140 Character Movie Review – #140RVW
Not at all bad, but could have been great. All the elements are here for fantastic sci-fi movie, but they went more for low-quality horror.
Spoiler-free Movie Review of Dreamscape:
What a missed opportunity this movie is. It’s so close to being great – it just doesn’t quite get there and may have missed out on good in the attempt.
Dennis Quaid plays Alex Gardner, who was a psychic wiz-kid in studies with Dr. Paul Novotny (Max von Sydow) before he tired of being a test subject and went out into the world to use his gifts to become a petty gambler. Just as he’s pushed his luck too far he is recruited/kidnapped to pick up where he left off with his former mentor who is now working in the area of shared dreams. Novotny, along with Jane DeVries (Kate Capshaw) is trying to combat nightmares and sleep disorders by linking a psychic to a dreamer where the psychic can diagnose and/or cure the disorder. Of course the mind control possibilities are endless, which is why the research is government funded and shadowy power broker Bob Blair (Christopher Plummer) is maneuvering to get the President of the United States (Eddie Albert) under control.
The potential is all there – it’s a great setup. It sounds better than it is, though and there are a few reasons why:
- The marketing is misleading. All of the descriptions I’ve read from the press materials make it seem as though the President is trapped inside the dreamworld and needs to be rescued. That’s just factually untrue, but would have made a more interesting story.
- This impression is supported by the gorgeous poster by master artist Drew Struzan, which may be the best thing about the movie. Look at this thing; tell me this doesn’t look exactly like the sequel to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – which came out only a few months earlier and also featured Struzan’s artwork.
- The effects are simply dreadful. I really try hard not to pick on older films for outdated effects, but these are fairly poor even for 1984.
- The tone is all wrong. The filmmakers seem unsure if they are making a sci-fi thriller, a political thriller or a horror picture. The mix of all three cheapens all.
This last reason is the main problem with the film. It’s less than 100 minutes and that’s not a lot of time to make a good mind-bending movie. So they don’t. There’s hints of some deep psychological/philosophical stuff, but they don’t run with it and that’s a fatal mistake. Instead it lives more in the horror genre where it does ok, but it’s not as effective as other genre films. This was the second film released with the new PG-13 rating and I suspect they were a little unclear on who the audience was going to be and therefore how far to go.
As sci-fi it’s pretty good; as a thriller it stinks. There’s actually a chase scene on a horse racetrack. There’s no real intrigue – you know who the bad guy is and what his game is almost instantly. The pseudo-gangsters aren’t threatening and the whole world seems underpopulated. I don’t know if the low budget is the reason, but the whole affair feels quite small-scale – lots of mostly empty rooms and barren sets with few actors.
There are some other frustrating things about the picture. They got maestro Maurice Jarre to do the score; but he insisted on doing an electronic score. So close to greatness…
Dreamscape is a terribly frustrating picture because it coulda/shoulda been so good. It is still an entertaining movie and I enjoyed it, but the story just doesn’t live up to its premise. There’s a great movie in here, they just couldn’t quite coax it out, and by focusing on the horror elements they cheapened the story. I’d say it’s desperately in need of a remake, but the ground was later covered so much better by The Matrix, Dark City and particularly Inception that there may not be enough legroom. I haven’t read The Dream Master, the novel by Roger Zelazny on which this picture was partly based, but it sounds like it may have enough meat on the bone to justify a re-imaging for another film.
The Representation Test Score: D (2 pts)
|Main Cast||Dennis Quaid Alex Gardner, Max von Sydow Doctor Paul Novotny, Christopher Plummer Bob Blair, Eddie Albert The President|
|Release Date||Wed 15 Aug 1984 UTC|
|Genres||Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller, Horror|
|Plot||A young psychic on the run from himself is recruited by the government to save the US president whose mind is trapped inside the dreamworld.|
|Tagline||Alex Gardner has an extraordinary gift. To keep it may cost him his life…|
|Writers||David Loughery (story), David Loughery (screenplay) …|