The space rocket project led by Professor Quatermass has now not heard from their crew for several days and the worst is feared. Suddenly though the rocket reappears and they manage to get it back to Earth by remote control, still not knowing the fate of the crew. When they breach the hull they find only one member of the crew in the craft the others "gone". With the media and other investigators looking on, Quatermass and Dr Briscoe try to work out what happened up there when contact was lost, where the other two crew members are and what has happened to survivor Carroon, who is in a panicked and incoherent state.
Two interesting, maybe even good, ideas here. Firstly have a modern go at Quatermass; secondly do a live broadcast of a multi-location drama (they have done it with dramas in the US like ER to reasonable effect). Putting them together into one idea though only works if one doesn't limit or detract from the other, which you gotta feel happens here. Never having really the original Quatermass (I've only ever seen a couple of the movies which I enjoyed), I'm not protective over the subject and a remake is not something that I specifically have an issue with if it is good or bad I will watch it on its own merits, not in comparison to something else. The remake itself on paper offers tension, global threats, fear of the unknown and solid sci-fi and it is disappointing then that more is not made of it.
Sadly a lot of the biggest failings come down to the delivery of the first idea. The thing about it being live: why? In what way did it help the film other than just being a gimmick to make people watch (which, being BBC4 and now being just a repeat, I doubt does much). I did see a modern musical retelling of the crucifixion done in Manchester (Manchester Passion) and that was done live. While that film was not perfect, at least it was live in a crowd and in public the fact it was live was a positive (or at least interesting) aspect to it. Here all it seemed to do was meant that it was done cheaply and not in the way that best serves the story. It is not that anyone laughs or falls over, but just that the scenes are done with limited cameras and camera positions, you don't get a lot of edits around a scene, the use of music is limited and of course special effects are not really involved.
Technically I'm sure it was impressive to pull it off but this doesn't translate into value for the viewer. Instead what I found was, while the basic story offered me potential, all I ended up thinking about was how much better it would have been if they had made a "proper" film (ie, take your time and redo bits if need be play with the edit etc) rather than this experiment. It is not that I needed effects but all the way through the fact that they get one shot at everything does prevent it doing more things that would have been useful such as effects, such as more cuts around scenes, such as multiple angles, such as more locations etc. What the live aspect doesn't explain though is why the film cannot decide when it is set. The characters mostly appear to be in the 1950's, they all talk in the tones and language of 1950's Britain, the space mission is certainly not occurring in the world of 2005 but yet we are in the Tate Modern and are watching the modern BBC news. It is not a massive problem but it just felt like someone wrote this, saw that the clash but just decided to ignore it.
The cast are mostly good although you do get the impression mostly that nobody is really pushing themselves or doing anything more exciting than making sure it is right first time. Flemyng is probably not right for the title role but he was OK if the film had been better generally I think he would have been exposed but as it was he did alright. Tennant, Gatiss, Dunbarr and Varma all do solid work and seem to fit their characters but for me the best performance was from Tiernan. Essentially a babbling wreck throughout the film, if he hadn't convinced then the rest would have fallen down; but fortunately he pulls it off and mostly his weird state is quite effective.
I will not recommend this film to anyone because I don't think it was that good. I suppose if you specifically want to see a project (or gimmick) then the live broadcast bit may interest you but I cannot imagine many came for that. No, instead you will be, like I was, attracted by the name and the cast and will be hoping for a good bit of sci-fi. Sadly the live broadcast gimmick takes away a lot while bringing nothing to the table of value to the viewer. A shame because the material's potential is there to see but sadly this is just a basic film that doesn't work and, for another project, I would like to see them do it again with the same cast etc but with the resources of time and money added just to see what they can do then.
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