1990 Directed by Alan Smithee. Starring Tim Matheson, Charlton Heston, Jack Palance, Peter Boyle, Annabel Schofield, Corin Nemec, Dorian Harewood.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Dec. 4, 1992
Solar Crisis consists of about a dozen subplots in search of a narrative thread. And if these plots can't find any unifying principle, they'll settle for a few bursts of deep space ooh-la-la and holographic razzmatazz. Solar Crisis is a thin story about a desperate space mission to launch an anti-matter bomb to avert a cataclysmic solar flare destined to destroy the earth. It has some enjoyable moments for devotees of space operas in the way it plays off some generic conventions and also has effects that sometimes dazzlers but then, in rush these characters and they behave as though they had some purpose for being there. Obviously, they haven't read the script. In fact, you get the feeling that there may never have been a screenplay, at least not in one bound volume -- maybe, in separate pages for daily shooting schedules -- but never anything that you could sit and read from beginning to end. But more than the lack of an integrated script, what Solar Crisis seems to be missing is a guiding directorial impulse. This film, which originated in Japan, boasts of top-flight effects wizards and features an “A”-list of stars like Academy Award-winners Heston and Palance and actor's actor Boyle. The director's credit nominally lists Alan Smithee, an industry alias for contributors who want their names removed from projects. The distribution company, Tristar, purports to have no biographical information whatsoever on the director. This does not necessarily mean that there is someone out there who is embarrassed to be associated with this movie; it may just be a matter circumscribed by current litigation or dispute. Or maybe not. Highlights? There's Alex (Schofield -- a former-model turned actress) who plays a “biogenetically enhanced human” who, for all her acting talents, might as well be playing a bona fide android. And if getting to see Alex's naked breasts in the gratuitous shower sequence wasn't satisfying enough, then how about her even more gratuitous flashback to that shower? One of the worst offenders in the “subplot searching for a narrative thread” category is the ever-understated Heston, whose role as the “Admiral” seems designed to capitalize on his name without having to flesh out the story. Palance is over-the-top as an eccentric desert rat who can't even recall his own last name. There's also a repressed lesbian, a runaway military schoolboy (Heston's grandson, hence his presence in the story), Boyle as the megalomanical futures stockpiler whose plan to own the world inscrutably includes sabotaging the mission to save the world from catastrophe, the Mad Max-like desert bands of roaming civilians, the bright-light, heat-crazed ultra-Las Vegans, and the various other crew members on this disaster-plagued flight (some of whom are sent off on kamikaze rescue missions). Like I said, sometimes Solar Crisis has its moments, but they hardly qualify as more than diversions.