Mladen and Del review ‘Rebel Moon Part Two: The Scargiver’

“Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver” Starring Sofia Boutella as flabbergasting Kora; Djimon Hounsou as uninspiring Titus; Bae Doona as almost likeable Nemesis; Michiel Huisman as meek Gunnar; Staz Nair as the soppy prince Tarak, Ed Skrein as the only-good-enough-character-in-the-film Atticus Noble; and others. Directed by Zack Snyder. Two hours, 2 minutes. Rated PG-13. Streaming on Netflix.

Plot summary: More of mediocre and trope-filled “Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire” but 17 minutes longer. Rednecks fight an evil empire that can’t feed the soldiers it sallies to subdue rednecks.  

Mladen’s grade: C+

Dels grade: D

Mladen’s take

This is an unauthorized review. That means it wasn’t approved by Del. He wanted me to review (and, someday, I will) a movie titled “This Is Not a Test.” Sheesh, Del, are you still afflicted by your memory of the Cuban Missile Crisis? Is that why I’m supposed the review “This Is Not a Test?” Because it’s a nuclear warhead Armageddon film and you’re worried that the Small Man in Moscow will trigger World War III via Ukraine that plunges all of us into Hobbes’s state of nature.

Anyway, let’s talk “Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver” recently launched on Netflix. Two is no better than One, which is to say all the principal characters, barring one, are bland at best and unlikeable at worst. Don’t care about Kora’s faux internal conflict. Don’t care about Titus’s guilt. Don’t care that Tarak is a nepo baby trying to redeem himself. Just. Don’t. Care. That’s a problem because Rebel Moon offers nothing by way of an original story or grand ideas.

Ready for some alien invasion action? Check out Mladen’s and Del’s review of “The Tomorrow War.”

 If there’s nothing pathbreaking in a film, the only factor that can save it is a good script. Neither Rebel Moons have good scripts. Two is packed with the banal such as near-immortality to keep the bad guy going, i.e., resurrecting someone from the half-cell that was saved after they’ve been incinerated, blasted apart, depressurized, I don’t know, take your pick of demises. Other banalities abound, too. Stuff like peasants fighting to keep their simple lives, peasants organizing an effective armed resistance against the system’s behemoth power, Motherworld, with two days of combat training, and peasants harvesting a massive wheat fields in three days using scythes so that they have two days to get military training before the Man arrives with a dreadnought the size of a city and thousands of troops. And, how the hell is the Rebel Moon able to produce an atmosphere, lithosphere, and hydrosphere that sustains carbon-based life when, on the horizon, is a gas giant that should be either emitting extreme magnetic radiation from its core that sterilizes everything on the moon, or locks the moon tidally so that all you get is extreme heat without darkness on one half and extreme cold without light on the other.

The secret to enjoying Two for what it is, a second-rate “Star Wars” or “Starship Troopers,” is to pay attention to the film’s few merits.

There’s the sublime evilness of Atticus Noble, the soulless admiral in charge of the Motherland force trying to sack Rebel Moon and capture Kora, who has an alias that, when revealed, surprises or shocks no one in the village. Noble is fit. Noble has a good vocabulary. Noble, who is the opposite of the meaning of his surname, keeps his uniform tidy and his composure intact as he whacks peasants and beats the crap out of Kora. Hated to see him die.

Also noteworthy is the film’s score. The music is particularly effective during Two’s last 50 minutes. In fact, just skip to the last 50 minutes of the film to immerse yourself in the spectacular visual effects. The battle scenes are terrific. Watching automatic plasma fire in slow motion fracturing and melting structures again and again never became boring. The sound is top tier, too. Everything from the zip-bang of rifles to the blast of the big gun on the dreadnought enhanced the VFX.

If you watched One, you may as well watch Two. And, yes, prepare yourself to watch Three, which is on the way. Three promises to be the all-or-nothing showdown between the Dark Side of the For … ah, between the Saviors of the Peasants and the top Motherworld Bad Guy, whose name sounds like it was ripped off from the name of a genus of dinosaur.

Del’s take

After watching “Rebel Moon Part Two: The Scargiver,” I’d like to ask, who’s the more scarred – the movie’s viewpoint character or ME, after Mladen dragged my sorry ass back into that steaming pile of wookie poop. I’ll say this about Part Two – it earned an even lower score than Part One’s dreadful Rotten Tomatoes rating of 23, clocking in at a mere 15 percent. That’s almost as shitty as Truth Social’s stock price.

Check out Del’s review of “Avatar: The Way of the Water.”

Mladen and I reviewed Part One last December and what can I say? Part Two is just as awful. OK, let me back up. It’s maybe a smidge less awful because the audience isn’t forced to suffer through the painful backstory infodump that took place in Part One. See? There is a God.

Here’s what I wrote in my review of Part One. These observations remain painfully true of Part Two:

“Rebel Moon” is Star Wars Lite, if such a thing is possible. When I saw director Snyder’s remake of “Dawn of the Dead” I told myself, “Now here’s a guy who knows how to make a movie.” Unfortunately, Snyder is a guy who knows how to make one movie. “Rebel Moon” looks just like “Sucker Punch,” “300” and “Watchmen,” and despite the lofty ambitions, it’s surprisingly bereft of depth.

Let’s not even talk about things like tropes or archetypes – “Rebel Moon” is a bad copy of a bad copy, like that photocopy of the mysterious night shift worker’s ass that turned up on the Xerox machine one morning and now everybody’s passing it around the office.

Dialogue is, well, corny. And not just corny corny, but fanboy at the science fiction convention Dungeons & Dragons icebreaker corny. Characterization is practically non-existent – you’ve seen these people in dozens of movies over the years, starting with Akira Kurosawa’s “The Seven Samurai,” the same place Snyder got the plot. It would have been hilarious if he’d ripped off J.J. Abrams. Alas, the universe doesn’t have that ironic a sense of humor. FX are not great, either. I should think $166 million would buy you a more realistic-looking spaceship or future city.

It’s all a gussied-up, overhyped pile of same-old, same-old, and I’ll be honest – it actually offends me. The science fiction genre – at least the printed-on-paper part of the genre – has thousands of really terrific stories waiting to be told. Why waste $166 million on this retread?

Are you getting the idea I really hated this movie?

I did embrace one aspect of the Rebel Moon universe – I bought two bags of Rebel Moon popcorn, but only because Walmart had them marked down to $2 apiece. And let me say, even the popcorn was crappy – chewy and stale, with lots of tooth-breaking unpopped kernels. If you want a really good bag of movie-style popcorn I recommend the AMC brand. It’s awesome. Just be sure to heat it up in the microwave for 30 seconds.

As Mladen, in a rare moment of cognitive awareness, pointed out, there actually may be a Rebel Moon Part 3. I’m telling you right now if he tries to make me watch that crap I’ll retaliate with lots of gay romance movies and a doc about the continuing evolution of the band Duran Duran. By the way, did you know they got that name from an old Jane Fonda movie, “Barbarella”? Yeah. I saw “Barbarella” at a drive-in in the early ’70s. Drunk, of course, because that’s the only way you can sit through a showing of “Barbarella.”

I give Part Two a D. It’s a goulash of clichés and horrible dialogue, and I’m angry Hollywood thinks I’m stupid enough to want that.

Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical writer. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and writer.

Image courtesy of Netflix.

Starring Sofia Boutella as Kora, Michiel Huisman as Gunnar, Bae Doona as Nemesis, Charlie Hunnam as Kai, Ed Skrein as Atticus Noble and others. Directed by Zack Snyder. Two hours, 13 minutes. Rated PG-13. Streaming on Netflix.

Plot summary: A quiet agrarian village on a fertile moon in a galaxy far, far away is forced to provide a Motherworld dreadnaught grain that it can’t spare. One of the villagers, the first to recognize the threat and the only one with balls though a female, scours the system for a motley crew of warriors who’ll fight the dreadnaught and its vicious commander to protect the hamlet. Part One collects the heroes who’ll resist the evil admiral and his tyrant boss.

Are there spoilers in this review: Not really.

Mladen’s take

What can I say about “Rebel Moon” other than it’s an OK film. I didn’t even bother watching it using my home theater.

I thought “Rebel Moon” was rated R. It wasn’t, so the violence is tame, albeit flashy, and there’s almost no cussing. No nudity, either. Shit, the film lacks grit.

The characters aren’t all that charismatic, either. Our heroine is anguished because of who she was and what she did way back when. Her train of misfits are characters we’ve all seen in the past, including the prototypical Asian as ninja.

In short, “Rebel Moon” speeds through character development so that all we’re left with are outlines of personas. There’s the displaced prince, a spiritually wounded mother, a drunken former general, and an insurrectionist who had gone soft returning to the fight against un‑motherly Motherworld.

I’m also tired of hearing the same old voices as droids. In this case, it’s Anthony Hopkins as the latent military bot J-whatever. I listen to the bot talk and all I’m thinking is that’s the king of Asgard.

Because Del is an every-cloud-has-a-silver-lining kinda guy, I’ll honor his frail tendency to try to balance good and bad by noting a couple of the film’s bright spots.

“Rebel Moon” production value is top notch. The film offers very good world building. The CGI is clean, as clean as the meld of real and fake in last year’s “The Creator.” The real people in the movie look like they are a part of the planet, moon, spaceship, city, or field they find themselves in. The creatures depicted in the movie are stylish and one smacks of Greek mythology. The other prominent critter is, oh, “Lord of the Rings-y” and good enough.

I concede that there was a scene or two that absorbed me. I was eager to see how they’d end. Unfortunately, the movie would then return to its mostly uninteresting plot. Dang, sorry about that Del. I inserted a bit of negativity into my silver lining section.

“Rebel Moon” just isn’t that good. And, it just isn’t that bad.

You want to see a very good space opera? Give Star Wars “Rogue One” a spin. Clearly, it was the inspiration, if not outright template, for “Rebel Moon.” Also better alternatives to “Rebel Moon” are “Serenity,” the 2009 “Star Trek” movie, and the new “Dune.”  

Will I see “Rebel Moon: Part Two – The Scargiver?” Sure. Do I care that I must wait until the movie’s April 2024 release? Not one bit. That fact, all by itself, demonstrates my enthusiasm for the “Rebel Moon” storyline.    

Del’s take

Mladen, there’s no need to be positive on my behalf. “Rebel Moon” was awful. And to think: They spent $166 million making that crap? One hundred and sixty-six million would just about cover my homeowner’s insurance and property taxes here in the “free state of Florida.”

Give me a break.

“Rebel Moon” is Star Wars Lite, if such a thing is possible. When I saw director Snyder’s remake of “Dawn of the Dead” I told myself, “Now here’s a guy who knows how to make a movie.” Unfortunately, Snyder is a guy who knows how to make one movie. “Rebel Moon” looks just like “Sucker Punch,” “300” and “Watchmen,” and despite the lofty ambitions, it’s surprisingly bereft of depth.

Let’s not even talk about things like tropes or archetypes – “Rebel Moon” is a bad copy of a bad copy, like that photocopy of the mysterious night shift worker’s ass that turned up on the Xerox machine one morning and now everybody’s passing it around the office.

Dialogue is, well, corny. And not just corny corny, but fanboy at the science fiction convention Dungeons & Dragons icebreaker corny. Characterization is practically non-existent – you’ve seen these people in dozens of movies over the years, starting with Akira Kurosawa’s “The Seven Samurai,” the same place Snyder got the plot. It would have been hilarious if he’d ripped off J.J. Abrams. Alas, the universe doesn’t have that ironic a sense of humor. FX are not great, either. I should think $166 million would buy you a more realistic-looking spaceship or future city.

It’s all a gussied-up, overhyped pile of same-old, same-old, and I’ll be honest – it actually offends me. The science fiction genre – at least the printed-on-paper part of the genre – has thousands of really terrific stories waiting to be told. Why waste $166 million on this retread?

Part 2 is coming and I could care less. I know how it’s going to end. I’ve already seen it. I don’t need to waste my time watching part 2 of a movie that scored 23 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Mladen’s grade: C (C- if, for a moment, the sci-fi tropes irritate me)

Del’s grade: D

Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical writer. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and writer.

Image courtesy of Toho Studios.

Starring Minami Hamabe as Noriko Oishi; Ryunosuke Kamiki as whiny Koichi Shikishima; Sakura Ando as Sumiko Ota; Kuranosuke Sasaki as Quint, ah, Yoji Akitsu; Munetaka Aoki as Sosaku Tachibana; Hidetaka Yoshioka as Hooper, ah, Kenji Noda; and a toddler who cried as needed, among others. Directed by Takashi Yamazaki. Rated PG-13. Two hours, 4 minutes in length. Theatrical release.

Mladen’s take

“Godzilla Minus One” ain’t no “Shin Godzilla” but it’ll do. My concern is that Toho Studio’s new filmmaking philosophy is to render Godzilla movies more people-centric, rather than monster-focused, to draw more theatergoers and yen. How do I know? Because “Godzilla Minus One,” which is a crappy title for the movie, by the way, has trounced all of its other Godzilla releases at the Japanese and global box offices.

I concede that I almost fell into Toho’s people matter trap, which Del, no doubt, willingly threw himself into. Hamabe’s Noriko and Ando’s Sumiko are terrific in the film and, well, stunning, as in pretty as heck. Their presence almost offset our hero’s whimpering demeanor. All I could think about when Kamiki’s PTSD-ed former Zero fighter pilot Shikishima was on the screen was how much he reminded me of self-loathing, angst-ridden, crybaby Shinji in the “Evangelion” franchise.

“G -1.0” is a reboot of the reboot (“Shin Godzilla,” 2016) of 1954’s “Gojira.” Where “Shin Godzilla” was an innovative and imaginative rework of the heralded kaiju, “G -1.0” is a true-blue re-tell of “Gojira” down to scenes like the attack on a commuter train and a structure used by radio reporters describing Godzilla’s rampage toppling. Oh, the film’s ending is wanky, albeit intriguing. 

Am I a disappointed Godzilla fanboy? No. “G -1.0” is a very good movie. When the monster appears, the action is fabulous, though derivative. Shades of “Jaws” and even the MonsterVerse’s “Godzilla vs Kong” flow through “G -1.0.” But, oh, boy, the battle between the newest Godzilla and former Imperial Japanese Navy heavy cruiser Takao is something to behold. The ship’s fate is a combination of HMS Hood, USS Arizona, and IJN aircraft carrier Akagi exploding. That scene, when I play it again and again on my home theater using a 4K disc, will be so loud that my neighbor’s will call the PD to file noise complaints. Just you wait. 

Most importantly, “G -1.0” pays tribute to Akira Ifukube’s iconic Gojira score, as well as director Ishiro Honda’s vision of the monster. Hell, Tokyo’s Shinagawa ward is featured but, regrettably, there’s nary a Serizawa in the film. Still, there’s no question that you’re watching the real Godzilla, Toho’s Godzilla, rather than the non-real Godzilla, which is now that rambunctious, no-charisma, no-lineage creature of the MonsterVerse.

Yeah, go see “Godzilla Minus One” at the theater. Make sure it’s a Dolby or IMAX venue because this movie demands a sound system like no other. You Godzilla amateurs will love the people story in the film and you fanboys will get just enough G to look forward to Toho’s next release. My hope for, I don’t know, “Godzilla Plus One,” is that Toho mimics a sci-fi kaiju movie that takes its cue from Jordan Peele’s “Nope,” also somewhat of a dumb name for a film. “Nope” achieved a right smart balance between captivating humans and a fresh, big-ass monster. But it can’t be interpreted as a movie about people with the kaiju playing a supporting role.

Del’s take

“Godzilla Minus One” isn’t your grandfather’s Godzilla.

Critics and moviegoers are raving about Toho Studio’s latest iteration of the iconic lizard. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 4.8 out of 5 rating, Simon Abrams of calls it a “well-calibrated popcorn movie,” and The Guardian says it’s one of the very best of the Godzilla series, giving it 5 out of 6 stars.

High praise indeed. So why was I so bored?

Which isn’t to say “Godzilla Minus One” is a crappy movie. It’s quite good, and Mladen, proving once again that even a blind squirrel can sometimes find a nut, rightly encourages moviegoers to see it in a theater, preferably an IMAX, to make better use of its sprawling 2.39: 1 aspect ratio. Oh, and don’t forget the Dolby surround sound.

And kudos to Toho Studios for trying to address the human quotient in its Godzilla equation, which in the past was relegated to comical stereotypes that served no purpose than to lecture the audience about whatever denunciation-worthy subject was trending at the time of filming. Don’t listen to Mladen’s crabbing about people-centric vs. monster-focused – he was long ago absorbed by an alien pod and no longer possesses human emotions.

Sure, the movie’s about a giant monster that flattens part of Tokyo. But it’s about a lot of other things, too – for instance, national identity, and the role of bushido, the honor code, in postwar Japan. The movie’s protagonist, Koichi Shikishima (played by Ryunosuke Kamiki) is a World War II kamikaze pilot who chickened out, which makes him a disgrace to himself and a traitor to his people. He lands his plane on Odo Island, where he’s exposed as a coward by members of the garrison stationed there. Later, he fails to act in a crisis and several men are killed, and his status as coward is cemented. He spends the rest of the movie trying to atone for that sin.

“Godzilla Minus One” is surprisingly candid in addressing issues of postwar sentiment in Japan vs. prewar militancy and honor, which steered me away from my traditional interpretation of Godzilla as a metaphor for the hubris of science, specifically the development of the atomic bomb. It occurred to me (maybe wrongly) that the monster could be a symbol of the United States itself, a behemoth that descends on a moral, honorable Japan and wreaks destruction without regard to who or what was deserving of such treatment.

But the movie has its problems. The first act is excruciatingly slowed by character development – not even interesting character development. I found myself propping my head on my hand, awaiting the arrival of monster mayhem. And it may be a backhanded compliment to suggest “Godzilla Minus One” is the least ridiculous of the Godzilla films but still has its moments. For instance, when the movie tries to explain the absence of America in the fight against Godzilla, it suggests the United States is fearful of a Soviet response. Apparently the scriptwriters never heard of Korea or Vietnam.

The Godzilla in this movie is an angry, muscular Godzilla, shrugging off the slow evolution that has taken place since 1954 when the monster first appeared as a symbol of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to more recent times as Godzilla became a kind of benevolent protector from kaiju thuggery. FX are top-notch and the destruction is worthy of a Roland Emmerich film. I loved Godzilla’s radioactive breath, which set off spectacular, nuclear-like explosions. Very cool!

Also, I was impressed with Naoki Sato’s score, a perfectly calibrated synthesis of wonder and horror as the monster wreaks havoc on Tokyo’s Ginza. Yet it made room for elements of Akira Ifukube’s original “Gojira” theme, offered as a deserved homage.

Overall I’d give “Godzilla Minus One” a grade of A-. It’s an attempt to modernize the monster mythos while honoring its roots. Apart from a slow first act and a few sillies thrown in – what would a Godzilla movie be without a few sillies – it’s a good monster movie.

Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical writer. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and writer.

Image courtesy of 20th Century Studios.

“The Creator” stars John David Washington as Joshua, Madeleine Yuna Voyles as Alphie, Gemma Chan as Maya, Allison Janney as Colonel Howell, and Ken Watanabe as Harun. It is directed by Gareth Edwards, has a run time of 2 hours and 13 minutes, and is rated PG-13. See it in theatrical release.

Del’ take

“The Creator” did not create a box office phenomenon. In fact, it landed with a thud, earning only $30 million in its opening weekend compared to an $80 million production cost. The experts at Looper attribute its failure to the following:

The movie lacked well-known stars. John David Washington (“Tenet”) and Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”) are the two highest profile actors.

The SAG-AFTRA strike prevented the cast from promoting the film.

The film presents a sympathetic view of AI at a moment when AI technology is under fire for multiple affronts, from displacing human workers to plagiarisation and creating disinformation.

The marketing may have misled the public as to the movie’s true plot.

I would add a fifth: Meme-loving, McDonald’s-eating, Trump-voting Americans are so risk-averse they’re not willing to take a chance on an unknown entertainment quantity.

That’s a shame because “The Creator” is a decent movie. Special effects are top notch, acting is terrific, and the movie’s sweep is epic.

The plot is complicated, so bear with me: An AI entity is blamed for detonating a nuclear weapon over Los Angeles, killing millions of people and prompting the United States to undertake a pogrom to erase the algorithmic scourge from the face of the earth. A giant and impregnable space station called NOMAD orbits above a faraway land called New Asia, a haven for AI sympathizers, and blasts suspected hideouts with nuclear missiles. John David Washington’s character, a special forces dude named Joshua, infiltrates New Asia and marries the daughter of the Nirmata, or Creator, who is working to make AI even more powerful. Joshua’s mission is to identify the location of the Nirmata so that NOMAD can end the menace of AI once and for all. But Joshua’s new wife, Maya (played by Gemma Chan), is the actual Nirmata and has created a superweapon, an AI child based on her unborn baby. The child (“Alphie,” played by Madeleine Yuna Voyles), has amazing powers that could bring down NOMAD.

“The Creator” clearly has Biblical overtones and if anything, its Adam-and-Eve subtext may be too on-the-nose. It portrays AI-endowed robots as an oppressed minority who face persecution similar to that endured by Jews, African Americans and members of the LGBTQ community. The robots await the arrival of a savior who will deliver them from the persecution of Americans and the West – shades of Neo in “The Matrix.”

“The Creator’s” virtues are many. It’s a beautiful thing to look at. We saw it in IMAX and Dolby stereo, which showcased its visual and audio drama. John David Washington – who I did not know was Denzel Washington’s son! – Ken Watanabe and Allison Janney are very good in their roles. Madeleine Yuna Voyles as Alfie, the AI weapon, was excellent – this was her debut movie.

I agree with criticism the movie seems to use material from other films. At times I felt I was watching “Blade Runner,” “Platoon” or, as I said above, “The Matrix.” According to the film’s Wikipedia entry, “Edwards cited (sic) Apocalypse Now (1979), Baraka (1992), Blade Runner (1982), Akira (1988), Rain Man (1988), The Hit (1984), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) and Paper Moon (1973) as this film’s sources of inspiration.”

“The Creator” has received generally favorable reviews from critics, who laud its spectacular special effects and grand sweep. But they simultaneously downscore it for lacking depth and heart. Said Christy Lemire on

“Rich in atmosphere but short on substance, director and co-writer Gareth Edwards’ film has the look and tone of a serious, original work of art, but it ends up feeling empty as it recycles images and ideas from many influential predecessors.”

I’m not a Gareth Edwards fan and was unimpressed with some of his previous efforts, like “Godzilla” and “Monsters,” which I hated. But I feel I should defend “The Creator.” It’s an enjoyable science-fiction movie that at least tries to say something more than “superhero” or “Trust the Force.”

In other words, it’s not a fast-food meme, and there’s not one awful comb-over in its 133 minutes.

I give “The Creator” a B+ grade.

Mladen’s take

Strangely enough, I agree with much of Del’s “The Creator” review. The world building in this film is epic. The AI-driven simulants were fully merged with human society in New Asia. Megacities were bleak, countryside green. Cyborg and man shared everything (and it looked like it) and that produced the film’s most interesting idea, that AIs had found religion. The AIs prayed, just like humans. The AIs buried their dead or cremated them on pyres, just like humans. The AIs married each other and humans. The AIs needed a supernatural savior, just like humans.

My reaction to the notion of godliness-infused robots, which, frankly, had never occurred to me as I thought about AI? Something like this, “Holy fuck, how can beings that are supposed to be more intelligent than the critters that created them also believe there’s a ghost in the sky or a kinsman or Buddha watching over them?” My thought was all the more resonant because the only thing above New Asia with the power of Almighty was the $1 trillion space battlewagon NOMAD. Good god, God, NOMAD launched tac-nukes from an effing carousel straight down at its target, killing everything. Women, men, children, gone. Nonhuman women, men, and children, gone. Boom. Again and again. Take this and this and this, New Asia. Where are your gods when you need them most? Bah ha ha.

As Del bellyached about how little interest “The Creator” has drawn from moviegoers, I came up with an idea for a new marketing campaign. The movie is titled “The Creator,” so sell it as a creation tale extolling Creationism. “Joshua” and “Maya” are Adam and Eve because their unborn Child serves as the blueprint for a savior’s soul. What is Alphie saving? Humanity from itself. Perfect. All the world’s major monotheistic religions are dedicated to saving humans from themselves. The film’s slogan will be, “Every species needs a god.” If that doesn’t draw Del’s “meme-loving, McDonald’s-eating, Trump-voting Americans,” who also tend to be religionists, to “The Creator,” I don’t know what will.

One more thought about AIs practicing religion now that the movie has spurred me to think about it. A few weeks ago, that is before I saw “The Creator,” I developed a new definition for AI. AI does not stand for Artificial Intelligence. It stands for Apocalypse Intelligence. The AIs in “The Creator” are religionists. The “Apocalypse” is in the Book of Revelation. Duh. Of course, AI will imbibe religion. AI is already an agent of the Apocalypse, amplifying Mankind’s worst impulses and hatreds even as I write this.

One problem that Del didn’t mention is that “The Creator” is too long. Its story of undying love, redemption, hope, and the happy ending could’ve unfolded in less than 2 hours with a bit of good editing. Also, I had to keep the bile down when, amid a very cool and noisy scene featuring behemoth armored vehicles, a squad of good guys with rifles failed to hit a bad guy at near-close range. Who did the smack down? Joshua with a pistol while lying on his back protecting a wounded Alphie. God Almighty that was irritating.

But, it took no time for the film to re-envelope me with its stunning visuals after an annoying scene. This A- wonder must be seen in an IMAX or Dolby theater. The spectacle and sound are striking. I will buy it on 4K disc. I will play it at scale at home on seven speakers and a powered subwoofer but it ain’t going to be the same as the bazillion IMAX speakers and hyper-wattage that I enjoyed on a Saturday afternoon.

Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical writer. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and writer.

Image courtesy of 20th Century Studios.

“Avatar: The Way of Water” Starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang. Directed by James Cameron. 3 hours, 12 minutes. Rated PG-13. Disney.

Del’s take

You will emerge from “Avatar: The Way of Water,” a changed person – a senior citizen, to be exact. It’s that long. It would take less time to read the U.S. tax code, and who’s to say which is more fun – those amortization tables can be very sexy.

If only the rest of the world loved Pandora as much as James Cameron.

“The Way of Water” is as beautiful as it is tedious, which is to say it resembles a Nat Geo documentary about the Great Barrier Reef, cleaned up and made pretty by Disney Studios. The sights are breathtaking – water with the clarity and color envied by chambers of commerce the world over, teeming with alien life. Too bad the story is the aquatic equivalent of a swimming pool at Motel 6.

These are the broadstrokes:

When we last saw Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) in “Avatar,” he had joined the Na’vi, the native race of the moon Pandora, in expelling the evil earthmen who had come to wreck their Gaia-like ecosystem in a greedy quest for unobtanium. 

Now, Sully is living the life of the noble savage with his Na’vi wife Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and a passel of kids, until one day the evil earthmen return, this time in force. They want to claim Pandora as their own because mankind has made a mess of things on Earth. It only makes sense to relocate to a planet with a poisonous atmosphere and hostile natives.

Sully leads the Na’vi in a guerrilla campaign of harassment until the earthmen introduce a new weapon – a squad of Na’vi-adapted commando soldiers led by Quaritch, the Type A head of security who was killed by Neytiri in the first “Avatar.” His consciousness has been downloaded to a Na’vi body so that he may accomplish a specific mission – kill Jake Sully.

The commandos target Sully’s family. After a harrowing close call, Sully relinquishes his forest-dwelling tribe and takes Neytiri and clan to the land of the water people, Na’vi adapted to live in Pandora’s lush tropical ocean. There, they must learn the water people’s ways and fit in – until the earthmen come calling.

“The Way of Water” is a towering achievement in both concept and special effects. Cameron has created an entire biosphere with breathtaking attention to detail, and the FX are simply the best of any movie ever made. It must be seen in a widescreen theater, although some of the bigger 4K OLED TVs may do it justice.

The story, however, is less ambitious. It is a metaphor for Europe’s arrival in the New World, told from a Native American’s viewpoint, and while it shifts in focus from act to act – at first centering on Sully himself, then enlarging to include his children and how they mesh with the water people culture, then shifting back to Sully and his antagonist, Quaritch – the overall theme remains the same: good vs. evil, and the sacrifices that must be made to serve the greater imperative. At times the Sully character deviates from the archetype established in the first film, but never fear: Events will set the character arc back on track.

Overlooking the plot, “The Way of Water’s” most mention-worthy negative quality is its length. Three hours-plus is a long time to ask an audience to sit in a theater, especially when they’ve seen so much of it before. Expect multiple bathroom trips, dozing, sneaked looks at mobile phones, and maybe a pricey box of buttered popcorn to fend off starvation pains as dinnertime approaches.

Cameron belongs to a special cadre of directors – George Lucas, Stephen Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Stanley Kubrick, John Ford, Robert Wise – who tell the big stories, and tell them in big ways. Three of the top 10 highest grossing movies of all time are James Cameron films. Undeniably he is one of the best, if not THE best, director working today. “The Way of Water” is an excellent movie, despite its shopworn plot and excessive length.

I grade it an A-, and I award the minus only because I found it to be oddly unsatisfying. Perhaps you will feel differently.

Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.

Image courtesy of Netflix.

“The Adam Project” Starring Ryan Reynolds, Walker Scobell, Zoe Saldana, Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo. Directed by Shawn Levy. 1 hour, 46 minutes. Rated PG-13. Netflix.

Del’s take

“The Adam Project” is a perfectly calibrated popcorn flick that pushes all the right buttons. It features a precocious young actor who does not fear the camera, a leading man who can laugh at himself, a leading woman who is tough as the proverbial nails, and a villain as despicable as people who vote a straight party ticket.

In fact, the whole contraption is so finely tuned and calculated that I found myself missing the pop and fizz of 45-rpm vinyl, which is to say it’s a little too polished for my tastes. Oh, it’s a terrific movie and you’ll like it a lot. But the next day you’ll struggle to remember much about it except that you probably should have sprung for a Diet Pepsi to wash down the popcorn.

The story is about the titular Adam (Ryan Reynolds), who steals a spacecraft and wormholes into the past to prevent a tragedy. Unfortunately he overshoots his destination and arrives at the location and time of his 12-year-old self (Walker Scobell), whom he enlists in trying to save the future. In the process Adam bucks up his long-suffering mom (Jennifer Garner), revisits his dad (Mark Ruffalo) and reunites with his future wife (Zoe Saldana), all while thwarting the evil machinations of his former boss, Maya Sorian (Catherine Keener).

What follows is a thrill-park ride of battling robots right out of “Lost in Space,” dodging anachronisms and revisiting the good old days, none of it very demanding of deeply embedded cognitive skills. And you know what? That’s OK. Sometimes a movie is meant to do nothing more than entertain and “The Adam Project” does that and does it well, like successfully parallel parking an Edsel.

Reynolds is perfection as the wisecracking, flummoxed-when-he-should-be Adam, but more impressive is young Scobell, who matches Reynolds snark for snark and even looks like Reynolds, maybe if you squint. Garner is effective as the suffering mom, and Ruffalo is pretty funny in his role as the absent father who must re-learn his priorities if young Adam is to avoid the awful fate of growing up to become old Adam. Less effective, I thought, was Saldana as Adam’s future wife, Laura, who seems perpetually pissed-off. I mean, the fate of the world hangs in the balance and everybody’s trading witty remarks except ol’ buzz kill Laura, who just wants to stab things.

As a story “The Adam Project” keeps its focus on the action, not the novelty of time travel. “Peggy Sue Got Married” and “Back to the Future” both staked their claim on nostalgia – cars with tail fins, ’50s music and fond memories of the people who created and financed those movies. But in “Adam” nostalgia remains a sideshow to the primary conflict between Adam and Maya, and Adam’s desire to reconnect with his wife. It’s nice to see Mom and Dad getting along.

Predictably the movie has received high marks from the public. It’s one of those stories that requires nothing more of its audience than an hour and 46 minutes of their time, a big tub of buttered popcorn and maybe a healthy tolerance of the absurd. Nothing wrong with any of those things, except maybe the popcorn. Pop a Zantac and you’ll be fine.

As I watched it, however, I felt like I was taking a ride through a Universal Studios attraction, where every twist, turn and visual is calculated just so by mountains of data, algorithms and public feedback. Can you complain about a movie being too perfect? Maybe I should just shut my mouth.

I’m giving “The Adam Project” a B+. It’s funny, entertaining, and every now and again touches the heart. It’s a Diet Pepsi in lieu of champagne.

But then, who drinks champagne with popcorn?

Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and writer.

Image courtesy of Amazon Studios.

“The Tomorrow War” Starring Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski, Sam Richardson, Keith Powers, Betty Gilpin, J.K. Simmons and others. Directed by Chris McKay. Too long (2 hours, 20 minutes). Rated PG-13. Amazon Prime.

Mladen’s take

“The Tomorrow War” would be an A if I could look past its derivative plot, two smulchy scenes (one on a beach and the other amid a ferocious battle with an alien matriarch), it’s PG-13 rating and that it’s a product of juggernaut Amazon, which is more of a threat to Earth than the beasts portrayed in the movie would be.

But, I can’t, so this film gets a B-, though the acting is good and the movie’s pacing decent despite its 3,000-hour run time.

Here’s the plot summary, which Del will correct: An intergalactic pet transporter carrying really mean quadrupeds that remind me of the creature in “Cloverfield” crashes in the past on our planet near the North Pole. Global warming thaws the tentacled critters, which also remind me of the mimics in “The Edge of Tomorrow,” aboard the spacecraft in the future. They proceed to nearly take over the planet after eating all its meaty life, including people. Flash to the present and the future, “Tenet”-like, comes to us via a time travel device because Future Humanity needs Current Humanity to help our species survive. How? By Current Humanity conscripting its people as soldiers to fight with Future Humanity against the carnivorous alien invaders. The now‑soldiers are transported in waves to fight in the Tomorrow War by the time travel machine.   

The good thing about “The Tomorrow War” is that the time travel paradoxes created in the film are comprehensible.

The bad thing is that the director uses the time travel to insert a who-cares subplot about our protagonist, Dan Forester played by Chris Pratt, and his family. What’s hard about making a sci-fi action yarn without encumbering it with people relationships? I didn’t like Forester any better because he was frustrated with his life as I am with mine. I didn’t like him any better because he was a father as am I. Just give me a story that focuses on what would come naturally to most of us if animals tried to eat our children (and us). We’d fight until one or the other side wins.

If you like the other movies I mention above and masterpieces such as “Alien,” “Aliens,” and “The Thing,” you’ll enjoy “The Tomorrow War.” But, for a sci-fi guy like me, this movie is just one of many stopgap measures between the good stuff.

I also can’t shake the feeling that “The Tomorrow War” was put together somewhat hastily to make Bezos even more money. I don’t know, maybe he underestimated the cost of flying to the edge of space in his personal rocket and “The Tomorrow War” will help him pay the unexpected bills.

Del’s take

Mladen goes on about how he doesn’t care about people, but he really does. Beneath that so-called shriveled turnip of a heart lies the soul of a man who is not ashamed to messy-sob after hearing Netflix changed the ending of “The Notebook.” So I don’t take anything he says very seriously, especially when he fusses about relationships sullying “The Tomorrow War.”

If you removed the relationships from “The Tomorrow War” you’d be left with something like a documentary about ants in the Amazon. Not much fun there. I’d rather be blowing up spaceships and squabbling with my dad about shaving off that Unabomber beard.

“The Tomorrow War” is a perfectly adequate summer escapist movie, in the spirit of “Independence Day,” “Edge of Tomorrow” (a vastly underrated film) and “Battle: Los Angeles.” It is long on action, short on logic, and more entertaining than its length might suggest. In fact, I was shocked to learn it was 2 hours and 20 minutes. It didn’t feel like a two-hour movie.

Mladen summed the plot and you’ve likely seen much of the movie already through the ads. My advice is to turn off your brain and enjoy the cool special effects. The story offers nothing new, but then the drive-thru at McDonalds is always around the block so “new” is not high on the list of America’s entertainment palate. And Chris Pratt is, in my opinion, a huge miscast … but hey, there’s always another “Guardian of the Galaxy” or “Jurassic Park” to fall back on.

My gripe with Pratt is that he does not, in this time or any other, evoke the brawn and swagger of an action hero. He’s more teddy bear than Terminator, a plump Pillsbury Doughboy with a machine gun.

I’m a fan of J.K. Simmons but his role as Pratt’s father is reduced to an algorithmic cipher, just another piece in the blockbuster puzzle that appears to work but doesn’t. Simmons plays the role with a strange lack of emotion that made me wonder if he too wasn’t giggling about the absurdity of it all.

As the movie explodes and gore-sprays to its predictable conclusion you’re left wondering how much money this thing will put in Jeff Bezos’ pocket. From what I hear it was originally earmarked for theatrical release by Paramount until Uncle Covid and the Pandemics arrived in town, and somehow fell into Amazon’s pocket. At least they didn’t charge extra for Prime clients.

Hey look, the movie’s fine for what it is – two hours of mayhem and a chance for mankind to vent his violence on something other than the environment or himself. Don’t expect anything new or different; it’s as predictable as that glowing menu at the Mickey D’s drive-thru.

I agree with Mladen; the movie is a B-.

Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical writer. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.

Image courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films.

“The Last Journey of Paul W.R.” Starring Hugo Becker, Lya Oussadit-Lessert, Paul Hamy and Jean Reno. Directed by Romain Quirot. 1 hour, 27 minutes. Unrated. Hulu.

Del’s take

“The Last Journey of Paul W.R.” is a visually arresting but spiritually obtuse commentary about many subjects, some personal, some cultural, some even scientific. But the viewer will decide if any of these arguments have merit and if the movie is as steeped in layers as it would have you believe.

Based on a short film by French director Romain Quirot, “The Last Journey of the Enigmatic Paul W.R.,” which premiered at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival, “Journey” tells the story of Paul W.R. (Hugo Becker), who is the only man who can save the world.

In the near future, man’s meddling with climate and his despoiling of the environment have led to catastrophe. Rising temperatures caused by fossil fuels have transformed the earth into a desert hellscape. France now resembles Morocco, where “Journey” was actually filmed.

Salvation arrives in the guise of a planetoid called “the red moon,” which contains a mysterious substance, Lumina, a highly energetic mineral that promises to solve mankind’s energy crisis. Unfortunately, the mining of Lumina has provoked a hostile response, a powerful electromagnetic barrier that surrounds the red moon and sends it on a collision course with the Earth.

Only one man, Paul W.R., for reasons unspecified, can penetrate the electromagnetic barrier and destroy the red moon. But hours before he is due to begin his mission, Paul W.R. flees, hiding among the thousands of climate refugees that populate desert France. He connects with a disaffected teenage girl, Elma (Lya Oussadit-Lessert), and together they embark on a quest to find a forest Paul remembers from his childhood, one that may hold personal salvation.

Bound up in this hegira is Paul’s father, Henri W.R. (Jean Reno), who in the American style neglected his sons and his dying wife to ensure mankind’s access to Lumina, and Paul’s brother, Elliott W.R. (Paul Hamy), who attempted to pierce the red moon’s veil and failed, coming away from that near catastrophe with a psychic ability to compel suicides. Elliott is pursuing Paul, ostensibly to bring him back for his flight to the red moon. But it is obvious a degree of sibling rivalry may result in a different outcome.

The movie is visually beautiful. Quirot composes scenes the way a poet might arrange quatrains. But lost in the images of desert and firestorms is a sense of purpose as Quirot struggles to decide which imperative will drive his movie – the larger issue of mankind’s demise or the dysfunctional dynamics of Paul W.R.’s family. Add to this muddle the presence of Elma, clearly a symbol for innocence, and the red moon itself, which may be a metaphor for Paul W.R.’s late mother, and the result is a film going in several different directions, none of them working with the other.

“Journey” is a European movie – a French movie – though at times it does lean toward the American sensibility for gunplay and fistfights. In the end it becomes a commentary about the power of the individual, and how one must remain true to his or herself. Or perhaps not.

I give this movie a grade of C+. It has lofty ambitions and beautiful scenery, but its lack of focus means few will appreciate whatever it was Quirot tried to say.

Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.

Image courtesy of Warner Bros. and Toho.

“Godzilla vs. Kong” Starring Alexander Skarsgard, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Shun Oguri and others. Directed by Adam Wingard. 113 minutes. Rated PG-13. Theaters and HBO Max.

Del’s take

It’s quite the compliment to the Florida Panhandle that “Godzilla vs. Kong” opens with the king of the kaiju unleashing radioactive hell on the Apex Cybernetics facility in Pensacola, though I doubt the Chamber of Commerce is holding mixers to revel in its newfound celebrity. Still, it’s cool for us nerdists and might help the next Pensacon recruit some real celebrity muscle.

Meanwhile, that maiden salvo of destructo-porn sets the pace for this third installment of the “new” Godzilla, who in my book looks a lot less charming or even convincing than the original guy in the rubber suit. Freshened up with modern FX and a 21st century sensibility, Godzilla stomps onto the screen as an avenging angel out to punish mankind for making such a sloppy mess of the Earth. But then he’s always done that.

Next you’ve got Kong, the giant ape, who has received an updated and politically correct sentience PLUS a sense of morality to boot. When the two square off it’s not a clash of titans but a clash of value systems, with an evil corporation – yes, there’s always an evil corporation – operating as the fulcrum for the conflict.

“Godzilla vs. Kong” is the story – well, it’s three stories really – of Kong’s attempt to finally go “home,” Godzilla’s attempt to make sure he remains at the top of the apex predator heap and Apex Cybernetics’ attempt to obtain a new and powerful energy source that will allow them to engage full-throttle in various evil, shadowy, corporation-y things.

The particulars are a lot more confusing and I will go into them only to the extent of setting the stage: The Apex Corporation has discovered a new source of energy in a hollow realm at the center of the Earth and needs this energy to adequately power a “project” it is working on. It hires expert Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgard) to lead an expedition there, assisted by Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and her hearing-impaired daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle), who are studying Kong. Apex needs Kong to show them the source of this new energy. Meanwhile, Godzilla, responding to its natural imperative to be the biggest and baddest monster of ’em all, senses the presence of Kong and goes on the offensive, much to the chagrin of Monarch Project scientist Mark Russell and his monster-attuned daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown). She teams up with conspiracy investigator and podcaster Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry) to investigate Godzilla’s newfound aggression and whatever link that might have to Apex, and drags along her buddy Josh Valentine (Julian Dennison) as comedic ballast.

Did I mention it was complicated?

Suffice it to say that all three storylines converge and loose strings are tied after some romp ’em stomp ’em, bad-ass kaiju/Kong butt-kicking. Some of the resolutions are happy while others are merely satisfying. The point is, the viewer will have been entertained for two hours and Legendary Entertainment and Warner Brothers will have earned another $200 million, which should keep the lights on over the next few weeks.

The performances are all good. I would single out young Kaylee Hottle as Jia, the remaining member of a tribe that was extinguished on Skull Island by a natural disaster, as the showcase of the lot. She and Kong were kindred spirits in loss, and her performance effectively portrayed that subtextual link in their relationship.

The rest of the movie was not as compelling. The original “Godzilla” exhibited a kind of primeval ferocity that has endured over the past 66 years and inspired countless sequels and remakes, most of which traded the animal nobility of the original for cheap yucks and self-parody. The modern iterations – “Godzilla,” “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” and now “Godzilla vs. Kong” – exchange parody for politically correct, touchy feely emotional imperatives that are no more satisfying to the palate than a quivering plate of tofu prime rib.

What saves “Godzilla vs. Kong” are the spectacular special effects, the fight scenes between Kong and Godzilla, and Kong’s humanity, which worked a lot better than it should have. It really felt like Kong was one of the characters and not merely a CGI-generated killer ape.

If the story had been as strong as the acting and special effects, I’d give the movie an A. As it is, “Godzilla vs. Kong” gets a B. It’s better than some other B-graded movies but not as good as others, and I think that’s fair. I can’t advise you to see the movie in a theater in the middle of a global pandemic, but I expect it’s a visual spectacle on the big screen.

Mladen’s take

“Godzilla vs. Kong” is a bonkers movie. Del’s modulated review of the film is, ah, too modulated. Because “G v. K” is utterly bonkers, the film deserves an extreme grade, A or F. But, because I saw the movie at an Imax theater my perception has been distorted. Let me tell you, Imax sound makes my fairly sophisticated, newish AVR-driven, 7.1 surround-sound system sound like an AM broadcast from 1930.

“G v. K” is an F, if you’re interested in a story that links the Monsterverse’s previous three movies to its fourth. I was insulted by the film’s flimsy, disingenuous effort to make it seem part of a continuity. Particularly distasteful was the improper dose of homage to the name of Serizawa. Depending on my mood, I may even characterize it as insulting. The physics of Hollow Earth is bonkers. Godzilla and Kong balancing while they fight on a ship that’s, I don’t know, a magnitude lighter and significantly less wide than the beasts are tall is bonkers. G and K fall overboard to fight underwater and the humans try to help Kong by launching Hedgehog-like depth charges to disorient the reptile and it worked. Bonkers. Why wouldn’t Kong get disoriented, too, and continue on his merry way to drowning? Huh? If the Kong whisperers were worried about Godzilla sniffing out Kong if the ape left his Skull Island containment facility, why would they transport Kong by boat across the Pacific? Godzilla is amphibious. Godzilla lives in the ocean. Godzilla has, apparently, extrasensory power to detect an Alpha interloper. Transport by water was bonkers. Hell, a few scenes later, the humans are moving the ape to Antarctica via sling and a lot of helicopters. Bonkers storytelling to the left of me. Bonkers storytelling to the right. I bonked my head a few times to orient myself to the insane worldbuilding, the deconstruction of the storyline in the preceding three Godzilla films, or the uselessness of the daughter of the bad guy. What the hell happened to the eco-terrorist dude in “Godzilla: King of Monsters” who bought a severed Ghidorah head from some down-on-their luck fishermen?

In the areas – vision, plot, script writing, directing – that make or break a movie, “G v. K” is sheer F-ness. Really. No joke. I’m serious. The fact that the visual and sound effects are so good augments the F-ness. It’s clear that producers and the director thought they could substitute coherence and the internal logic an impossible movie premise must generate for a lot of spectacular FX fighting and some damn fine sound effects. The soundtrack is good as is most of the acting. Where Del the modulator gives the kid in the film kudos, I bow to Rebecca Hall’s Andrews. Her delivery of lines and an assortment of gestures help mitigate the harshness of the dys-reality of the realm created in G v. K. Hall did for “G v. K” what Mila Kunis’s Jupiter did for “Jupiter Ascending,” plausibly explain or soften the absurdity of what unfolds on the screen. 

Yes, I’ll probably see “G v. K” in an Imax theater, again. Yes, I’ll buy the movie in Blu-ray format when it becomes available. But, listen to me, “G v. K” is crappy, unless you’re sound-o-phile.         

Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical writer. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.

Image courtesy of Netflix.

“The Midnight Sky” starring George Clooney, Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Caoilinn Springall, Kyle Chandler, Demian Bichir, Tiffany Boone, and others. Directed by George Clooney. Runtime 118 minutes. Rated PG-13. Netflix

Mladen’s take

Rank the essential components – acting, directing, score, cinematography, and script – of “The Midnight Sky” individually and the results vary from good to very good. Combine the essential components of this Netflix production and the result is mediocrity.

It’s not that “Midnight,” despite its Adam-and-Eve ending and a twist that turned out to be, what, a terminal-cancer-driven hallucination, is entirely disappointing. It’s that its subplots weren’t particularly absorbing. Nor were its way-too-many characters consistently worth caring about.

In “Midnight,” the year is 2049 (maybe that’s a nod to 2017’s “Blade Runner 2049”) and the jig is up for humanity. Actually, it’s the end for anything that breathes air as we know air today – mostly nitrogen, some oxygen, and a little bit of carbon dioxide, i.e. not enough to poison us. Before our planet’s atmosphere turned into a swirl of unbreathable toxic gases, mankind mounted an expedition to a newly discovered Jovian moon that could support complex life. The crew of the vessel was on its way home from a recon of moon K-23 when Mother Earth, reacting to our abuse of her, transformed into Serial Killer Earth. Augustine, portrayed by George Clooney, and accompanied by a young girl, has to make way for a weather station that likely has the capability to communicate with the spaceship returning to Earth. He wants to warn the crew that our planet is no longer habitable and offer a suggestion – return to Jupiter’s moon to re-plant our species on a pristine solar system body.

Why cosmologist Augustine feels he has to alert the crew of a spaceship built to probe a moon for signs it can support life that Earth is unsafe for them is beyond me. As the spaceship approached Earth, it was clearly visible to its crew that the planet’s atmosphere, now a green-yellow, had changed since they departed two years earlier. I’m no astronaut, but a discolored home world would have me saying something like, “Ensign, give me scans of the planet in UV and IR. What’s the spectroscopy saying about chemical composition of the atmosphere?” 

The spaceship has a crew of five, one of them Felicity Jones’s Sully, a pregnant communications specialist. As the spaceship’s sub-story unfolds through a course deviation, collisions with space rocks, and an assortment of personal anguish, one crew member dies, two decide to return to Earth the Stomper of Life via a lander, and two slingshot back toward K-23.

I predict Del will like this movie, giving it a B+. He’s like one of the dudes in “Midnight” who decides to go home, though home will kill you for sure. Del will strain to find the positive in “Midnight” like the movie’s Earth returners hoped to find family still alive. Don’t be fooled. “Midnight” ain’t that good.

The best you can expect from “Midnight” is a few bits of good storytelling backed by consistently good acting. The film’s score is sturdy, if not exceptional. It helps the tale by setting up moods. The visual effects in “Midnight” are very good. I enjoyed the cinematography the most when it conveyed the austere and stark blue whiteness of snow cover and ice pack in the North Pole. But, even that simple joy was harassed by an achy nagging at the back of my brain. As mentioned above, “Midnight” takes place in 2049. Ain’t no way there’ll be any ice pack or glaciers anywhere on Earth in 28 years. Want ice then? Place your glass beneath the ice dispenser on your refrigerator.

“The Midnight Sky” gets a C+ from me. Del, on the other hand, will likely nominate it for a best picture Oscar.

Del’s take

Merry Christmas, you old coot. Sounds like you’re sipping more of the “nog” than the “egg.”

You think I liked “The Midnight Sky”?

Piffle. Do I like any movie?

Folks may think I’m a serial hater but trust me, there are movies I adore – “Being There,” “Doctor Strangelove,” and “Die Hard” to name a few. “Midnight Sky” ain’t one of them.

Not to nerd out on all three of our readers but “Midnight” lost me at the opening narrative where we are informed mankind has discovered a “new moon” around the planet Jupiter, one that has the ability to support terrestrial life.

Oh, sweet Jesus, somebody hand me one of George Clooney’s barf bags.

To put it politely, that’s a preposterous crock of ca-ca. There is no more an undiscovered moon of Jupiter capable of supporting “The Property Brothers” than the Earth is flat, climate change ain’t happening and Donald Trump was an effective and cordial president.

(Yes, I did have to get my Trump bash in.)

With all the space probes we’ve sent to Jupiter – hell, we’ve got one there right now photographing everything from moons and lightning bolts to Jupiter getting out of the shower – the chances of a large moon escaping our carefully studied inspections are nil. Not almost nil. Totally, completely and incontrovertibly nil. Nil nil nil, as in where have you been the past 30 years and you’re an idiot for even suggesting such a stupid departure from reality.

Seriously, it isn’t written in stone that a movie’s science must be accurate. Obviously the science of “Star Wars” is so far off the mark it qualifies as fantasy, and let’s not talk about movies like “Godzilla” and “Transformers.” But if you, the moviemaker, present the science as a pillar of the film’s premise, then you must make sure it’s consistent – or at least plausible – with what we already know. Had the makers of “Midnight” consulted a single astronomy buff they could have adjusted their ca-ca premise.

OK, enough nerd stuff. I can see two of our readers are asleep. Suffice it to say the scientific implausibilities that I mentioned, along with those Mladen noticed even in his nogged-out state, pretty much ruined the movie for me.

The rest of “Midnight” is a depressing pastiche of tropes and science fiction clichés interspersed with scenes of George Clooney throwing up. Was anybody else grossed out by the vomit in his Unabomber beard? Funny, the ca-ca Hollywood thinks people want to see. As for Mladen’s “consistently good acting,” I’m sorry but what the hell was he smoking? Clooney’s narcoleptic performance failed to impress despite the bombastic promotionals. The only actor who showed the tiniest sign of life was Kyle Chandler, who uttered one laugh-out-loud line. The plot consisted of a series of contrived and impossible cliffhangers. The script seemed inspired by “A Recipe for Seduction” in terms of silliness and the movie as a whole struck me as Frankensteined from bits and pieces of “Gravity,” “Interstellar” and other mediocre SF films.

By the way, “We messed up” is not sufficient explanation for the end of the world.

What’s good about “The Midnight Sky”?

The special effects are pretty. Sound of crickets chirping. I can’t think of anything else.

What irritates me is “Midnight” could have been an excellent movie. The problems could have been fixed easily enough so that grouchy old bastards like Mladen and me could go back to grumping about our prostates. It’s just sloppiness and laziness, and as a storyteller myself it pisses me off.

I’ve recommended a lot of Netflix movies lately but if you miss this one you haven’t missed much. I give it a C-.

Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical writer. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.