Jarv’s Birthday Series: Millennium (1989)
I can’t properly express how glad I am to see the back of the 80’s. It seems like late August was the dumping ground for no end of hideous shit, and I’ve waded through almost all of it. 1989’s contribution to the river of sewage was Millennium (release date August 17th 1989), and is a film I liked on first watch, but does not stand up to a second viewing. I suspect that I was overly enamoured with the clever premise of this film, because really, looking at it, it isn’t that good. In theory, all the component pieces are here to make a cracking film, but something went wrong, and it is, to be fair to it, an interesting failure.
In the far future humanity has lost the ability to breed. To combat impending extinction, the council authorise Cheryl Ladd’s squad of time bandits to scout back to the 20th Century and shift people on planes about to crash into the future. What a good idea. Unfortunately, one of the planes they are on is actually being hijacked and things go completely tits up, culminating in them losing a device from the future which is found by Kris Kristofferson’s investigator. This causes a “timequake” in the future, and so the council resolve to send Ladd back to seduce Kristofferson and repair the fuck up. She categorically fails.
This is a good idea. A seriously good idea. However, it doesn’t actually work. The problem being that if there’s one thing that time travel films struggle with, then it’s the Paradox effect. I’m going to pick on Terminator 2 here for a second, but if John and Sarah Connor are able to stop Skynet existing then the Terminator wouldn’t have been sent back, which means that Kyle Reese wouldn’t have been sent back, which in turn means that he wouldn’t have porked Sarah Connor which means that John Connor wouldn’t exist etc. etc. etc. It’s brain-meltingly complicated stuff, this paradox business. Millennium to its immense credit tackles the problem head on. Events in the 1980’s that alter the path of history are met with a huge rippling airquake in the future that could rip their reality apart. Therefore, Ladd is on a deadline to try to repair these fuck-ups as soon as they occur.
Actually, I really like the look of the future bits of the film. The gay robot is mildly amusing and the hideously disfigured council members are even better. I also like that it’s all set in a deeply derelict and fucked up world, where humanity is literally falling to pieces. Unfortunately, these scenes are overburdened with an overwritten script stuffed full of “banter” between Ladd and the robot, and it simply doesn’t feel right. The dialogue comes across as forced, and as Ladd isn’t a good enough actress to cover this up. This is a shame, because the look and feel of the dystopian future where everything is being wagered on a final throw of the dice is well thought out and well designed.
The 80’s sections, though, are far less successful. I’m not really sure why Kristofferson is so integral to the future, but the film just asks us to accept it on good faith. I’m also not really sure how he’s able to get as much poon as he gets, but these things are, I suspect, beyond human comprehension. The other problem, is that coming from the future they have specific objectives to achieve- retrieving the stunner thingummy, for example. So, say you’ve got ultimate control over space and time, why not just drop in at 3AM on a Sunday Morning, steal the fucker and zap back to the future? Why bother with the whole seduction plot? You see the problem here?
Then there’s the finale of the film. Ladd, through sheer fucking incompetence, sets of a timequake “Force: Infinity” that will devastate the future, through being dimwitted enough to bring back Bill. However, the proposed solution to this is to teleport everyone that they’ve rescued and everyone viable to the far, far, future. Now, I don’t want to be a moaning pedant about this, but as plans go there’s one fucking obvious flaw in it. A timequake is based on events in the past and as the time stream realigns itself, it rips apart the “present”. Therefore, how the fuck does transporting yourself to the future avoid the effects of the timequake? The quake will still take place, and I imagine will still run up the length of the timeline. It simply doesn’t work.
Nevertheless, the film trucks along at a brisk old pace, it isn’t particularly boring and it is sort of fun. However, Ladd is on screen almost the entire time and is terrible, and the story really can’t get over the enormous self-inflicted problems. As a piece of disposable fluff, Millennium is actually quite passable, nevertheless, the problems come when you think about it for a second and the conceit the entire film is built on collapses. All time travel movies struggle with the paradox problem (even Back to the Future), and the mark of a really good one is how easy it is to ignore. In the first Terminator, it’s very easy to ignore, because the film is so fucking good, but in a film like Millennium which isn’t in the same league, the flaws in the story are open and obvious.
Overall, I’m tempted to recommend this, because it does pass the time quite easily. However, at the end of the day it simply isn’t very good. It’s not a platinum stinker like some of the 80’s films that I’ve sat through on this list, and on a Sunday afternoon it does go down quite well. Nevertheless, there’s no real way around it: Millennium is a shit film, and if you feel the need to watch a Time Travel movie, then don’t watch this one. I give it One Quantum Droid trapped in the time vortex out of 4, and have to say that I’m not ever going to watch this one again.
Next up is Sam Raimi’s first (and best) attempt at a superhero movie – it’s Darkman, and the 1990’s start here.
Until next time,
The full list in this series:
- 1978 – The Driver (3 out of 4)
- 1979 – Life of Brian (4 out of 4)
- 1980 –Xanadu (Orangutan of Doom)
- 1981 – An American Werewolf in London (4 out of 4)
- 1982 – Class of 1984 (3 out of 4)
- 1983 – Fire and Ice (1 out of 4)
- 1984 – Cal (1/2 out of 4)
- 1985 – Teen Wolf (3 out of 4)
- 1986 –Reform School Girls (2.5 out of 4)
- 1987 – Dirty Dancing (Orangutan of Doom)
- 1988 – Married to the Mob (1 out of 4)
- 1989 – Millennium (1 out of 4)
- 1990 – Darkman
- 1991 – Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man
- 1992 – Christopher Columbus: The Discovery
- 1993 – Hard Target
- 1994 – Natural Born Killers
- 1995 – Desperado
- 1996 – Freeway
- 1997 – Mimic
- 1998 – Blade
- 1999 – Teaching Mrs. Tingle
- 2000 – Bring it On
- 2001 – Heartbreakers
- 2002 – Simone
- 2003 – My Boss’s Daughter
- 2004 – Exorcist: The beginning
- 2005 – The Cave
- 2006 – Invincible
- 2007 – War
- 2008 – Death Race
- 2009 – Der Baader Meinhof Komplex
- 2010 – Piranha 3D
- 2011 – Conan the Barbarian