Honestly, after a second viewing, I am still a little undecided. The movie is complex but uneven, thorough but disjointed. It was labeled by its director Richard Kelly (the guy who brought us Donnie Darko) as a 'near-apocalypse musical comedy. Its attention to detail is surprising and effective. Its weirdness is transparent and engaging. The behind-the-scenes info on the making of the movie are an array of problems both in production and in post-production, with the film being recut and changed as things happened. (And yes, I will so be buying the giant director's cut we'll eventually get.) I haven't picked up the graphic novel(s) prequels yet, but I will (the movie is, in fact, parts four, five, and six of the story, not unlike a certain other famous franchise.)
I won't spoil the movie, but really, I could talk for about an hour and not really spoil everything. Suffused with a sense of impending dread, the engrossing science fiction atmosphere is peppered with strange comedy. I never thought I would be as impressed with Justin Timberlake as I was here. Things happen that may or may not make sense later on. They draw eerie parallels to current events. Comparisons to Donnie Darko are inevitable, but, well, DD was never this... fun. And it's not just my love of "Wave of Mutilation" speaking.
The casting really seals the deal; it's pretty flawless. The Rock plays himself, sort of, and steals a number of scenes. Buffy plays the Buffybot, except as a futuristic porn star enmeshed in a conspiracy. Seann William Scott does a surprisingly good job with a very tricky role. And man, it's a deep cast of B- and C-list stars. Herbert Viola from Moonlighting has a small part. Rebekah Del Rio, a personal fave, has a cameo, as herself. It goes on and on (Bai Ling, the Highlander, etc.)
See, it's very easy to talk about the movie, but the whole affair, put together, is much harder to get a grip on. There's a lot going on. No, it doesn't always work. And some of the things we're supposed to take seriously just don't happen. On the other hand, some of the more surrealistic elements slide into and out of the picture so seamlessly, and some aspects are so wonderfully drawn. I hate using the term 'defies classification,' but that's what we're working with here.
So. Is it good? Sort of. But I can't endorse it unconditionally. It's not for everyone, and I don't mean that in any elitist way. Is it worth seeing? If the above didn't scare you off, then definitely.
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