Is it that time of year again? WHY YES IT IS! Every year the Somerville Theatre hosts the 24-Hour Boston Science-Fiction Marathon, which in recent years has also expanded into a festival for new sci-fi films, and the marathon itself now includes a few of the festival picks. So it’s basically a lot of nerds young and old gathered together in a gorgeous and spacious theater, armed with pillows, blankets, laser blasters, and caffeine, yelling geeky jokes at the screen. This year (my fifth in a row!) I’m proud to report that I stayed up actually the entire time- usually I nod off during one or more movies, but I was honestly 100% awake for the whole event, which means I won. The line-up was pretty damn solid this year, which I think helped, though there were one or two uncertain choices in the mix (more on that later). And we had this weird problem where people kept coming in at random times and sitting right in front of us? Like where did they come from? You should stake your claim on a few seats and set up camp, guys! There’s plenty of room! Anyway, the way these posts work is I will break down the 24 hours into three segments, and my memory might get a little loopier as it goes on due to the sleep deprivation. So here we go, erm, BLAST OFF!
1 John Carter (2012)
I missed this when it was in theaters so I was excited to see it here, and it made for a fun opener to the Thon. The somewhat convoluted story focuses on the titular gold-digging Civil War soldier who is accidentally transported to Mars, where he discovers warring aliens and an uncanny ability to leap tall buildings due to the lesser gravity. Overall it’s kind of silly but I found it generally entertaining- great effects and action sequences, imagination, a kickass warrior scientist lady, and a lot of shirtless Taylor Kitsch. Like, A LOT. I think the biggest problem is that it’s way too long. I felt like Andrew Stanton just got really wrapped up in this fantasy world and wanted to hang around in it for a while and really situate his audience within it, which I can understand. It is very beautiful.
I also want a quick shout-out for the well-done “In Memorium” segment that was shown after this, for those connected to sci-fi media who’d passed away last year.
2 Reptilicus (1961)
This was the “so-bad-it’s-good” pick for the night, which allows everyone to get out their wannabe MST3K snark. A Danish production but scripted in English, the film is a goofy monster movie with old European charm and an actually kind of cool dragon-like creature design. The effects are outdated and the acting is laughable, plus there’s a musical number for no reason, but it fits decently inside the mold of so many of those mid-century monster flicks. And it’s got a guy who kinda looks like David Bowie, and he was definitely trying to date the main military dude, so I may have had a little fanfiction going on in my head the whole time, no big deal. It’s enjoyable for how ridiculous it is and I was definitely entertained, but I wouldn’t put it high on a list of my favorite b-movies or anything.
As a movie: 2/5
As entertainment: 3.5/5
3 The Ghastly Love of Johnny X (2012)
This one has really stuck with me, and I think I’m liking it more upon reflection even if I was torn as I watched it. I mean the premise alone suits almost all of my tastes- a black and white rock musical about alien punks who are exiled to earth and the main guy has an electric suit that he uses to save an aging rock star and they’re all dressed like they’re in Grease. The tagline is “They Sing! They Dance! They’re Juvenile Delinquents from Outer Space!”, I mean this movie was clearly made for me. Also the lead guy (Will Keenan) is fucking adorable, even if he’s a dick to his girlfriend at the beginning and I was a little uncomfortable. Mostly I dug the wacky visuals, the 50s atmosphere and characterization, and the splashy musical numbers though the songs weren’t the most memorable. (Still good tunes, though! I just kinda wish the amazing Paul Williams had expanded his cameo appearance and maybe contributed to the score? We could’ve had a Phantom of the Paradise-vibe!) The story’s all over the place but I guess that doesn’t actually matter, since for the most part it was funny and weird enough to keep me watching. It’s like if somebody mashed up Cry-Baby and Matinee and Alien Trespass and maybe Richard Elfman directed it? Kinda? Check out this video about it, that might give you a better idea. Also definitely wins best title of anything at the Thon, easily.
4 War of the Worlds: Goliath (2012)
Ok ok here’s where we cheated a little. After about 15 minutes of this animated steampunky alien invasion movie, we decided to head across the street for some dinner, since it just wasn’t especially appealing. I’m sorry guys, I felt bad leaving a new animated sci-fi movie since usually I’m all into that, it just looked sort of derivative and I didn’t love the visual style. We caught the very end though and uh it looks like the good guys won! Yay humans! And Nikola Tesla was there to help out, thank goodness. I’ve never seen/read War of the Worlds so I’m not sure how it all connected, I believe it’s meant to be a speculative sequel. Luckily we returned in time to catch “Asternauts“, a charming short about farmers who manage to contact alien life, from Marta Alicia Masferrer, who directed the excellent “Conlang”, a short from a previous Thon.
Alright so now that we’re back from Chinese food and really settled in, it’ll be time for Part II! Check back next time for more sci-fi fun, eager young space cadets!by