Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Virus (movie review)


The official title of this 1980-made science fiction movie is in Japanese, and translates to The Day of Resurrection, which was how I found it on IMDB.  However the DVD-R cover at Movie Madness loudly said Virus was the title.  Either will do.

The film is aimed at a Japanese-speaking audience in that the subtitles came on, in Japanese, when the dialog was in English, which happened quite frequently.  Robert Vaughn and George Kennedy are among the star-studded cast, in a movie about the end of life on Earth is we knew it, circa 1982.  When the characters spoke Japanese, no subtitles appeared.  This DVD-R was without menu or settings, ditto The Devil's Eye pulled from nearby.

The film may be seen as a form of protest against the Sword of Damocles still hanging over humanity, threatening it with self-inflicted uber-damage.  Prophecies of war tend to be self-fulfilling if allowed to gather stream unchecked by diplomats, and in this scenario, Earth is placed on a hair trigger which we learn an earthquake will soon set off.

Meanwhile a lethal virus, a plague of plagues, is unleashed from one of the government labs.  The spread of this "Italian flu" is what prompts a loony general to arm the system, meaning the Soviet retaliatory strike will take out even Antarctica, a last holdout for humankind.  Sending bold volunteers into a Washington DC devoid of human life, in a last ditch effort to turn off the computer, provides a climax before the denouement.

The film is epic in that it attempts to chronicle not only the end of contemporary civilization, but the beginning of a new one around a nucleus in Antarctica.  When even that doesn't work out, yet another chapter is begun, suggesting the rRNA (ribosomal RNA) of future humans, if successful in rebooting, will trace to but a few moms.

The film could go on from there of course.  A vaccine is emerging.  How much of a civilization might a tiny group of specialists pass on, a dimmed holograph, a fading cameo of all that had gone before?  We're not quite back to Adam and Eve.

We lap up against that story, a next epic, after two and a half hours of witnessing our world die.  Clearly it takes lifetimes, not merely epic films, to really get the job done.  Passive spectators get kicked into the sunlight to play some active role perhaps, as the world turns.

The cast and crew had easy access to submarine technology.  That periscope didn't look like a mock-up, even if it looked dated.  Interior shots from an actual museum piece sub appear inter-cut with stock footage, lots of arctic scenery.  Reminding us of the planet's great natural beauty is a part of the message to not crash it.

In the Antarctica chapter, the few remaining bipedal mammals confront their heritage of ingrained nationalism and sexism.  Why should the Admiral assume he's in charge?  Given that males outnumber females by a large ratio, what policies should be implemented.  Naturally, a premium is placed on having babies, regrowing the human race.  Many social conventions, accepted in 1980, may need to be revisited in light of the new realities.

Given we humans are creatures of habit, survivor stress levels run high, to say the least.  Future shock proves mostly nasty and high voltage.  Is Mad Max any less exhausting?

The sound track is somewhat choppy and I'm not referring to the diversity of spoken languages.  I found myself jarred by the transitions sometimes, surprised by a choice of music for example.

But then the subject matter is about a degenerative species that can't get its timing right or self direct effectively.  These unfortunate humans appear herky-jerky in their death throes.  Have other planets fared better?  We save this cosmic question for other films.