Log: The Relic

The Relic is a real relic, alright. An artifact of a bygone era when movies had the balls to go for an R rating on the basis of language and gore alone. I remember it fondly... (**dream hands, tinkling sound..**)

The year was 1997. After her spectacular star-making turn in Big Top Pee-Wee, Penelope Ann Miller had flirted briefly with stardom at the dawn of the 90's, with roles in The Freshman and Carlito's Way. But with the breakout success of TV's "The X-Files," along with the dino-sized hit of Jurassic Park a few years before, a brief (but glorious) genre of B movie silliness had been born. The various cinematic gems/time capsules this movement produced, titles such as Sphere and Congo (both Michael Crichton adaptations,) as well as The Ghost and the Darkness, Contact, and Outbreak, were mainly action-y guy movies, either with a sci-fi/gore spin, or a creepy cool vibe with the requisite monster twist.

Producers were hungry to get their hands on the next Crichton, and here they stumbled onto the work of Douglas Preston and Lincold Child, and their series of novels based on the character of Pendergast. So what's the first thing they do? DELETE THE MAIN CHARACTER. I never read the books, but even so it's obviously an amazingly blockheaded move. Penelope Anne Miller is hot in that just-right, Dana Scully sort of way. In fact, the whole thing plays (as was no doubt intended) like a spooky/goofy "X-Files" episode.

Director Peter Hyams was a mini-fixture of this 90's scene (he also directed Time Cop and End of Days,) and rightly so, and his contemporary, Roland Emmerich, has continued to carry the torch. Every single scene in The Relic is lifted from something better, but the preferred franchise seems to be Aliens (and actually, the two films share a producer.) There's a monster at the end, and lots of ominous moments in the dimly-lit after hours of an old museum (Chicago's Field Museum, in fact.) But mostly it's just a lot of shots of people evaluating scientific data and looking through microscopes. Science is cool, kids. Or at least it was then.

The genre quickly spun off into the similarly short-lived "disaster flick" boom (think Twister, Volcano, Dante's Peak) and was lost forever. Not long thereafter, Duchovny left "The X-Files," and the genre had come full circle. This film is forgotten now, as are the rest of the films of this short-lived burst. In fact, you can't even get The Relic on DVD any more, unless you get it on a bargain-bin double feature flipper-disc with Pet Semetary 2. But I remember them all. And oh, what a time it was. (**end dream sequence**)

(even more appropriate: I watched this on Laserdisc!)

Now.. what's this about Avatar? Oh... I see. Never mind.

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