Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Microreview [film]: Los Ultimos Dias, a.k.a. The Last Days, directed by the Pastor brothers

Characters Flatter than a Flan in a Cupboard + Ridiculous Premise = Mierda

2013. Just look at these two goofballs and try to tell me you care if they live or die!

I really wanted to like this movie. Or more precisely, I really wanted this movie to be worthy of my appreciation. And it did have some things going for it, notably its exotic setting in Barcelona and focus on Spanish characters, and that it was in Catalan rather than English. It's always refreshing to have an apocalyptic story not about New York City (or even the U.S.), and to make matters better, the premise is, at first blush, interesting enough. In brief, the catastrophe that sweeps the globe isn't zombies or the Superflu or whatever: it's hardcore agoraphobia. That's right, going to the Agora (or in fact just going outside)=dead. Cool, right? Yes, this was a movie I really wanted to like.

But I didn't—at all.

This is partly my fault: I'd already seen another movie directed by the Pastor hermanos, Carriers, which I thought was very good to excellent, so going into The Last Days I expected at minimum the same level of greatness. But except for the beautiful cinematography and special effects, which successfully produced plenty of eye candy, a lush vision of this apocalyptic world, no aspect of the film connected with me at all. The characters, main and otherwise, were without exception irritating and unlikeable, which meant that the various harrowing challenges they faced left me entirely unmoved; it even got to the point that I hoped they'd just die and put themselves (and me) out of their misery.

Moreover, the premise and its implications for the plot can't withstand more than five seconds of consideration. Fatal agoraphobia? Even if we give you the benefit of the doubt on that whopper, hermanos, *nobody* would still be alive three months later. Just how, exactly, are they going to get food—or water? Ask yourself, reader: if no one could ever again transport anything (cars don't protect against "the Panic", as their uber-agoraphobia is called), how long could you survive just on the food you've got at home or at the office or wherever you are when you're stricken with the Panic? Unless your answer was "ninety days" or higher, you're dead by the time the non-flashback portions of the film get going, along with pretty much everyone, everywhere. (My answer was "one week, but only if I'm allowed to eat my downstairs neighbors".) And seeds, which inevitably pop up in formulaic apocalypse survival movies like this one, are not magic—so I have a hard time believing a useless office worker and a hippie artist could throw together an indoor greenhouse in a random building and then just become master hydroponic farmers, living there for like fifteen years off the offspring of one tiny bag of seeds!

And maybe this is a bridge too far, but Catalan is distractingly silly-sounding. I heard once that some king of Barcelona had a lisp, and consequently decreed, in a shining example of Harrison Bergeron-esque lowest common denominator politics, that all his subjects must speak with a lisp. But even if that'th not the real reathon Barthelonan/Catalan thpeakers lithp everything, lithping when you don't have to ith jutht uncool, ath well ath infuriating to lithten to! Thuck it up, Barthelonanth, and just say "Barcelona" like the rest of the world!

In conclusion, if you're searching for a cool apocalyptic movie in a non-U.S. setting, don't watch this (watch La Jetee, or if you're feeling less artsy-fartsy, one of the excellent apocalyptic anime movies like Nausicaa or Akira). If you're looking for a cool Pastor brothers movie, don't watch this (watch Carriers). In short: don't watch it.

The Math

Objective assessment: 5/10

Bonuses: +1 for a beautiful vision of what a world stricken with fatal agoraphobia might look like

Penalties: -1 for what? Fatal agoraphobia, yet people are still alive months later? -1 for the unappealing characters, -1 for all the other absurdities of the story, not least Catalan itself

Nerd coefficient: 3/10 "Just bad." And how!

Normally I'd blather on about how a ?/10 is actually a pretty good score, no really, but in this case, the tag line is all too accurate: a 3/10 is indeed just bad.

Zhaoyun, purveyor of apocalyptic and general sf/f literature and NOAF stalwart since 2013, hopes when the apocalypse does come nobody nearby is thpeaking Catalan.