I watched it so you don’t have to.. Outland – Peter Hyams 1981
Satisfying my insatiable curiosity for 70/80’s sci-fi movies I finally finished watching Outland last night. I’d tried before and got about 20 minutes-in before getting bored. Last night I made it to the end but wasn’t really sure of that until the credits rolled.
There’s a lot of good stuff in Outland. The idea of a “space western” is quite inspired – it’s loosely-based on the plot of ‘High Noon‘. Connery is basically a good-guy, space-cop who’s sent to a mining colony on Io, a moon of Jupiter to find out why people are going crazy and killing themselves and Frances Sternhagen plays a tough, jaded doctor who becomes the closest thing to a friend he has in this lawless, roughneck place.
The set-design and the general tone of the film are convincing mainly because we feel as though we’ve seen this before – Alien had been released two years previously and Outland feels as though it’s set in the same universe that the Nostromo and crew lived in – trucker caps, bad space food, industrial-strength, keyboard-clacking input-terminals.
The model work is not great though and the exterior shots employed a short-lived compositing-technology called Introvision which isn’t particularly convincing. Star Wars had been made five years before and yet it looks like it was the other way round.
The main problem with Outland though is that we don’t really care about anyone – even Connery is pretty wet, preferring peaceful-resolutions to simply blasting away with his shotgun – which could’ve livened things up a little. Frances Sternhagen’s character Dr. Lazarus is cold and blunt – irritatingly-so and everyone else is either a cardboard-villain or sneering, corrupt scumabg.
I won’t spoil the ‘ending’ except to say that when it arrived I wasn’t really sure if it had. Connery sits around waiting for a shuttle to arrive with a load of ‘space mercs’ sent to kill him.
We don’t get to really see these mercs which could’ve been good except pretty soon they’ve all died in dumb and visually-uninteresting ways and fights in space-suits look the same as fights underwater – that is they’re rubbish because slow-motion fighting looks totally random and totally crap.
Yeah, so another movie that seems much better in stills and short clips than the experience of actually sitting down and watching the thing.