Jarv’s Birthday Series: Mimic (1997)

Continuing on this never-ending trek through the annals of film released on my Birthday, and it really hasn’t been that hard. I haven’t suffered the misery that Pillows has sat through, but I will put my two worst films up against any film on any other list. Against that, though, I think I’ve probably drawn the most “classic” films- with some of them legitimately ranking in the “best in category” level. I’ve also, and this has surprised me a wee bit, drawn a lot of movies that I remembered very fondly from the time that looking back at them now don’t rate anywhere near as highly. Today’s offering, Mimic, is an early Guillermo Del Toro film, and, well, I’m not really sure how I feel about it.

Mimic (release date 22nd August 1998 in the US) arrived in the UK with very little fanfare. So little, in fact, that I missed it completely. I knew nothing at all about Del Toro, mildly fancied Mira Sorvino, and had been burnt by The Relic (which I’m the only person that doesn’t like) the year before, so wasn’t overly keen on seeing another monster film about big insects. Still, I did rediscover it when I was in my first year at University, and really enjoyed it with a few beers. Looking back on those days, the amount of films that I gave passes to that I really shouldn’t have was quite exceptional.

Mimic is a surprisingly complex plot. Sorvino’s movie scientist Dr. Susan Tyler is recruited to genetically engineer some super cockroaches to deal with New York’s problem infectious roaches. The strain she comes up with, the Judas Breed, will automatically die and is infertile. Cut to three years in the future, and she’s going about her business buying insects off children and generally being all very nice. Unfortunately, the Judas insects have bred and her tinkering with their genetic makeup has accelerated their evolution by thousands of years. Shenanigans ensue, and Susan, Jeremy Northam’s Dr. Peter Mann, Charles S. Dutton’s Leonard, an old codger and an autistic kid are trapped in the underground sewers and subway tracks fighting off millions of the hungry bugs.

There’s a lot to like here. A few scenes reek of genuine tension (Northam rewiring the tube for example), and this is one of the only films I can think of where two kids are killed and it doesn’t feel either mean spirited or gratuitous. The design of the bugs themselves, with the splitting carapace that resembles a human face is well thought out, and the climactic fight is genuinely gripping. There’s far more bad than good here.

The acting is all passable to good. Dutton is excellent, and steals every scene he’s in. Sorvino looks a bit lost, but she’s principally a comic actress, and I happen to think she’s a bit miscast. However, she does work hard against her type and comes up in credit. Northam is excellent, solid all round lead and a charismatic and likeable presence. There isn’t a lot to criticise on the acting front.

There’s also not a lot to criticise on the direction front. Del Toro was still relatively new, and certainly wasn’t at his peak, but there are several really well handled scenes. In particular the sequences with Chuy (autistic boy) playing the spoons to the sound the Judas Breed make are supremely well handled. Del Toro said that he has “a sort of a fetish for insects, clockwork, monsters, dark places, and unborn things,” and that comes through strongly here, with lots of long dark shots of corridors, and the film really does manage to conjure up a sense of claustrophobia.

This is, essentially, a “don’t fuck with mother nature” film. It’s entirely a movie scientist induced catastrophe, and I do believe that it’s one of the better ones. However, I just don’t warm to it at all. Partially, I think it’s the presence of Chuy that gets to me. The characters are in more than enough danger with the bugs, and his late reappearance strikes me as both unnecessary and a cynical attempt to manipulate the audience. While he is vital to the early part of the film, I think any movie bold enough to kill two normal kids should have the stomach to kill Rain Boy.

Secondly, there are several extremely large plot holes where characters spout lines of dialogue that I’m sure were only written to go in the trailer. I’m thinking in particular of Sorvino’s “Sometimes an insect will even mimic its predator” line which is grating and blatantly out of place. For a start, we aren’t the bug’s predator. They have been living separate from us for three years, and nobody even knew they were down there. There is no biological reason for them to consider man to be their predator. Secondly, the scientists get their knickers in a twist about the Bugs escaping from Penn Station and going on a rampage. This, actually, is fine, but they frame it in terms of the insects having a coherent plan, and there’s no indication that they’re intelligent enough to do this. I know these count as quibbles, but I think it’s touches like this that stop me buying into the film altogether.

Overall, this is a good film but not a great one. It’s not bad, and passes time quite painlessly, but for some reason I just don’t warm to it. I do sort of recommend it, but I notice that Mimic started life as a half hour segment of an anthology, and I wonder if a lot of the flabbiness in it is as a result of that. Grab a few beers, and the time passes completely without pain, but it isn’t a film that I go nuts for. I give it a completely balanced two and a half Jiminy Crickets out of four.

Next up is one of the finest funny book movies of all time: Wesley Snipes is Blade fighting motherfuckers trying to ice skate uphill.

Until then,

Jarv.

The full list in this series:

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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

73 responses to “Jarv’s Birthday Series: Mimic (1997)”

  1. Jarv says :

    Not sure about this review at all.

    Meh.

  2. Xiphos0311 says :

    I’m decidedly in the ‘meh’ category on this movie didn’t do much for me.

  3. Xiphos0311 says :

    Blade however is as the kids like to say “mint”

  4. Xiphos0311 says :

    Jarv the review was good enough for a middle of the road movie.

  5. Xiphos0311 says :

    Your not the only who didn’t care for the relic. From what little I remember of it it wasn’t that good.

    • just pillow talk says :

      Eh, I can’t remember if I preferred this one or The Relic. Leviathan, etc, they are all interchangable as far as I’m concerned. Not one stands above the rest.

    • Jarv says :

      I thought I was alone in it. Is it Jonah that loved The Relic?

      • koutchboom says :

        Heheh NO WONDER Echo loved that piece of shit Apes movie, its from the same writers. They haven’t written any other movie SINCE The Relic as well.

      • Jarv says :

        Have you seen Rise?

      • koutchboom says :

        IDK I said something about it last night but it looks like that was pretty much ignored.

      • Jarv says :

        Sorry Koutch. Let me find it.

      • Jarv says :

        Sounds like you liked it.

      • koutchboom says :

        But yeah I saw it, it was a lot of fun…..now I REALLY need to watch the fucking Escapist.

      • Bartleby says :

        I don’t LOVE the Relic, but I do enjoy it as a B monster movie.

        I agree with Droid that the period of time there from 1997 through 99 or thereabouts was a grerat time for creature features. 99 switched over to supernatural horrors, but there was a short period that delivered some good fun critters. In the case of Relic, I had read the book andf thought the movie was a crass reduction of it, but still goofy fun. Anaconda and Deep Rising too, although DR is probably the one I return to most often. And then there is Mimic, which ws initially the most disappointing to me, because it tries to rise above goofy b-movie initially. It starts as real science fiction , then goes gothic horror, and then lemts down into The Relic for the last twenty minutes.

        I do quite like it, and a bit more than you I think, but I can understand the meh part. I hope the director’s cut actually improves it.

        Rise is a great movie. That crap comment from Koutch must be seen in light of his feelings that Burton’s version is great. Honestly, K, did you even see it? I thought I saw something in rec where you said you liked it.

      • koutchboom says :

        Heheheh jesus you guys are such boners. PAY ATTENTION. Yeah Rise was a good time, almost as good as Burton’s though probably better. Solid score, I liked how they used the music in the trailer at one point in the film as well. And after he does PIXAR next year I can’t wait for him to all of the sudden become everyone’s favorite score maker. THOUGH he’s score definitely wasn’t anywhere near as awesome as Elfman’s. I can hear that he listened to it and kept some of those similar percussion sounds, but its it own thing and I enjoyed it. I feared that the score was just going to blow and it was pretty solid. ALSO it was cool to see Cube directors butt buddy in a hit movie for once.

      • Jarv says :

        I really like the music on that UK trailer. Sounds sweet and is totally appropriate for the material. Best of all, it’s not Lux Aeterna.

      • koutchboom says :

        Yeah I may have to look it up, but seeing as they they used it in the movie I’m assuming Patrick Doyle created it, which I always like. It always pisses me off when the trailer score is SOOO much better than the movie score.

      • Bartleby says :

        oh ok, these other comments weren’t there when I posted. So you did really like it. Yea, it’s pretty darn good. I was surprised how much feeling it generates for the ape characters.

      • Jarv says :

        DR is hilarious. The 1990’s were a totally underrated decade for a lot of reasons.

      • koutchboom says :

        Yeah everyone I saw it with loved it. Its nuts because you see the trailers and your like….ehhhh nawwww no way….and the movie delivers and exceeds what you are expecting. I thought the bit at the end on the bridge and kept it that scale was such a smart movie to add to the believability of it. I mean it was just so clever in the way it set up stuff and carried it out. Also Rups made Franco see some speech theapist and work on that weird sort of lisp he usually has which was nice. Its probably my favorite monster film since Deep Blue Sea…..I guess I just love making animals smarter just to get a cure to alzheimer’s. Heheh it took me a good five minutes to get past that they were doing the EXACT same thing as deep blue sea that way.

      • Jarv says :

        Me too when I saw the trailer. Stealing from DBS! The shame…

      • koutchboom says :

        Yeah DBS is one of my all time personal favorites so when it opened with that and I knew what the movie was going to be I was like….no fucking way. Luckily about 10 minutes in it takes a much different turn than DBS. NOW I don’t know if I would see this movie 8 times in theaters like I did DBS (mainly because I don’t live above a theater and get in for free like I did then) but since its more emotional that I don’t think 8 times would do it any favors.

      • Jarv says :

        Which reminds me, I really need to download the soundtrack to Tron Legacy.

      • koutchboom says :

        YES YOU DO. Also look for some remixes and the song Sea of Simulation. There are some official remixes and some unofficial. There is one album I found that was said to be the Tron Score before it was ever released called Tron: Legacy (pre-release score) and the song is called THE CRASH, if you see that song get it, its 10 minutes long but I think you’ll like it. Some of the other remixes are OK but that ones the coolest. Also if you can find DISC 2 of the soundtrack there is some of the cool filler music from the movie in it.

      • koutchboom says :

        Fun fact the director of that movie is the most successful first time movie director of all time now, beating out JJ and MI 3, though I don’t think JJ counts because he’s got all that TV work, Tron guy only had made a few commercials.

      • Jarv says :

        I really didn’t like that very much. Mostly it’s just blah. I did love the soundtrack and some of the visuals.

        Lost me with Bridges and his magic powers, though.

      • koutchboom says :

        I’m just glad Disney doesn’t give a fuck right now and is back to making interesting movies love’em or hate’em all thanks to that Pirates money.

      • Jarv says :

        It wasn’t interesting though. The story was overly convoluted. It wasn’t like when Tron originally was released.

      • koutchboom says :

        Compare Tron to any other Disney movie…it may be odd and you found it convoluted….but at least it wasn’t your run of the mill boring family friendly Disney film they’ve been making for awhile. THAT’s what makes it interesting….like I said Love it or hate it, they easily could’ve made some other dumb fucking movie at least Tron was something different and cool, and awesome if you loved it. You gotta admit that movie had sure fire failure written all over it and Disney said…ehhh fuck it throw that guy 300 million bucks why not. Which to me is pretty fucking cool, they took a huge chance and it paid off ehhhh okish, not great but it didn’t bomb.

      • koutchboom says :

        I’m just glad it reached 400 as to take away sequel/no sequel power out of the hands of grubby little movie critics.

      • Jarv says :

        There were a few really interesting creative decisions made with that film (DP on the soundtrack duty), but overall, I felt that it tried to have its cake and eat it, and there was no justification for both Light Cycles and Light Planes.

      • koutchboom says :

        Heheheh well come on Jarv….they gotta have something for the trailer?

      • Jarv says :

        True. I just groaned when the light plane bit started.

        No need for it, at all, and it wasn’t actually that exciting.

      • Droid says :

        I’ve paid attention and have been able to discern two things…

        NO WONDER Echo loved that piece of shit Apes movie.

        One of Koutch’s personalities didn’t like the new Apes movie.

        Heheheh jesus you guys are such boners. PAY ATTENTION. Yeah Rise was a good time.

        One of Koutch’s personalities did like the new Apes movie.

        Are you off your meds again, Koutch?

      • koutchboom says :

        Naw you guys just can’t follow sarcasm today, especially when you aren’t reading everything on here like a hawk.

      • Jarv says :

        This is true.

        I think Teaching Mrs. Tingle broke my brain last night. What a piece of shit.

      • Bartleby says :

        Koutch is right about the scale. The most absurd scene in the trailer–the gorilla leaping to the helicopter–is potentially the most emotionally powerful moments in the film. It’s down to the fact that when he makes that leap we know him as a character.

      • koutchboom says :

        When I showed my wife the trailer I was laughing because how silly it all looked and she was fucking PUMPED for it after she saw it, she’s like that looks REALLY GOOD. I guess having been burned too many times in the pass I was just assuming that it wouldn’t deliver like all things….but that was all before I knew Johnny L was in it…..had I known that before I saw the trailer I wouldn’t have been as skeptical. But even still I was laughing at parts of the movie out of sheer awesomeness because it was like…..WOW OK he fucking pulled that off and it was awesome. Like the fucking gorilla’s moving the bus, or the NOOOOO scene it was like WHOA WOW…that fucking worked somehow.

  6. just pillow talk says :

    Yeah, this is decent enough for a monster type movie. Is it great? No, but it’s a movie I’ll watch if I’m flipping through the channels and catch it on.

  7. just pillow talk says :

    And the series is a marathon, not a sprint. So your two shit stains of a movie are nothing compared to the never ending drek that is known as my birthday list. Hrumph…trying to even suggest your list approaches my list…why the outrage…

  8. Droid says :

    I really like this movie, but I admit that I haven’t seen it for a good decade or so. I’ve been meaning to rewatch it, and since the Directors Cut is coming out soon I’ll probably wait and check that out.

    Around this time was fucking AWESOME for monster movies. Mimic, The Relic, Deep Rising, Anaconda, Deep Blue Sea. All are loads of fun (but not all are good films necessarily).

  9. Droid says :

    Speaking of off their meds, where’s the monkey? Did the bird he was doing battle with get the better of him?

    • Jarv says :

      He’s on holiday. In Ibiza or something.

      Although I don’t think it counts if you just move to sitting on your arse in a foreign country,

    • Toadkillerdog says :

      Hola all,
      yes i saw rotpota, it was damn good, second best movie this summer behind CA.
      The trailers did not did not do it justice, which shows you caint judge a movie by a trailer.
      Bart is dead on about the gorilla jumping scene.

      • koutchboom says :

        Though it was odd that the CEO was still alive in the chopper, they should’ve shown how he made it out of the building.

      • Toadkillerdog says :

        Yeah, you are right about that, how the heck did he out run apes then make it to chopper?
        Still, that is a minor nitpick

      • Bartleby says :

        they show it actually. Caesar, too compassionate for his own good, directs the apes towards the task at hand–get out of dodge–and they just leave him standing there, while they leap out of the building and go hopping off through the city, then the copter comes fror him and he doesn’t bother to mention that the apes don’t seem to be actually threatening human life.

      • koutchboom says :

        ??? There’s the shot of him in the lunch room and then that OHHH FUCK shot of all the apes above him then cut. The next time we see him he’s running to the chopper.

      • Toadkillerdog says :

        Yeah, Bart you must have seen a different cut than we got in chicagoland, because koutch is right we see him running back down garage tunnel with apes in hot pursuit and very close to him, it is a minor point though, i loved how they victimized the neighbor though! even though it was unfair, dude was trying to protect his family – stil it was funny

      • koutchboom says :

        Yeah with that ending that that upcoming Steven Sodaburg movie, they can easily move to movie three. That neighbor guy is the guy from Cube, he’s in all of that Canadian directors films…Splice included.

      • Toadkillerdog says :

        Ah, so that explains why he was crapped on for no real reason, it was an inside joke by director or something. BTW I saw splice this weekend on cable. It was bland and boring, since she used her own dna to help create dren does that mean it was incestuous rape by the hermaphrodite?

      • koutchboom says :

        Heheh TDK I watched Splice last week as well….you didn’t happen to also watch The Great Dictator did you?

      • Jarv says :

        Yup.

        But riddle me this? Why is there plant DNA in the mix?

        Lousy film that Orangutan of Doom material.

      • Toadkillerdog says :

        I have not seen great dictator in years koutch, great flick though.
        The plant dna was to uh, to uh allow dren to uh, um, oh hell i dont know, maybe they thought it would do some photosynthesis or some shite!
        orang of doom! damn, you really hated that

      • Jarv says :

        At the time, I rated it 1 out of 4. Looking back at it, and on the back of Murphy’s performance, it’s just shit.

        Seriously, at least two drafts away from a ready script- and a lot of the shitness of it (particularly regarding Polley) could have been easily fixed.

        Awful, comically bad and astonishingly boring film.

      • Toadkillerdog says :

        Yeah the polley stuff was horrible, and i have to admit to always being distracted by adrians nose when he is on screen! I am dead serious, that thing has its own orbit, it is a testament to his hard work that he made himself a leading man – sort of, but the movie is shite

      • koutchboom says :

        Heheh the dude in Anthony Zimmer had a sweet Brody nose, and when my wife came in and I was watching it she was like “are you still watching Splice”? Negating the fact that Zimmer is french with Subtitles.

        Then after we saw Apes I said “ohh that was the guy in Splice” and somehow she thought I was referring back to Zimmer and how that lead somehow became A Brods. Everything got all higgledy piggledy.

  10. Toadkillerdog says :

    I wrote ‘incestuous rape by the hermaphrodite’
    I am willing to bet i will never again use that phrase other than when describing this flick!

  11. ThereWolf says :

    I’m not fussed about ‘Mimic’, no feelings one way or the other. It was okay. Never felt the need to watch it again though.

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