can be viewed just as storyboards or along with the actual movie scene.
Finally, there is a photo gallery with conceptual sketches and drawings of the aliens, some information of the cast and filmmakers, and some production notes. What, no theatrical trailer?
Evolution won't win any awards for originality. However, if you're in the mood for some goofy fun, then Evolution is your kind of flick. It's got humor, it's got action, it's got gags involving Orlando Jones' ass. If you saw this in the theaters and came out disenchanted, give it another spin on DVD. This is the type of movie that sneaks up on you. DreamWorks has done fine work on this disc, though next time just call it a commentary track, alright?
Evolution is free to evolve, and change, and shift…
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