Jules Verne, this is not:
Journey to the Center of the Earth
Starring Nicola Cowper, Ilan Mitchell-Smith, and Janet Du Plessis
Written by Debra Ricci, Regina Davis, Kitty Chalmers, and Rusty Lemorande
Directed by Rusty Lemorande, and later Albert Pyun
Ever see Alien From L.A.? That's a Cannon film from the late 80's, starring swimsuit-model Kathy Ireland. For those lucky enough to have not seen it, I'll do a quick recap. It's basically an ugly-duckling sort of story about a nerdy girl who, while searching for her archaeologist-father, ends up in the vast subterranean civilization of Atlantis and barely manages to escape with the oppressive Atlantean government on her tail.
When that movie ended, I was sure I was safe from Kathy Ireland's character's squeaky voice, the punkish underground city, the crowds of Boy George look-alikes, and cheap effects swimming in implausibility... oh, I was so wrong.
I stumbled upon this movie, sitting on a basement shelf. Innocently believing it was an adaptation of Jules Verne's wonderful exploration and discovery story, I popped it into the VCR one dreary Sunday afternoon and pressed play. Why, why did I do that?
You see, Journey to the Center of the Earth is not an adaptation of the story of the same name. It's a SEQUEL to Alien from L.A. That's right, a sequel to a movie that demanded no sequel. This movie should not exist!
But I didn't know that at first. I was happy at first. However, the first thing we hear is an opening monologue spoken by an unseen narrator, which made me groan. Come on, it's 1989! I thought the era of corny introductory narration had passed! No, I'm wrong. Even worse, the narration is spoken by a guy with a falsely basso voice.
"For centuries, people have speculated on the possible existence of a civilization living in the center of the Earth."For centuries? I never heard of that sort of thing. I'm familiar with concepts of Hell being at the centre of the Earth, and I've heard of a few 'Hollow Earth' ideas, most of which don't mention civilizations living at the centre. I also know that for a long time, people have speculated on the existence of alien civilizations on Mars and such, but in the center of the Earth? I think this might be an exaggeration, but let's continue.
"Man has created countless myths concerning trolls, underground cities, and molemen, but could these legends have some basis in fact?"Oh now come on! This simply isn't true! Molemen?!
"Could there be an underground empire, and if there is, are they planning to conquer our world? Is there something sinister going on in the center of the Earth? No one can really say."Yes, I can say. I am positive there is no civilization in the center of the Earth. See, it's all hot magma and melted rock and stuff, and at the very center is a massive ball of solid iron and nickel that generates our planet's magnetic field. But, this is a movie. I'll be gentle. Anyway, during this 49-second long narration sequence, we are treated to stock footage of the Moon's stark, cratered surface taken by the Apollo astronauts. I was a little confused by that. The credits then follow, and by now I was chuckling to myself. I'd realized I'd found a bad movie, but not a really bad movie. My hopes fell (or rose, depending on how you look at it) when the following credit appeared on my TV screen:
as Wanda Saknussemm
Good gravy! I almost jumped when I saw that! Wanda Saknussemm is a character from Alien from L.A.! This is a sequel to Alien From L.A.?! I kept trying to rationalize it, trying to reassure myself that this wasn't the sequel I feared, but there's no getting over that credit. I relented to reality and even invented a name: Alien From L.A. II: The Golan-Globus Strikes Back! Suffice to say, I was grinning in disbelief at what I had seen.
The credits are a boring, dry affair marked by a synthesized soundtrack punctuated by intrusive drumming sounds. There are 4 writers.
The music picks up as the film opens to a necessary establishing shot of London. Big Ben must be featured in such shots, I suppose.
We watch as a youngish nanny (Nicola Cowper) who's dressed like a Cyndi Lauper clone is kicked out of a house. The nanny, who has shortish reddish hair, accuses her employer's son of being a brat, and the mother is very angry and such. She slams the door, and we hear sad music. The nanny trudges away.
We cut to another street in London. Judging by the Salvation Army Santa Claus walking by, I assume it's Christmas time. The fired nanny enters a building marked 'Nannies R Us', and inside, we see a room filled with older women sitting in silence at a table. Our hero (I guess) sits down and mopes. The lead nanny informs us that the fired nanny is named Crystina, and she tries to make Crystina feel better. Unfortunately, Crystina has been having a hard time with the job, having been fired five times, and she's thinking of retiring. Despite her lifelong wish of being a nanny, she feels she's not cut out for it. Instead, she'll teach karate. Okay, enough character development! That karate sounds like a plot point to me.
The telephone rings, and the lead nanny answers it. We hear a faint, irritating American accent. Apparently, some American celebrity needs a new nanny for "little Bernard". The previous nanny got "torn apart by five pitbulls." This is some sort of joke, right? Now I know why pitbulls are banned in Ontario. Anyway, Crystina is 'voluntold' to do this job, so it's off to Hawaii for this new work!
Predictably, we cut to a bland-looking city in Hawaii. I don't know what city it is, maybe Hilo. I'm not quite sure, but it doesn't matter. Anyway, we cut to a crowded beach and watch people lounge around in the sun for 20 seconds.
Finally, we cut to a hotel exterior. In one of the rooms, we watch a volcano erupting on TV. A teenage boy, Brian (Ilan Mitchell-Smith), and a young girl, Sara, fight for control of the television. Their older brother, Richard, yells at them. Brian picks Sara up and carries the screaming girl away. Okay, is this movie going to get started soon?
In the lobby, Crystina checks in and asks what room a certain 'Billy Foul' is staying in. Billy Foul? Hmm.
We cut up to room 607, Mr. Foul's room. Sure enough, a guy dressed like a punk rocker is laying in bed, passed out. He manages to awake when Crystina knocks, but has what seems to be a nasty hangover. He wretches and hacks and he sounds really gross, but he gets up and staggers to the door. Meanwhile, the radio is on, and the DJ informs his listeners about the closure of Volcano Park due to the eruption that is taking place.
Crystina is at the door, and she seems just a bit shocked upon seeing Billy. She cautiously enters the messy room, while Billy wretches and hacks. You know, this movie doesn't seem bad right now, but hang on. The degeneration is yet to come. Crystina asks where Bernard is, and Billy doesn't think Crystina looks much like a nanny. She looks like an 80's popstar, without makeup.
For no apparent reason, Billy tells us that he's basically a washed-up singer who is doing a last-ditch show in Hawaii to try and rescue his collapsing career. If it fails, he says he'll have to go back to teaching karate, which is what he did before. Holy cow, that MUST be a plot point!
Back to the story. In what is supposed to be a sort-of-funny scene, we learn that that Bernard is Billy's cherished dog, a little white dog. See, it's funny. This dog makes growling noises that could not have come from that specific animal. Anyway, Billy wraps it up in a basket and insists that he remain hidden because the hotel doesn't allow animals. Bernard must also be kept out of the sun because he apparently hates sunlight.
Crystina is, naturally, appalled, but is given two baskets. One has Bernard, the other has doggy treats. Billy doesn't really see why she's so ashamed. Despite her feelings, Crystina leaves Billy's room with the baskets. I'm really beginning to question whether or not this movie will actually have a 'journey to the center of the Earth'. So far, I haven't seen a trace of one. I actually wondered if maybe this VHS tape I was watching was mislabelled or something.
We cut back to the family of three kids (at least, I think they're a family). They seem to be getting ready for school, but it doesn't really matter.
Down in the lobby, Crystina asks the front desk to call a cab for her and the dog.
Not far away, the three kids are also on their way out of the hotel, when they bump into their parents. The kids tell mom and dad that they're going swimming. Oh, I get it, it's a family vacation. Ah. Where is Kathy Ireland?
The dog growls, and Crystina makes a lame excuse to cover up the canine sound.
The kids jump into a jeep, with Richard driving. He mentions something about a cave. Ahh, finally the movie begins.
Just outside the hotel, Crystina puts her baskets down and steps out into the road for some reason. Richard and family nearly run her over. She may not have been hit, but the subplots certainly have collided. Anyway, she returns to the curb and finds one of the baskets is gone. Apparently, one of the porters put the dog biscuit basket into the back of Richard's jeep, thinking it was hers. The actress playing Crystina attempts to act, trying to convey frustrated anger, and climbs into a taxi, commanding the driver to follow the jeep.
They stop the jeep just off a deserted road by the coast, and Brian and Sara slip through a hole in a wire fence to get into the park, while Richard stays in the jeep. Despite the fact that the National Park around the cave is closed, Richard is hopeful they'll be able to reach the cave. Behind them, Crystina's taxi pulls up, and she hops out, trying to get her biscuits back. Richard argues with her and sees her doggie treats. Crystina says that the dog is her "brother". Humour, I guess. Whatever. Where's Kathy Ireland?
The taxi leaves, and Crystina demands that Richard drive her back to the hotel. Apparently, she doesn't know the nuances of hiring a cab. Richard ignores her and follows his siblings into the park. Crystina reluctantly follows, Bernard's basket held close to her.
We see a painting of a weird volcano, matted into a shot of a rocky beach that actually exists (in Hawaii, perhaps?) The gang walks over strange pillars of hardened lava, not unlike those found on Staffa Island, Scotland. Crystina lags behind while the three siblings introduce themselves to her.
So, it's walk walk walk, and when it seems that they're lost, Richard comes across the cave. They all enter, but Crystina is reluctant.
They all proceed deeper into the deep, dark, large cave. Richard explains that he found it when he was younger, and that the family visits Hawaii every Christmas. Crystina wonders what the indigenous people of Hawaii think of all the tourists, and Brian says that there are no such people. Wait, what about the Polynesian settlers? I mean, we can consider them as indigenous, can't we?
Intent on being a drip for the whole trip, Crystina points out an empty bottle of vodka she finds on the ground and wants to leave. Brian sees the dog inside the basket and Crystina is compelled to explain her story. Suddenly, the dog runs off and Sara follows. Crystina becomes more and more agitated by the situation and there's tension between her and Richard. Let me guess, they're gonna be the happy couple at the end of the film, right? Richard and Brian head inwards to find Sara, while Crystina waits at the entrance of the cave. Eventually, she follows.
We cut to an exterior shot of the matte volcano.
Inside, Richard, Brian, and Crystina discover that the cave opens into a massive cavernous void, inexplicably well lit. Below them is a sheer rock face that leads to the bottom of this cavern. Crystina takes lots of photos. Richard finds some markings on a rock, and Crystina suggests it's some "American graffiti". Oh, har har har, that British wit is really something. Where's Kathy Ireland? A human carved the markings, not some natural process or animal. As Crystina quips away, Richard calls her a "teabag". Ooooh, BURN!
Outside, the matte volcano suddenly erupts in a smallish, fiery way.
The cavern shudders, and amidst screams, Richard tries to herd everyone back out. Suddenly the ledge they were standing on at the lip of the cave falls with them standing on it. Only Sara made it out, and she looks down at them from the edge of the cave entrance, urged by the others to get help while they fall. It's a pretty awkwardly done scene.
We get a cheap shot of the gang clinging to a big boulder, in front of a rear-projection screen that's supposed to indicate that they're falling.
The gang lands in a pool of water fed by a waterfall, while the rock crashes somewhere else. Huh? How'd that happen? Where did the waterfall come from?
We are treated to a wipe-style transition to the next scene. Heeey, there weren't any wipes in the first part of the movie! This is getting fishy...
Crystina apparently landed on a large stalagmite, and is too scared to slide down. How's that for a Freudian image? She's panicking, but Richard and Brian convince her to jump down. She does so, and lands on Richard. Ha ha ha.
Another wipe brings us to the next scene. There's another rocky pond with big stalagmites rising out of the water. They walk along the edge of this pool, and Brian has his nose buried in a comic book as he walks. Where the hell is all this light coming from? I've been in a real cave before, and it was the blackest place I've ever seen! Anyway, Crystina finds a mini-cave full of bats, and she screams as they fly out at her. Richard runs to save her. We see these bats, and they certainly don't fly or look like bats. They fly like starlings, but never mind. Meanwhile, Brian reads with the dog.
Elsewhere, Richard looks over Crystina for injuries. Apparently, in a scene that for some reason was not included in the final film, she fell and tumbled. Uhh... well, it couldn't be the stalagmite she jumped down from, since that was in the previous scene... I'm at a loss. A bat scratched her on her neck, and it's clear for me to see, but Richard says that there's nothing wrong with her. Are you blind?! Look at that flesh wound! There's some awkward silence between them, like they mean to kiss but never get around to it. Is that karate-teacher plot point going to be used anytime soon? Where's Kathy Ireland? Before I can wretch, there's another wipe transition.
Brian finds another marking on another rock, meaning that somebody else made it at least this far. Crystina suggests that they lead to a way out, and that they should go deeper. They leave a note for the help who may be looking for them. Now it's Crystina leading the little expedition, heading somewhere else. After some glancing and looking, Richard once again leads. Yeah, could we edit this down a bit, maybe?
Following the stream, they go deeper. Crystina takes more photos before finding another huge void. Walking over a rock bridge, Crystina almost falls into a chasm when this bridge collapses. Oooh, see the dangers of the vast underground world!
The walls seem to glow, and Richard explains that this is bioluminescence. Yeah, bioluminescent organisms create enough light to film 35mm movies. Apparently, Richard read this information off the back of a cereal box. Ah, the American education system. That's okay, I learned about bioluminescence from an issue of National Geographic. But I digress.
So they walk and walk and decide to stop and set up camp in another portion of the cave. A campfire is set up. Is that smart when you're in a confined environment like a cave? Anyway, where'd the kindling come from?! Never mind. The intrepid gang tries to get some sleep, expecting imminent rescue. Brian uses a flashlight - and consequently, the light's battery life - reading his comic books. Anyway, they all go to sleep (including Brian), and we begin the strange, out-of-place dream sequence.
First, we get to see Brian's dream.
He's in a large, well-lit cavern, with strange tribal markings on the walls. There are huge, hulking monsters in unusual costumes with what look like masks on, and they are holding Richard, Crystina, and a never-before-seen stranger prisoner in the middle of the room. However, Brian uses a weird ray-gun thing to attack the monsters and free the others. From there, he leads them to a wobbling rock in a darker cave. Sara is now there, although she wasn't there before. Whoa, I'm a bit confused. Who is the stranger that has appeared, and how did Sara get there? It's okay though; it's a dream. Anyway, everyone sits on this rock and Richard says, "Hold on everyone, this is it. We're goin' for a ride." We get an odd shot of everyone sitting on this rock, waving their arms and huddling together in apparent joy, cheering some victory they've scored. Man, Brian has some odd dreams. I must admit, though, the monsters were actually pretty neat.
And that's it. We pan over to Crystina, and we see her dream:
Her and Richard are alone in a small, confined space, discussing escape. She starts crying at the apparent hopelessness of the situation, but before she can weep, she finds a furry creature sniffing around a crevice behind her. Petting this unusual subterranean animal (clearly an ordinary rabbit with overly-long fur), Richard tries to make her feel better. He sits next to her and explains a story from his childhood about a treehouse. I won't repeat it, but the moral is that sticking together, people can survive any situation. Richard wishes he could get Crystina to safety, and to show her the treehouse in his story, but she says he already did. Awww, that's so mushy! He says she has beautiful eyes. They move in for a kiss, but just short of contact, the dream blurs and ends. That seemed less like a dream, and more like an outtake.
Crystina wakes up next to Richard (don't ask how she moved positions in her sleep), but screams at some snakes she sees slithering at her feet. Brian points out that they're just giant earthworms, but Crystina has had enough and she starts complaining again.
The three of them walk past another rocky pond.
Now, they wander through dry tunnels in the rock. They're out of water, and realize they've lost the stream that they've been following. Are they that absent-minded? Yikes, I'd hate to see them driving a car. Confused, the three voyagers sit and rest. However, Crystina has an idea. She lets the dog sniff at the empty canteen. She then tells the dog that there is no more water (she says this out loud), and then trusts the dog to use its nose and find more water. What?! Are there dogs that are trained to find water in a dry environment?! I didn't think so. No matter, I'm apparently wrong because the dog starts scratching intently at a certain spot in the rocky wall. Richard starts digging with a knife. Hm, this cave must be made out of very soft rock. Richard feels a rumbling, and he sticks his face right next to the rock. Bad idea, because a jet of steam blasts out, knocking Richard back. There's some screaming, and before they know it, they've made a new stream out of the condensed steam. How convenient.
So they basically flood the cave, splashing themselves with the water and drinking a lot of it. Richard makes a dumb comment that basically shows his attitude towards Crystina is softening up. Crystina begins applying make-up, to look good for the adolescent boys with her, I suppose. Then she hears voices. They're distant and quiet. Oooh, maybe it's those neat looking monsters from Brian's dream! She looks around, and Richard doesn't hear them. Crystina gets up and heads down another tunnel, but Richard doesn't want to go. Where's Kathy Ireland?
We walk down a long, worm-like tunnel with our three heroes. Brian is once again engrossed in a comic book. There are a few more moments of silent walking, and Brian gets further and further behind Richard and Crystina. Oh come on, that so wouldn't happen. If I was this deep in the bowels of the Earth, I wouldn't be reading comics. Richard and Crystina make a left at a fork in the tunnel (is that an acceptable figure of speech?) but Brian makes a right.
Richard and Crystina pause to rest.
Richard realizes Brian is gone.
Richard yells out.
Brian stumbles upon a massive ribcage for an animal that had to have been huge. These bones are inside an enormous open area. Who knew the Earth had all these big voids inside the crust? Brian shouts for Richard and Crystina.
Richard and Crystina start running to find Brian.
Brian is standing still, when all of a sudden, the ground opens up beneath him, and he falls. We get a quick shot of a rock face rising up past the camera, indicating Brian is falling a tremendous distance.
Get ready, the movie is about to take a turn for the worse.
We cut to a familiar scene. It's a truly expansive open area, underground, with small fires raging here and there. Yes, it's an establishing shot from Alien From L.A., the underground environment surrounding the city of Atlantis. I was a bit shocked to see this. See, as I first watched this movie, I was still in a mild state of denial, but now there was no question. This movie is a sequel to Alien From L.A.
We see a woman (Janet Du Plessis) exploring a trash heap full of bicycle wheels and broken shopping carts and various piles of junk. She's wearing rags, and generally resembles Wynona Rider in Beetlejuice. She seems witch-like as she casually rifles through the multitudes of junk. As she finds a boombox, Brian crashes into the junk pile, and she's startled. Wait a minute. The radius of the Earth is nearly 6400 kilometres. ARE YOU TELLING ME HE FELL 6400 km AND SURVIVED?
Richard and Crystina run after Brian through another tunnel, and we hear Brian's voice calling out for them. Wow, that's some delay in the echo there. The ground then swallows the dog, and it too plummets down an uncertain distance.
Down in the junkyard, the strange woman is startled by the appearance of the dog. She seems very confused, yet excited about these apparent visitors.
Richard approaches a tunnel that leads upwards, with a strong light source at the end and out of sight. There are voices ahead. Crystina, for some reason, walks off in a different direction, and gets separated from Richard.
At the end up this brightly lit tunnel, off camera, are Richard's parents, Sara, and members from the local National Guard unit who've arrived to rescue the kids. Naturally, we don't see the military men or anything else at the entrance to this tunnel. That would require more money. A ridiculously silly voice that sounds like the Mr. Gumby character from Monty Python's Flying Circus demands to know where Brian is, but Richard doesn't know. This marks the exit of Richard from the entire film, and begins our descent into full-blown Golan-Globus territory. So much for those premonition-like dream sequences!
Suddenly, the ground swallows Crystina, and she screams as she falls.
We cut to big mounds of dirt, intermittent fires, and grimy mining equipment, all of which are underground. I wondered if the remainder of the movie would feature Alien From L.A. outtakes. Before I can conceive of more frightening possibilities, we cut to that all-too familiar subterranean city, the City-State of Atlantis, featured in the first movie. For those who don't know, it can best be characterized as a punkish, Bladerunner type of city, very dark and oppressively atmospheric. We cut again to a crowded, dark street, filled with people in odd, ratty clothes milling about. A public address system warns visitors to get visas from the government.
We see a group of people watching a televised message by the city's local newsman (who we saw in the first film), saying clearly that there is no such thing as aliens, a surface world, or Wanda Saknussemm. Okay, this is important. A character from the first movie has just been mentioned... Now, where is Kathy Ireland?
We're suddenly inside the junkyard girl's house, and it looks like another junk pile, but with a roof. It's dark, with lots of spooky mood lighting, just like every other Atlantis set in this movie.
Anyway, the girl wakes Brian up (from unconsciousness?) and introductions follow. The girl's name is 'Shank', and Brian learns that he's in the city of Atlantis. She's got a lot of make-up on that completes the whole Atlantean look (make-up that befits Boy George). Brian, of course, doesn't quite understand, and initially thinks he's in Atlantic City (har har har). Shank is curious about the dog. She says that they're in "the center of the Earth", and that she's curious about the nature of the surface world.
Elsewhere, Crystina wakes up in another junkyard type of place. She looks around for Brian, but is understandably dazed by the 6400 km fall. Hey, would there even be surface-like gravity at the center of the Earth? I mean, if you're at the center, then all of Earth's mass is distributed around you more or less evenly... so there'd be no gravity, right? Forget it. It doesn't matter. The music in this scene is an odd blend of synth and choral work and is really weird.
Walking through a vast, fiery cavern, another PA system announces that Crystina is entering a "forbidden area", and that the punishment for trespassing is "death and a large fine". Har har har.
We cut to a lab of some sort, dingy and dark like everything else in Atlantis. Here, we meet the good professor from the first movie, the man who helped Wanda and her father escape Atlantis. Another PA announcement reminds us that talking about the "secret transport project" is punishable by death. It's a good thing there's a PA system to clue us in on the plot of the movie. There must be a long waiting list for executions in this city. Like Texas. The camera dollies over to the professor, working hard on a mechanism of some sort. A colleague, who's either a hideous overactor, or very gay, insists that the professor should do his work in the new, advanced way that all the other scientists are using. Interrupting the tedium, the evil General Rykoff (Janet Du Plessis... again) sweeps into the room. Yes, she too was in the first movie, the eeeeevil woman with the eyepatch. She's here to check on the progress of the project. Of course, the professor doesn't want Rykoff around, constantly pressuring him to work faster, but Rykoff points out that money is tight and the economy is sluggish. The professor only wants to talk to a government official named Crassus, who is more willing to give him freedom to work, but Rykoff explains that Crassus is "having his hair done" and is quite indisposed. What is this, the Canadian government?! Anyway, Rykoff wants the surface world transporter finished. The professor is suspicious that it will be used for some sort of military invasion of the surface, noting the addition of a large cargo carrier that would be able to transport soldiers en masse, but Rykoff presents a transparent excuse. She sets a deadline of one month because the denizens of an underground civilization are familiar with a calendar based on the motions of the Moon in the sky, and leaves the room. Meanwhile, the deep-voiced announcer on the PA system says that "Lord Over" is set to make a public announcement regarding the "alien situation". Wait, I thought there was no alien situation. The movie is contradicting itself!
At the forbidden area, Rykoff and her deputy, a tallish man named 'Tola' (also in the first movie) with a white face, enter through some gates. Rykoff is undeniably evil. From the way she walks, talks, and carries herself, she is evil. It's almost cartoonish. She asks if a convincing alien is ready yet. Uh oh, I smell a half-baked conspiracy that will rear its head by the climax of the movie.
Suddenly, Rykoff and Tola are presented with Crystina, who is being held by some guards who found her. She thinks she's in some sort of amusement park.
Rykoff: "You're an alien, aren't you dear?"Okay, I admit, that got a chuckle out of me.
Crystina gets arrested and hauled away with a massive neck restraint thing on. Tola will take her to the "warehouse", and Rykoff will meet them there. Tola sounds like he's speaking through a walkie-talkie. Why? Where's Kathy Ireland?
We get to see an irritating establishing shot of the city. It's irritating because it's preceded and followed by a wipe that has a matching sound effect. Nothing is more annoying than a loud scene transition.
Shank tells Brian that aliens are dangerous to have around. The not-very-friendly government of Atlantis will arrest anyone who even speaks of aliens. However, despite that, Shank still collects junk that she finds fallen from the surface world. Who knew so much junk found its way down caves and tunnels, fell 6400 km, and reached the junk pile?
Together, Brian and Shank watch a tape in a VCR that Shank found... I think. There are some clips from Atlantis TV stations (all bizarre). Brian says he wants to see the city, but Shank won't take him out, for his own safety.
Finally, Shank sees some footage of a beach, and is amazed by the sun, the sky, aircraft, oceans, trees, and birds. She and Brian then strike a deal; she'll help Brian escape, if he takes her with him to stay on the surface. Brian seems okay with the idea, noting that his parents are cool with "that sort of thing". Your parents don't mind taking in strangers? Huh, maybe that explains why Brian and Richard looked nothing alike. Anyway, she decides to leave her house to find out about what's happening in the city regarding the omnipresent alien threat. Brian must stay behind. The "soldiers and fat ladies" would be looking for him. Fat ladies?
Shank uses some sort of hidden trap door system in an alleyway to get in and out of her home. A female voice on the PA system informs us that we are in Sector 100.
We cut to that bustling street we saw earlier, the one packed with people. The male PA voice says that Lord Over (the president, I guess) has declared martial law due to "unrest and anarchy". Huh, that's odd. I don't see any signs of unrest or anarchy, but never mind. The female voice cuts in again, reminding us that General Rykoff and her men are doing spot-checks of random citizens, and that if identity papers aren't shown on request, that person will face a "violent death". All civil liberties have been suspended, again under penalty of death. Holy Macaroni, I agree with capital punishment, but this is a bit excessive!
We cut to a wrestling match of some sort, held in a dark, smoky arena. The crowd is cheering and there's a generally festive atmosphere. Shank is in the crowd, looking for the professor. We also see shots of the fight that is taking place.
Meanwhile, not far from Shank, Tola leads Crystina down a set of stairs. Shank spots the unusual looking Crystina, and follows, smiling at the camera once in a while. The city PA starts yakking again about how visitors from Atlantis' neighbouring cities must report to government house for visas. "Middle Earth" is listed as one of these cities. Somebody sue this movie! These PA announcements are brought to us by GovCo, the corporation of the government.
"GovCo. We inform you of what we know you need to know."Whatever. Anyway, Tola and Crystina disappear into a secret passage in a concrete wall that is covered up by a poster. Shank walks up to this poster, and tries pushing on it. It's a door, but it won't open.
Inside, Rykoff leads Tola and Crystina into a sort of laboratory/beauty parlour where fake aliens are being made. Yeah, fake aliens. That means copies of Wanda Saknussemm. How irritating is that?! Sure enough, we see that Rykoff is dressing up a few other Atlanteans as Wanda, styling their hair in a similar way, and forcing them to undergo speech lessons and stuff to churn out an army of Wandas. Rykoff introduces Crystina to the chief hairdresser whose name I never could figure out. The chief hairdresser isn't too impressed with Crystina. After all, she doesn't really look like Wanda. However, Rykoff will use Crystina as her example of an alien, rather than a fake one. You see, Rykoff will use Crystina to "expose" Lord Over and take over the city. See, I told you.
Rykoff leaves the parlour through the secret passage, and acts soooo evilly. The city PA talks again. Rykoff breezes right past Shank, who was hiding, and Shank runs up to the poster and somehow gains entrance to the secret passage.
Back in the parlour, the lead hairdresser explains to Crystina that some select Atlanteans are receiving speech lessons, skin treatments, and hair styling so that they will look, sound, and think like Wanda did. During the vaguely macabre tour, we see various Atlantean women passed through body-shape changing machines and other painful things. There is a bit of screaming all around. Crystina seems very blasť about it all, just wandering around and listening as Tola explains how Rykoff will "save" Atlantis with her army of imitation Wandas, using the alien threat as a pretence for invading the surface world and taking over the entire planet. Crystina tells a condensed version of her story, and starts chitchatting with Tola about pets. She even assists the make-up artists to apply alien make-up properly. Great, way to assist the bad guy there!
Above, through a grate in the ceiling, Shank quietly watches.
Tola admits he's curious about the surface world, and asks if Crystina is seeing anyone at the moment. Okay, not only is she an alien, but you just met her!
Shank sneaks away from the parlour.
Crystina doesn't think a war between Atlantis and the surface would work out, but Tola is sure one is coming.
Shank returns to her home. The city PA system starts jabbering once again. Ever hear of noise pollution?!
Inside, Shank reports to Brian that Rykoff has kidnapped Crystina. Brian asks if Richard (remember him?) is around, but Shank never saw him. They come to the conclusion that they'll need to save Crystina. Shank thinks this is a bad idea, and Brian retorts with a witty "oh."
He then takes Shank's newly found boombox and puts on some good old surface world rock music. Shank listens to it for a moment before inexplicably falling over.
I checked the timer on the VCR. There are currently 19 minutes left in the movie. Let's start wrapping it up!
We cut to an exterior of Government House, the evil building that we saw a glimpse of in the first movie.
Inside, Lord Over sits on a spinning throne-like chair at a massive computer console. He's worried about the alien situation. He plans to use his upcoming public announcement to insist that there are no aliens. Rykoff, who is in the room with him, suggests that Crystina is a spy, and that they should prepare for war. Lord Over isn't too keen on the idea, so Rykoff leaves in a huff. At this point, I realized that Lord Over's voice is the same as the male voice on the PA, which is the same as the movie's beginning narration. They're all one and the same person!
Back at the parlour, Crystina has built up a little audience, and she's telling stories about how great the surface world is and such. She's hopeful of a good relationship between Atlantis and the surface.
Meanwhile, Rykoff gets a telephone call. The person on the other line sounds a bit like a Southpark character.
Rykoff: "Yes?"And Rykoff hangs up. I got the strong impression that this scene was meant to be something else, and the frantic caller on the other line was mixed in later. If you watch, you see that Rykoff is very calm and flat during the call. But that's just me.
At the parlour, the audience is now very curious about seeing the surface world on their own. Tola suggests everyone use the transport to reach the surface.
Rykoff makes a dramatic entrance, and tries taking command of the situation, but it's too late. The others now think she lied to them about the surface. Tola is particularly interested in the NBA, and even mentions it by name.
Shank and Brian watch from above.
Rykoff announces her plan to use the alien to take down Lord Over, but Tola refuses to assist her. Rykoff notes that he's "changing colour", and that his face looks different. Sure enough, the weird white colouring seems to be disappearing, and his hair has curled up. Uhhhh, is this a symbol of some kind? It's just sorta weird, that's all.
Rykoff orders her men to execute Tola, but her guards seem to refuse. Crystina doesn't understand why Rykoff is so aggressive.
Suddenly, Brian jumps down from the ceiling, beating everyone up with a staff of some sort. Gee, great guards you have there, Rykoff. The kid from Weird Science, who's brandishing nothing more than a stick, beat them up. Brian even uses lame karate moves. So I guess I can forget about that well-established karate teacher plot point? I mean, Crystina has been pretty well railroaded into a supporting role in this film, and Billy Foul has vanished.
A dubbed voice says, "Hit it, Shank, hit it!" and Shank starts playing that AC/DC-esque music on her boombox again. Rykoff and all the Atlanteans hold their hands up to their ears and all scream. The camera zooms in on Rykoff screaming in apparent pain, freezes, and fades to a white screen. What? What the hell happened?! Where is Kathy Ireland?! I did see her name in the credits, didn't I?
We cut to a large house in a winter landscape, presumably in North America since it is Christmas time.
We then cut to scenes of a war in the streets of some Arabic city. There are jeeps driving, shooting, grenades thrown, etc. I guess the peace process failed. Nope, I was wrong. All these scenes are on TV, and Brian is watching from the comfort of his living room. He's not really watching, though. He's reading his comic book and playing with a knife.
The Atlantean TV announcer comes on, interrupting Brian's show. He announces that Crassus (mentioned earlier) has been elected to replace Lord Over. He comes on the screen and announces peaceful intentions, with hopes of an alliance between Atlantis and the surface world. He accepts Wanda Saknussemm as Earth's ambassador to Atlantis.
We see Kathy Ireland, smiling at the camera! However, her scene lasts exactly 4.3 seconds. WHAT?! YOU GAVE HER A LARGE CREDIT FOR THE BRIEFEST OF CAMEO ROLES?! 4.3 seconds, precisely. I officially hate this movie.
Anyway, Crassus says that he's sending the newly married couple of Crystina and Tola up to the surface as their ambassadors. Whoa, Crystina and Tola got MARRIED?! We see them waving at the camera, in wedding clothes, as they're sent to the surface in a capsule. Tola's face is no longer white; he looks human now.
Finally, to bring this chaotic mess to a screeching, mind-numbing halt, Crassus goes on to say that the "most popular star of our two worlds", a group called Billy and the Wonders, will perform a song specially composed for the glorious occasion. As the song begins, the camera pans up from Brain, to Shank, who is now decked out in 80's punk rocker clothes. She grins at the camera with a bowl of popcorn, and the scene fades out.
So, a baffling sequence begins, set to some syntho-rock song. It's a series of scenes from the movie we just watched. Oh, so the movie ends by recapping itself? We see the major characters again, doing various things we already saw, and it looks strongly to me like credits were supposed to be inserted here but never were. Very surreal in a "Manos": the Hands of Fate way. Anyway, this pointless and confusing music video lasts 2 minutes and 20 seconds of solid bewilderment on my part. All I can say is... WTF?
The credits roll. It's about time.
Now, it's time for clarity. My feelings about this movie were partially correct. It was intended not to be a sequel to Alien From L.A., but rather an adventure movie with no mention of Atlantis or anything. As a matter of fact, I checked, and according to various references, only the first eight minutes of the film were actually directed and written by Rusty Lemorande, and this portion was filmed sometime around 1986. The rest was the actual 'sequel'. This was filmed two or three years later, edited to fit and tacked on to the first portion. The sequel portion of the movie did not consist of Alien From L.A. outtakes, as I suspected, but was actually independent, using the same sets, props, and actors. The resulting mess was renamed Journey to the Center of the Earth for contractual reasons. Apparently, Rusty lost control of his movie as his funding ran out, since his movie required high-budget effects shots that must have bankrupted the production. He did, however, shoot more scenes that bear no resemblance to what we just watched, and some of these scenes made it into the final film as the out-of-place dream sequences.
I can almost see it now: Cannon Films, by now an ailing film company, is looking for some cheap project that can make them a quick buck. They zero-in on a floundering adventure movie, and latch onto it, seizing it from its director and mutilating it, adding on some footage from an aborted sequel. The resulting movie, plagued by a non-ending, poor acting, and general mediocrity, is packaged as the full and final sequel that Messrs. Golan and Globus couldn't do on their own. What parasites!
There is still one question I have. Did Golan-Globus fund the original effort? If anyone knows, please let me know. I'm quite curious.
What else is there to say? The ending wasn't really and ending, simply a stoppage that smacked of laziness. It seems to have been quickly slapped together for the sake of ending the production, rather than finishing the story. I cannot stand that. That really gets under my skin. And what was with that bizarre montage at the end?! I really thought that they forgot to insert credits or something in there. It's a meaningless sequence of shots from earlier in the movie!
Worst of all, Kathy Ireland gets a major credit at the start of the film, yet we see her in the movie For 4.3 seconds! WTF?!
You know what? I feel bad for Mr. Lemorande. I still want to see his movie. So, if you like vanishing characters, cop-out endings, or plots that veer dangerously in different directions, you'll love this movie. Otherwise, don't waste your time.
July 8, 2006
Back to main site?