Tag Archives: Twilight

Must we come to hate our darlings?

oldbooks

So this was interesting.  Variety ran an interview with Stephenie Meyer the other day asking her about the new movie she’s producing, Austenland.  Naturally you don’t interview one of the most successful authors in the world without posing at least one question on her signature achievement, but Meyer’s response upset some of her more devoted fans (as noted in the comments, which I give you leave to read this one time, but remember, don’t read the comments.)  She said Twilight isn’t a happy place for her anymore and she has no interest in revisiting it anytime soon.  Sheesh, some might be inclined to say, it made you a household name and a bajillion dollars, what on earth are you complaining about?  Yet, Stephenie Meyer is neither the first nor will she be the last artist (yes, you cynical wags, I called her an artist) to have an ambivalent relationship with her art.  I’m reminded of the story of Alec Guinness telling a kid he’d only give him an autograph if the kid promised to never watch Star Wars again, and I wonder if it’s a fate that befalls all of those of us who dare to create – is it inevitable that we will come to hate the creation?

One can forgive Meyer for wanting to move on.  It would be one thing for her to simply wish to expand her pursuits into new arenas following a profitable run with her first endeavor, but Twilight generated as much scorn, probably far more so, as it did praise.  You can say what you like about the Harry Potter series, but those who aren’t fans don’t detest it with such visceral hatred as you’ll see anywhere on the Internet Twilight dares to enter the discussion.  The pastiche of the Ain’t It Cool News comment section mentality I posted in the last entry?  The most generous of compliments in comparison.  Plenty of memes sprang up mocking the characters, the actors who played them in the adaptations, the quality of the writing, every single creative decision taken in the crafting of that saga.  (“Still a Better Love Story Than Twilight” is probably the one that resonates the most.)  In essence, popular culture saw this largely-teen-and-tween-girl phenomenon and decided to take it to the woodshed and whack it with a two-by-four, as if it were singularly to blame for the decline of post-modern civilization (well, that and Obamacare, naturally).  I don’t know Ms. Meyer personally, but I can’t imagine, even in the glow of unimagined wealth, that this wouldn’t have cut, and cut deeply.  In the beginning, she only wanted to tell a story that was important to her.  Now, however many years later, she wants nothing to do with it, and in a way has even more to prove now than when she was a nobody.  It’s a bit sad.

I’ve befriended quite a few writers on Twitter.  Most are unpublished, working away diligently on their dreams and hopeful that someday they’ll break on through the stubborn glass to a cheering audience and critical acclaim.  Each has a story they feel passionate about telling, otherwise they probably wouldn’t be writing.  As I chat with them and read their blogs and learn more about their works-in-progress, I chance to imagine a future time where they are exhausted by the attention, answering the same interview questions fifteen hundred times, and fans wanting to know every iteration of every character nuance of that single work as revealed by word choice and punctuation.  We do so love our darlings but is the moment when we come to despise and regret their existence that distant train rumbling down the track and headed right for us?  Paul McCartney refused to play Beatles songs in concert for most of the 1970’s.  Both Fleming and Conan Doyle tried to kill off their star characters only to be pressured into resurrecting them by fervent readers, and the works that followed were of lesser quality – their hearts just weren’t in it anymore.  (A particularly cutting review of Fleming’s You Only Live Twice I read recently pointed out that it’s almost a deliberate, sniping, mean-spirited parody of what readers had come to love about James Bond, like a middle finger from the worst of Fleming’s snobbery as his health began to fail.)

There are times, very few I’m happy to say, where I even find the modest demands of this blog to be an irritant – the pressure to keep to a regular schedule, to continue to find things to write about that will interest more than just my immediate family.  But I keep going because for better or worse, I still love doing it.  Then again, I don’t have one million fans (or haters) pestering me to write less of this or more of that or what have you.  And I can’t really imagine ever arriving at the point where I say screw you all, I’m done, I’m going off to finally start my dream project about 8th Century cabinet making and I don’t care if nobody but that one guy in Mongolia likes it.  Then again, I’m sure that neither did Stephenie Meyer.  It seems to be a given that success is not always the most comfortable destination.  However, you look at folks like William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, who after struggling against typecasting for years finally came to embrace the work that had given them international renown and the life they earned as a result.  I Am Not Spock eventually begat I Am Spock.  Maybe it’s a full circle after all.  Like raising kids.  First they’re cute, then they’re irritating, then they’re rebellious pests, and ultimately you love them again, more than you ever have.  If that’s the case, then we can learn to treat our art the same way.

Advertisements

The first (and most important) connection

sunset

I tend to go through phases in what I choose to write about here.  There have been politics phases, James Bond phases, Aaron Sorkin phases, family phases, phases devoted to the craft of writing as I see it.  Lately though I’m finding a lot of what I’m writing is focusing on the idea of connection.  Amanda Palmer’s video from a few weeks ago really slammed the back of my head against the wall.  My piece for Huffington Post Books about Ksenia Anske touched on this idea as well.  Because connection is how we make sense of the world.  We’re a vast palette of individual colors who want to blend together.  Yet there is a critical connection that we often fail to make as we throw our line out into the universe, hoping for the elusive nibble.  In our focus on the potential connections out there, we forget about the connection within – the connection to ourselves, to who we are, what we want, and how we feel.

Writing can be a purely intellectual exercise; a collection of arguments and supporting evidence, arranged in the most coherent order to maximize the strength of the opinion being presented.  Academia has thrived for thousands of years using this method, and our knowledge and scientific standing have been advanced immeasurably.  But the stories that stay with us through the generations are those that touch the more primal part of our brains; the part that feels.  We have this incredible disconnect, between aspiring to a higher stratum of intelligence while still being governed by passions that are as far from rational as can be imagined.  The best writing, and the writers who make the most lasting connections, are the ones who can tap into these passions and share them in a way that tells complete strangers, “I get it.  I get your pain.  And you’re not alone.”

I’ve been accused of being passionless on more than one occasion.  It’s a defense mechanism; a shield against loss and the pain that comes with it.  There was a story I read once about Julian Lennon, and how John once screamed at him that he hated his laugh, and to this day a laugh from Julian is very rare.  Similarly, emotional extremes are not my thing.  For me the thought of ripping off that bandaid and letting the agony pour through the reopened scar is tremendously intimidating.  Letting it loose publicly is even more frightening.  Yet one looks at what someone like Ksenia Anske is willing to admit to the world and one’s own history seems laughably tame in comparison.  I also consider it in the context of being a new father and not wanting my son to grow up thinking his dad’s a Borg drone.

There is great pain lurking beneath the armor – the pain of a lost father and mother, an adolescence and young adulthood spent wandering, feeling very much alone, not knowing what to make of this thing called life, feeling a sense of drift that persists to this day.  There is anger and regret over very bad choices and their lingering consequences.  There is frustration at the inability to articulate a clear vision of where I’m going and what I want.  This last one is brutal for a writer.  In creating characters you need to be able to define what they want, and how can you do this for a fictional person if you can’t even do it for yourself?  Without wants there is no reason for the journey – there is no story.

Even if I was to never write another word, I still need to connect to my inner self.  It’s very possible that once that connection is firmly established, the desire to write might fade away.  If I am truly satisfied with who I am and the state of my life, then I may stop asking those questions of strangers, stop seeking connection out there in the ether that is the global consciousness.  Stop noticing, as Amanda Palmer says, that this looks like this, because it just won’t matter anymore.  And yet there’s another, more tantalizing possibility – that the other connections will grow deeper, that things will make more sense, that I will be able to articulate a vision of substance, of meaning, of true passion.  I’ll know what I want and I’ll go after it at ludicrous speed, and those who don’t want to come along on the ride can eat my plaid dust.

If you fancy yourself a writer, you have to ask this very important yet somewhat awkward-sounding question of yourself:  Is all of me in this?  Are you writing the story of the sexy female vampire who runs her own shoe store and fends off the advances of a hunky foot-fetishizing merman because you have a deep, abiding need within your soul to spill your soul all over the blank page, or are you doing it because it’s a fun distraction and you’re tickled by the highly unlikely possibility of becoming the next Twilight?  Do you have what it takes to push past being ignored, past the hit statistics on your blog ticking down to zero, past people who greet your latest missives with apathy and indifference?  Is using your voice important enough to you that you can shake off the jealousy that can sometimes spike at the sight of others achieving great success by twists of fate, and say what you want to say anyway?  Fundamentally, are you passionate enough about it that it doesn’t matter if nobody but your significant other ever reads anything you ever write?  Intellectual exercises can be well-written, but they will never move anyone.  They will simply exist in a moment of time and be forgotten.  They will never connect.

Look, there are more than enough writers, both published and not, out there filling servers full of blog posts with advice on how to write, what works and what doesn’t (in their humble opinion, of course) and I don’t want to be that anymore.  The only advice I can offer is this, and it comes from the school of “those who can’t do, teach”:  You will only achieve what you want when you learn how to feel, when you have connected to everything you are.  When everything you do is to its fullest potential, and when you’ve smashed through the self-imposed mental barriers keeping you from experiencing all the joy, wonder and even the sadness that life has to offer.  When you cast off the stupid, pointless, time-wasting shackle of intimidation and become.

Thus endeth the lesson.  Let me know how you make out.  I will too.

What’s the story, Graham?

Who is that guy?
And while we’re at it, who is that guy?

I’ve never been good at self-promotion.  Perhaps you can chalk it up to formative years surrounded by people telling me keep quiet, don’t boast and give someone else a turn.  Like most people, I enjoy attention, but excessive notice tends to turn my stomach inside out.  It’s why I had to stop reading the comments on the stuff I submit to Huffington (that and the occasional threat from a pissed off Tea Partier).  The problem is that these aren’t qualities that serve one well if one is attempting to establish a writing career.  Publishing firms are tightening their belts and seem to expect their authors to do most of the legwork in marketing themselves.  You see the results often on Twitter – writers following other writers in hopes of a follow-back, and relentlessly pushing their tomes through tweet after tweet.  Seems to work for some; I follow a few who haven’t published a thing yet have managed to build up their own expectant and admiring fanbases.  My attitude has always been that quality will find its own audience, but, after blogging for almost two years to a relatively stable but small (yet tremendously awesome) group of supportive readers, it’s clear that my modest approach isn’t working.  I need to give you more.

If you’ve been reading my stuff for a while you’ll know I’ve made some periodic and cryptic references to a finished novel that has been sitting on my hard drive for far too long.  A few years back I sent out some queries for it, received polite rejections all around, and then set it aside for a while.  (I had a nice one from a literary agent who represents a very famous series of books, who said that her decision to pass was not a statement on the quality of the writing, which, though it may have been a form letter, was still encouraging to a fragile ego.)  About two years ago I went back and rewrote large portions of it while painfully hacking out almost 60,000 words to get it to a publishable length.  Perhaps a dozen family & friends have read it from cover to cover; dozens more have seen excerpts and offered suggestions, some of which have been incorporated, while others have been welcomed but disregarded (you have to use your judgement after all).  Long and the short of it is that at this point it’s in the best shape I can possibly get it into, at least from my perspective.  And I have started sending queries out again.  So why have I not shared more about it here?

Well, in a strange way, I have.  There is a lot here about the book.  And no, you haven’t missed it.  Let me explain a little.

We live in a spoiler-addicted culture.  Everybody wants their appetite sated immediately; we all want to flip to the last page to see who did it.  I went through that phase myself – because I am fascinated by the process of film production (an interest that probably stems from wishing in idle moments that it’s what I did for a living) I devour news about scriptwriting, casting, principal photography, and yes, spoilers.  I had to give myself an intervention of sorts this past summer when I ruined The Dark Knight Rises for myself by reading the Wikipedia plot summary before seeing the movie.  I realized I’d become what I despised – I’d often railed about being able to figure out the ending of rom-coms simply by looking at the two stars featured on the poster.  For Skyfall, I purposely kept myself spoiler-free, and as a result I enjoyed that movie a lot more than I would have had I known how it was going to end.  Trekkers have been driven up the wall over the last several by J.J. Abrams’ refusal to offer specifics on the identity of the villain “John Harrison” played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the upcoming Star Trek Into Darkness.  Is it Khan?  Gary Mitchell?  Robert April?  Harry Mudd?  Ernst Stavro Blofeld?  In promoting his projects, Abrams has always embraced the idea of the “mystery box,” never showing his hand until the night of the premiere.  And controlling the conversation by keeping it where he wants it, in the realm of speculation, is, if managed properly, a great way to keep interest high.  It’s a dance though – give away too much and you spoil it, but say nothing, or remain stubbornly evasive, and people grow bored and move on to the next thing.  My more introspective nature simply lends itself better to Abrams’ way of thinking.

I’ll crack open the mystery box a little:  My novel is a fantasy.  It’s the first part of what will hopefully be a trilogy.  The main character is a woman with magical abilities.  She encounters a mortal man.  An adventure ensues.

Whoa, you’re saying.  Back up a sec.  This is basically Beautiful Creatures, right?

Argh.  As writers we need to support each other and rejoice in each other’s successes, so I’m very happy for Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.  We all dream of seeing our epics translated to the big screen and I’m sure they’re bursting with joy at their enviable accomplishment, as would I.  But privately I’m suffering a few gutfuls of agita.  You can’t help feeling like the guy who was late to the patent office when Alexander Graham Bell released the first telephone, even though our stories are completely different.  Theirs takes place in the modern day; mine is set in the past in a fictional world.  Their lead characters are teenagers discovering themselves; mine are world-weary adults.  And of course the supporting characters and indeed the plot bear no resemblance to one another.  But to the casual observer, they’re treading similar boards, and even though I could have written a story about a lawyer or a doctor or cop without garnering so much as a whisper of comparison, I have no doubt that someone will now accuse me of trying to cash in on a trend, particularly if Beautiful Creatures does become “the next Twilight” and thousands of lesser imitators flood literary agents’ inboxes (I’m fortunate I didn’t choose to write about vampires.  Luckily, I find them tiresome.)  Indeed, witches are all the rage in pop culture at the moment – we had Hawkeye and Strawberry Fields hacking their heads off a few weeks ago and we’ve got Mrs. James Bond, Meg Griffin and Marilyn Monroe bandying their magical wiles with James Franco coming up in March.

Well, it is what it is and no sense sulking about it now.

I’m going to sidestep into politics for a moment.  My beloved federal Liberals are conducting a leadership race right now, and candidate and former astronaut Marc Garneau has recently fired a shot across presumptive favorite Justin Trudeau’s bow by accusing him of failing to offer up concrete plans.  But Garneau (and those who are praising this as a brilliant strategic move) should understand that people don’t respond to plans, they respond to ideas – the why, not the what.  Our current PM came to power not because he had a thoroughly researched and scored eighteen-point economic agenda, but because his campaign message was that the previous government was corrupt and he wasn’t.  It worked.  His two subsequent election wins have been based on similar themes – I’m reliable, the other guys are scary unknowns.  I go back to Simon Sinek’s brilliant observation that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.  It was the “I have a dream” speech, not the “I have a plan” speech.  The trick, when it comes to trying to pitch a book through a query letter, is that you’re required to try and hook the agent through what is more or less a 250-word encapsulation of the basic plot.  But the plot isn’t why I wrote the book and it’s not why I want people to read it.

For argument’s sake, and I’m certainly not trying to make a comparison here, but let’s quickly summarize the life of Jesus Christ:  A baby is born to a virgin mother and grows up to become a carpenter, lead a vast group of followers and spread a message of love to his fellow men.  This offends the ruling powers who condemn him to torture and death, after which he is miraculously resurrected.  If you had no knowledge of Christianity or the substance of Jesus’ message, you would never believe based on what you just read that these events would inspire a worldwide religious movement that would endure over two thousand years and counting.  The plot doesn’t make you want to read the book.  You get no sense of the why.

After an enormous detour, we now come back to my novel and its why.  The why is here, all around you, in the archives of this site.  It’s in my values, the things that matter to me and that I ponder as I type, post and share.  My opinions on politics, conservatism, the Tea Party, faith, spirituality, organized religion, charity, economics, ecology, literature, women, love, the loss of our parents, the shifting nature of good and evil, even James Bond, the Beatles and the writing of Aaron Sorkin as a part of the entire human experience – they are all represented in some form or another in my novel.  Gene Roddenberry taught me that a great story can’t just be a journey from A to B to C, it has to be about something more.  So mine is an adventure story that is as much an exploration of my personal philosophy and observations on the human condition as it is sorcery, chases, narrow escapes, explosions and witty repartee.

It is written in first person, from the point of view of the sorceress.  Why did I choose to write as a woman?  Part of it was for the challenge, I suppose, to see if I could do it without falling into chick-lit clichés about designer shoes, the appeal of sculpted abs and struggles with mothers-in-law and PMS.  But more to the point, if the story is to connect with an audience, its themes must be universal, as must its emotions.  Men and women both know what it is like to feel alone, to be consumed by a longing for something or someone you cannot have, and to make any kind of connection, no matter how meagre.  We can both crave intimacy so deeply that we don’t care who we receive it from – even if we know we are asking for it from a person who is absolutely wrong for us.  My fictional leading lady has tremendous powers, yet she remains vulnerable to the stirrings of a long-closed-off heart and the desire to be accepted, even by a man who despises everything she represents – a married man, to complicate matters further.  The evolution of their relationship is the absolute center of the plot, their interactions the driver of all the events that follow.  I avoid a lot of the external mechanisms common to fantasy like endless prophecies, quests, magical objects, creatures, specific rules about the casting of spells and complicated mythologies.  Sorry, no Diagon Alley or Avada Kedavra or Quidditch or even white walkers, folks.  The progression of my story hinges on emotions, personal choices and consequences, not getting the Whatsit of Whatever to the Mountain of Something Else before the next full moon.  The people are what matter and everything else to me is background noise.

Does it sound like something you’d like to read?  I hope so.  I hope if you’ve come with me this far you’ll want to come a little further, and maybe invite a few friends along.  Over the next few months I’ll post periodic updates on how we’re doing submission-wise, and maybe a few more details like character names, excerpts of scenes, even (gasp!) the title.  We’ll see if we can get a couple more folks interested to the point where we reach critical mass and something truly amazing happens.  It’s a story I’ve put a lot of heart into and really want to share in its completed form.  But as I said, if you’ve been following this site and listening to what I have to say, you already know much of what you’re in for.  Think of it as a buffet table of themed appetizers leading to a sumptuous main course – one that I promise won’t leave you with indigestion.

As they used to say on the late night talk shows, More to Come…

This is not a post, it’s a preview for a trailer for an upcoming post

Xzibit, you are all too knowing. Memegenerator.net.

It’s been said that we live in an age of lowered expectations; schools expect less from students, audiences expect less from television, voters expect less from their leaders.  But every time you think we’ve bottomed out at the nadir of what is meant to impress us, someone finds a way to dig further down and underwhelm even more.  Recently, we’ve seen the rise of a new low in the aspirations of marketing, like a badly mixed soufflé sputtering to inflate itself in an oven with the fuse burnt out:  the movie trailer trailer.  And that’s not a message from the Department of Redundancy Department.

Yes, studios have decided now to capitalize on an audience’s hunger for any tidbit of information about an upcoming blockbuster by releasing trailers not for the movie itself, but for a more detailed trailer about the movie.  Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s enigmatic sci-fi prequel to his 1979 classic Alien, got the ball rolling last month, and in the last few days we have had a trailer for the trailer of the unclamored-for remake of Total Recall.  Honestly, if there was any more recycling going on they would have to pack film reels in blue boxes.  Faced with an appalling glut of unoriginality, studio marketers have decided to double down by trying to create buzz not for the projects themselves, but for the very ads promoting the projects.  There is a very popular Internet meme involving Xzibit and Pimp My Ride which comes to mind, an appropriate variation on which would be thus:  “Yo dawg, I heard you like trailers so we made a trailer for a trailer that you can watch in your trailer while you wait for the new trailer.”

I suppose it might be forgivable if the advertisements being advertised (God, the mind implodes at that) were anything of substance.  The complaint used to be that trailers gave away too much (Cast Away, I still haven’t forgiven you for giving away that Tom Hanks gets off the damn island!), now, they are a big pile of nothing.  The Total Recall trailer trailer tries to entice you by showing everything you’ve seen before:  Colin Farrell being strapped into the same machine Arnold Schwarzenegger was 22 years ago, Kate Beckinsale looking hot and carrying a gun, futuristic cars flying around, some stunt guy leaping out a window.  Even worse than this is the teaser for Breaking Dawn – Part 2, the ultimate Seinfeld of a trailer whose big draw is a shot of Kristen Stewart wearing the same facial expression she’s used in the previous four Twilight movies, only this time with red eyes.  Oooh.  (Of course this movie is ad- and critic-proof as its legions of worshippers will show up at theatres even if the movie is just Stewart and Robert Pattinson staring at each other for two and a half hours – oh, wait, that’s exactly what it is!)

Naturally, we have only ourselves to blame.  Collectively we’re like the kid shaking his presents three weeks before Christmas listening for the telltale rattle of the Lego set inside, in our obsessive need to know every last detail of a movie before it ever opens – who’s in it, what changes they made from the book, what the characters look like, what stars are actually dating off the set, the shape and substance of every major action sequence down to a beat-by-beat plot description and excerpts of dialogue.  There is a theory among movie marketers, the people who actually cut the trailers together, that audiences won’t go to a movie unless they’ve already seen the best parts.  But thanks to entertainment magazines and Internet gossip sites, we already have, before a frame of actual film crosses in front of our eyeballs.  We know exactly what’s coming, because we don’t want to be surprised – the potential of a surprise carries with it the equal potential of disappointment, and who wants that on a summer night at the theatre?  So the natural response by the people selling these things is to reassure you that you’re going to get exactly what you’re expecting, and it’s why they make trailers for trailers.  It’s a mere taste of the pablum cooking on the stove before Mom spoons out an entire bowl for you; warm, comforting and utterly without flavour.  There is no there there, so all they can sell is hype.  And if you lap it up and buy a ticket to the movie anyway, two hours later that’s all you’re going to come away with.

And now for something completely different – space vampire zombies

No one ever sets out to make a terrible movie.  Ed Wood at his creative peak (or nadir) thought he was doing good work.  It’s hard to believe with what gets released nowadays, films so mind-numbingly awful that you can feel parts of your brain oozing out your ear as vapid dialogue, inept performances and ludicrous stories flicker across the screen in front of you.  But even the worst of the worst feature hundreds of hard-working performers and technicians doing their damnedest to create something memorable, even if their efforts are undermined by bad decisions at the top, or doomed from the start by a flawed story that should have long ago been dissolved in the electronic ether of the Windows Recycle Bin.  Remember, if you hated the Twilight movies, it wasn’t because the key grip or best boy didn’t try hard enough.

Still, there are those in the pantheon of cinema dreck that stand apart because the scale of their absurdity defies comprehension.  You can’t quite dismiss them out of hand.  It almost becomes a question of thinking, “surely they can’t out-weird this” when inevitably, that next moment raises the bar of the bizarre.  Lifeforce (1985), directed by Poltergeist’s Tobe Hooper, is one of those movies.  It is literally a smorgasbord, with not only the kitchen sink, but the refrigerator, the dishwasher and the Easy-Bake oven thrown together and mashed up in the garburator to concoct a diabolical stew that challenges the most experienced reviewers to describe it.  The plot in a bulging nutshell:  A space mission to Halley’s Comet brings back three aliens in suspended animation who wake up and begin sucking the life force out of every person they can find, transforming the population ofLondon into zombies.  The only survivor of the space mission teams up with a jaded SAS colonel to try to find and stop the alien leader, a beautiful woman who spends the majority of the movie wandering around nude.  One could stop there, but as infomercials like to say, “But wait!  There’s more!”

With one major exception, the acting is actually not that bad.  The cast is mostly Brits, who play the material with their trademark understatement, lending the subject matter a smattering of respectability.  Peter Firth, best known for his role on the BBC series MI-5, or as the stuffed-shirt political officer Sean Connery kills in the first ten minutes of The Hunt for Red October, leads the heroes as SAS Colonel Caine, and his wisecracking unflappability even when confronted with soul-draining vampire extra-terrestrials gives the role an unexpected gravitas.  The same goes for Frank Finlay, who plays a scientist obsessed with the idea of life after death and who is saddled with most of the expository dialogue.  The same cannot be said, however, of American actor Steve Railsback as Colonel Tom Carlsen, the man who discovers the vampires in space and becomes obsessed with their shapely leader.  Railsback’s casting smacks of the “well, we can’t get our first twenty-seven choices, who else is left?” approach.  “Oh yeah, the guy who played Charles Manson – he just personifies the spirit of space explorers.”  Railsback chomps on the scenery from moment one, looking like he’s two seconds from snapping and trying to bring on Helter Skelter.  Although in fairness, Olivier in his prime probably couldn’t do much with lines like “I’m going to have to force her to tell me!  Despite appearances, this woman is a masochist!”  Patrick Stewart – yes, that Patrick Stewart – has his first-ever screen kiss with Railsback while his character is possessed by the space girl.  The space girl herself, the embodiment – literally – of evil in this movie, is played by French actress Mathilda May.  Her performance leaves nothing to the imagination.  It’s all there to experience in glistening glory as she wanders around in her birthday suit, silently consuming souls and blowing up buildings.  She is stunningly, seductively beautiful and yet otherworldly, making her a perfect alien and creating an indelible impression – one that may have assisted a lot of boys as they struggled with puberty, but didn’t necessarily assist her acting career.  John Larroquette of Night Court fame appears in the first minute, uncredited, as the narrator setting the stage for the lunacy.  And Mick Jagger’s brother Chris plays one of the space girl’s partners-in-life-sucking-crime, investing some unintentional double-entendre in the latter-day phrase “Moves like Jagger.”

For 1985, the special effects are serviceable, if not Star Wars.  The makeup effects for the zombies are pretty cool, but Halley’s Comet looks like banana pudding smeared across the sky.  The musical score, on the other hand, is better than the movie deserves – somehow Henry Mancini, of Charade, The Pink Panther and Breakfast at Tiffany’s “Moon River” renown, was coerced into providing his services to this weirded-out apocalyptic extravaganza and creates a driving, memorable main theme.  I’d mention the screenwriters, but whoever typed the line “The web of destiny carries your blood and soul back to the genesis of my lifeform” probably prefers to remain anonymous.  There is, truly, a lot of real talent at work here, and they were obviously trying hard, but the resulting flame-out is utterly spectacular, like the grandest NASCAR crashes.  That’s the thing – perhaps after this preamble you’ll be tempted to check Lifeforce out.  Be warned – this review shouldn’t be taken as a recommendation, more like a war story from someone who survived it by the skin of his teeth.  Lifeforce, like its villains, tends to infect those who come into contact with it with a strange fascination that is neither love nor loathing, but rather a continuing obsession with trying to process what the hell it is we’ve seen – searching vainly for logic where none is to be found.  So my final word on Lifeforce is this – abandon all hope, ye who enter here.  You won’t be able to take your eyes off it, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.