THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
Let's start with the good news: Stranded represents a step up for Battlefield: Earth director Roger Christian. Now the bad news: staring at a blank screen for two hours would be a step up from the atrociousness of that movie. The director, who also co-wrote the screenplay for Stranded, has devised the umpteenth Alien knockoff, without capturing any of the mood, atmosphere, or terror that marked Ridley Scott's 1979 classic. The result is a movie whose eight-seven minutes feel extremely long.
The film goes wrong from the very first scene, in which a lunar base is struck and damaged by a meteor shower, leaving the four-person crew trapped in an environment filled with dangerous CO2. There is nothing before this: no time to get to know the characters (or have them establish any individual traits), no explanation for the mission they're on, nothing. One of the crew members, Dr. Lance Krauss (Brendan Fehr), warns the base's commander, Col. Brauchman (Christian Slater), that breathing in CO2 could cause severe hallucinations and paranoia. That's the least of their troubles. A scientific analysis of a meteor piece unleashes a fast-growing mutant spore that impregnates a female crew member. The spore-baby pops out, quickly assumes human form, and proceeds to terrorize everyone. The only chance for survival is if a rescue crew can get to the moon in time.
Because there's literally no set-up, Stranded doesn't tell a story so much as just present a series of sequential events. It almost feels as though the filmmakers had a checklist of things that an Alien ripoff needed to have, and then proceeded to tick them off one by one. The events shown don't stack upon one another to build momentum, and caring about the situation is impossible because we don't know anything about the characters we are ostensibly supposed to be rooting for. Without substantive material, the actors merely flounder. (Even on his best day, Christian Slater was never going to be credible as an astronaut; with this script, he borderline embarrasses himself.) Stranded just moves from one thing to the next, never generating tension or suspense. It's on autopilot.
The interior sets are okay looking, as are a couple of the more gruesome makeup effects. Shots of the exterior of the base are comically cheap, however. While it's admirable to try to make a movie look fancier than its actual budget, there's a point at which it's no longer worth the effort. Once the audience becomes aware of how artificial things look, the impact is gone. Stranded too often reveals that it is biting off far more than it can chew. Christian and his team would have been wise to scale down a little bit, play up the idea that the creature could just be a hallucination caused by the CO2, and make a tight little Moon-esque character-based thriller.
Stranded simply doesn't work. There are many other films that have done essentially the same thing they're trying to do here. Several of them have done it much more successfully. This one is too dull and underdeveloped to raise your pulse even a beat.
( out of four)
Stranded is unrated but contains language and violence/gore. The running time is 1 hour and 27 minutes.
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