From the Archive – DNA (1997)

DNA

 

“Don’t mess with Mother Nature”

Directed by William Mesa
Starring Mark Dacascos, Jürgen Prochnow and Robin McKee

Dr Carl Wessinger (Prochnow) comes to a remote clinic in Borneo, to find Dr Ash Mattley (Dacascos). Mattley – who was, of course, raised by a local tribe and taught their kung fu – once almost developed an enzyme that would cure all diseases, but could not replicate it. Wessinger claims he can, but that he needs one of the beetles Ash extracted the enzyme from in the first place to do it. Ash takes him to the site where the beetles live in an ancient temple to a towering demon-god named Balacau, where Wessinger double-crosses him (Jürgen Prochnow! The bad guy! Never!) and leaves him for dead.

Flash forward three years, and Ash is still a remote jungle doctor (because despite being evil, Wessinger was not thorough), only now with long and unhygienic hair, and local people keep getting their spines ripped out by a mysterious assailant (although that probably can’t be put down to Ash’s hair). Enter a snooty CIA field operative Claire Sommers (McKee, playing the least convincing field operative in history), who tells him that Wessinger was working for them, but has gone rogue and intends to sell his genetic research to the highest bidder. Cut to some very Jurassic Park-y bits of Wessinger’s team trying to recapture their creation, and Ash and Claire set off to find him.

To cut a long story short, they do, and are then all stalked by a big monster that looks like the Alien, except it’s apparently stolen the Predator’s cloaking device. Oh; it also looks just like the Balacau statue, and is an alien, which Wessinger resurrected using the beetle enzyme.

The bad guys all get killed – as does the token cute small child – and Ash has to go mano a talon with the beast, getting kitted out with warpaint and fightin’ axe, then shooting it in the face with a grenade launcher.

What’s wrong with it?

Any good idea this film has is ripped off from somewhere else: Alien, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, and especially Predator, from which almost the entire last fifteen minutes is lifted whole cloth. The stuff they do seem to have come up with themselves – namely the magic beetle juice – just makes no damned sense. Prochnow phones it in as his stock Euro-baddie character, and the other actors universally suck. Intercutting with stock footage means that frequently helicopters change model two or three times while landing.

What’s right with it?

Absolutely nothing that springs to mind.

How bad is it really?

It is not as bad as Sanctuary, but that’s about the best that can be said for it.

Best Bit

Once Wessinger has his beetles, he turns and shoots Dr Ash. We dared to hope.

What’s up with…?

  • The mild-mannered doctor, raised by a tribe in Borneo, being a bad-ass martial artist?
  • The tough, experienced CIA field operative being a sissy girlie-girl? Oh, that’s right. She has to get rescued.
  • The beetle-juice of a thousand uses? it regenerates aliens from fossil bones; it incapacitates the alien; it heals all illness! But wait; there’s more!
  • CIA cissy’s big gun that shoots either grenades or these big taser things? Never explained in any way.

Ratings

Production Values – The invisible alien is about the same level of special effect as Predator; which is worrying given that that film is about ten years older than this one. The lack of care given to the use of stock footage is also notable. 14

Dialogue and Performances – With Prochnow phoning this one in, there isn’t a decent performance in the film. the dialogue is dire, and really deserves no better than it gets. 16

Plot and Execution – My God, what a pig’s ear. The plot is all over the place, frankly looking for all the world as if they’ve just taped together pages from an assortment of other scripts. The direction is also second rate, and everything is either underlit or overlit. 17

Randomness – The whole damn plot is randomness. My goody-God but it makes no sense. With the beetles, and the mystery alien and all. What the hell? 16

Waste of Potential – The material in this film could – and lets face it, did – make several good movies. 15

Overall 78%

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