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Friday, August 20, 2021

The Other Ghostbusters – Celebrating 20 Years of ‘Evolution’

No matter how you feel about the sequels, reboots and spin-offs, there’s no denying that the first Ghostbusters captured lightning in a bottle in a way that not even the original team could replicate. Sometimes, the right people pop up at the right place and the right time, and the universe gifts us with an unforgettable classic. Of course, this hasn’t stopped studios from trying to rekindle that magic with similar projects, and while we’re all hyped for Jason Reitman’s upcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife, this year marks the 20th anniversary of Ivan Reitman‘s other attempt at a spiritual successor to his most iconic franchise. Naturally, I’m talking about the underrated 2001 monster movie, Evolution.

Originally envisioned by screenwriter Don Jakoby as a hyper-serious horror/sci-fi thriller, Evolution gradually shifted into a completely different direction once Reitman came onboard the project. Inspired by the premise of a group of friends banding together to face an otherworldly threat, the director saw the film as a potential Ghostbusters for the new millennium, with an updated cast of charming oddballs fighting extraterrestrial mutations instead of supernatural entities.

After a series of comedic rewrites, the studio began searching for an ensemble cast with franchise potential. Hot off the heels of The X-Files, David Duchovny was chosen as the sardonic lead that would keep the group together, with Orlando Jones becoming his best friend and partner in crime. The ever-lovable Sean William Scott was also cast as the humorous everyman of the team, with Julianne Moore rounding things out as a clumsy scientist with a heart of gold.

The finished film follows college professors Ira Kane (Duchovny) and Harry Block (Jones) as they investigate a mysterious meteorite that crashes in the Arizona desert. Unfortunately for us humans, the meteorite contains microscopic life-forms that rapidly adapt to their new environment, going through millions of years of evolution in just a few hours as they mutate into monstrous creatures hell-bent on taking over the planet. Knowing that an extinction-level event is at hand, Ira and Harry team up with the CDC’s Dr. Allison Reed (Moore) and the aspiring firefighter Wayne Grey (Scott) in order to study the alien menace and devise a plan to save the world, all while butting heads with an inept military response.

I’m still mad that we didn’t get more of this!

The alien invasion setup may sound familiar, but the formula is solid enough for Evolution to work as a light-hearted sci-fi romp with plenty of impressive monster designs and memorable character moments. Despite wearing its intentions on its sleeve as it attempts to become “the next Ghostbusters“, the movie actually manages to stand on its own as a retro-styled comedy with an early-2000s twist, and I think it’s a shame that no one really one talks about it anymore.

From silly moments like watching the aliens reach a primate-like level of intelligence to fun set-pieces like when the crew attempts to bring down a mutated dragon in the middle of a crowded shopping mall, I’d argue that the movie is at its best when reveling in its own absurdity. Hell, I know I’ll never forget that bizarre finale where dandruff shampoo miraculously saves the day in what can only be described as a cellular enema.

Evolution admittedly stumbles during its transparent attempts at recreating Ghostbuster’s success (even Dan Aykroyd makes an appearance and the poster’s three-eyed smiley face is obviously meant to emulate that film’s highly marketable anti-ghost logo), but the insanely charming cast helps to smooth out most of the rough edges. The dated jokes and familiar tropes are no match for Jones and Duchovny’s bromance, and even Sean William Scott gets the chance to shine with ridiculous amounts of “dudebro” energy. Dr. Reed is the only character that really suffers from the unpolished script, with Moore being relegated to lazy gags despite her legendary acting chops.

Unfortunately, there’s also the matter of the film’s heavy use of early-2000s CGI during its action sequences. While there are a handful of practical puppets on display here, and the designs are all pretty clever, the majority of the monsters are brought to life via wonky computer graphics that haven’t aged all that well. Thankfully, the movie’s playful tone keeps the effects from detracting from the experience, though I wish they had gone with the original plan of having the alien’s final form be a fleshy humanoid kaiju instead of a gigantic cell.

Where Product Placement and Deus Ex Machinas meet!

Personally, I think Evolution was a single draft (and maybe a Ray Parker Jr. song) away from being a classic, but I still appreciate how it lovingly emulates classic monster movies for a new crowd. From setting the story in the Arizona desert to having a bumbling military force be saved by outcast scientists, the film really nails the 50s sci-fi tropes without feeling like a parody. Hell, even the “real science” on display here is about as accurate as it was in those movies, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a possible sequel involved radiation turning lizards and insects into giant monsters.

Despite spawning a short-lived animated series, it’s a real shame that Evolution never took off as a franchise. This could have been one of those rare cases where a sequel with already-established characters could have surpassed the original, introducing even wackier monster-movie hijinks with each new installment. They may not be everyone’s favorite team of paranormal exterminators, but I could have watched hours of Jones and Duchovny bickering about space creatures and the periodic table, and I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not the only one.

As it stands, Evolution doesn’t quite live up to its aspirations as a proper successor to the original Ghostbusters, but it definitely stands on its own as a highly entertaining throwback created by a team that clearly cared about the project. It may not have aged as gracefully as its inspirations, but I’d recommend this one to any fan of the light-hearted monster flicks of yesteryear. At the very least, you’ll learn that Head & Shoulders can be useful during an alien invasion, and with the way things are right now, it’s always good to be prepared.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/editorials/3679294/ghostbusters-celebrating-20-years-evolution/

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