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Dreadful. Stupid. Boring. None of these words come even CLOSE to describing
the horror of this 2002 A&E film which claims to be based on U.K. LeGuin's
"The Lathe of Heaven".
It's not as if they didn't have an example to follow. The PBS production of Lathe is universally recognized as one of the best "thinking" science fiction movies ever made, and they made it for virtually nothing compared to the cost of A&E's dog of a film.
There is a lesson to be learned, here, folks, and the lesson is this: Hollywood is full of idiots. They remade Casablanca. They remade The Third Man. Why? And in the name of all sanity, why can't anyone STOP them?
Virtually all of the plot of the book and original movie are gone, as is all of the sense. The aliens? Gone. The grey-skin solution to race problems? Gone. The dissonance between the Western activist/technological worldview as opposed to the Eastern passive/natural worldview? Gone. Intelligent dialog, talented acting? Gone.
In their place we get some hot tongue action between Lisa Bonet and Lucas Haas. Not a good trade-off.
Ms. Le Guin was heavily involved with the PBS original, and not at all consulted about this remake. The director boasted that he hadn't seen the first movie nor read the book. He should have. If he had, perhaps he'd have recognized his own utter lack of talent and done the decent thing, which is kill himself before he made this monstrosity.
I only hope that new viewers aren't put off seeing the original by this bad, bad movie. Do yourself a favor: buy or rent the original on DVD! Even the special effects were cooler, and it was made in 1980!!
I am at a loss to understand why producers feel the need to remake
perfectly good movies into mediocre movies. I just don't get it.
Ursula K. Le Guin's tale of George Orr, a wretched young man with the power to alter reality by literally dreaming up a new one, is a good story with many layers. George falls victim to a well-meaning (at first, anyway) psychotherapist, Dr. Haber, who uses George to remake the universe. George is one of those poor souls who cannot resist the will of anyone he perceives to be an authority and consequently finds himself remaking the universe to Haber's specifications. We all know that the road to a well known place is paved with good intentions, and this supplies the conflict that makes the drama.
If you've never read Ursula K. Le Guin's novel or seen the 1980 PBS film, you might like this effort. Otherwise, don't waste your time. This movie wimped out in several places by watering down the script to avoid any racial overtones, so well handled in both the book and the earlier film. There were other instances where I felt the script writers and the producer were trying to be as PC as possible. The story dragged, and all in all I found it flat.
The casting was OK with one exception -- Lisa Bonet, a generally competent actress, was sadly miscast as Heather LeLache, George's court-appointed lawyer. The role called for an in your face, very black lady with an attitude, not a wimpy cutie.
Ok, how about this idea? Maybe Dr. Haber saw the PBS version of "Lathe of Heaven" from 1980 and didn't like it, SO he used his brainscan device to force George to dream and alter history. As a result we got the A&E version of "Lathe of Heaven." Curse that Dr. Haber! When will he learn that you cannot remake history? No matter your intentions, if you try to make a politically correct, dumbed-down, Hallmark channel version there can be unintended consequences.. like it may suck. Just a theory. Two stars - one for James Caan and one for Ursula.
Having read LeGuinn's book and seen PBS's excellent rendering of her
story this new version is a crashing disappointment. The first problem
is that there is so little left of the story that much of its impact is
missing. In spite of being light on effects and budget the earlier PBS
production makes much better use of its resources to communicate
LeGuinn's apocalyptic drama to the viewer.
What happened to the space aliens? They seem to be replaced by David Straithorn's character who occasionally pops into scenes with sage verbiage. Unfortunately, so much has been stripped that there is no tissue left to connect him to what little plot remains after the producers and directors finished their hatchet job on content and context. Who knows why they did that?
What's left is a nothingness rivaled only by Jor-Jor's apocalyptic reality. In order to understand what's going on here, one might want to read the book, or view PBS's 1980's telling of the story. Please don't waste your time with this turkey, especially since the PBS version is available on DVD.
Simply put: it has no soul. It is devoid of character and suffers from
being overdesigned and grossly underwritten. The novel and the
1980 PBS version are full of interesting, curious "character
moments" and have a healthy sense of wry humor. This version
has sacrificed everything--everything--that made the novel and the
earlier version so wonderful, so human. George Orr is a
mannequin. Lelache is a complete cipher. Dr. Haber exhibits
none of the eccentric egomania that should be driving his
Lest you turn into a pillar of salt like Lots' wife, avert your eyes...
Like many others, I was very interested in this remake of "The Lathe of
Heaven," for several reasons. The book by Ursula K. LeGuin is widely
regarded as a science-fiction classic, although I have never thought it
was among her best work. I read it after I saw the first "Lathe of
Heaven" on PBS in 1980 and realized that considerable liberties had
been taken with the story, although it was much closer to the book than
this latest endeavor.
Back then, "Lathe" was a bold experiment for PBS and the producers: To make an original full-length science-fiction TV movie on a limited budget that would appeal to an audience used to flashier entertainment. Remember, it was only three years since "Star Wars" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" had revitalized screen science fiction, until then very much in the doldrums. The producers of LOH wanted to make a more intimate story than those blockbuster movies, one based more on human relationships. With their low budget, they looked for places and expedients that would transmit their vision. Although the story was set in Portland, Oregon, they filmed a lot of it in Dallas because of that city's more futuristic architecture. I liked it very much and videotaped it, and have the tape to this day. (Unfortunately but inevitably, the tape had deteriorated significantly when I transferred it to DVD at the end of 2006. Never fear, it appears that it's now available on commercial DVD.)
It says a great deal about inflation in the movie business that the remake had a "small" budget of "only" $5 million. That would have been a lot of money for the original filmmakers. I also wonder why here in the States we had to wait until September of 2002 to see it when the first comments about it, from a viewer in Turkey, are from February!
But whenever it aired, my reaction would be the same: Why did they bother to make it at all? There is so little of the original here that it is essentially a different work. They have taken the story and drained it of its blood. And what does happen goes beyond problems with temporal discontinuities and paradoxes; these people behave without logic or motivation. It looks like a long episode of the "new" Outer Limits or a similar show, one of those low-budget syndicated series that they film in Canada because it's cheaper there, where there is money only for a few sets, a couple of computer graphics, and a lot of talk in closeup (to hide the spareness of the sets). All of the acting and dialogue takes place in murmurs. I usually like James Caan, but it looks like he's been watching Bruce Willis's recent film work and decided to try the minimalist, non-acting approach.
Now that I've brought up The Outer Limits, remember how the opening credits used to talk about "awe and mystery"? Well, if you want awe and mystery, forget about this remake and go back to the 1980 version; it had much more of those qualities.
I haven't read the book or seen the original film made in 1980, so I
have nothing to compare this remake to, and I enjoyed it very much. The
story is a fantastic metaphor about how we shape/dream our own
realities, and there are excellent performances from Haas and Caan
(both with double a's in their names - coincidence?....) I would most
definitely want to see the original version now, since it has been
recommended so highly by my fellow reviewers here at the site.
Wanted to add that I've since seen the original, and I actually liked the new one better, believe it or not - I thought the story evolved with more clarity in the remake and the overall feeling it left me with was more satisfying than the original as well. Both excellent, though.
let me preface by saying ive seen the 1980 version, and ive read the
no movie will ever be exactly like the book it originates from. so why compare. its a rare occasion that an author gets behind the camera (kudos to clive barker) which means that the director gets dibs on interperitation. and books, like music, like visual art, are open to interperitation, every one takes what they want from them. i put this in the realm of american psycho, solaris, and dune. complex novels, different screen visions. when directors take on novels, they bring out what they want, and can, in the time they have.
that said, i think haas did an excellent job. the whole concept behind the story has plenty to grab from. haas chose the elements he wanted to excentuate and illustrate and did so admirably. im not saying its a perfect film. i thought the penny character was totally overdone. and while i would find myself taking issues with some of the inconsistencies, i decided to except them on grounds that its the nature of this world. each waking presents a new reality. so i have no ground to argue the nitpicky stuff. i thought lukas haas was an excellent george orr, but had difficulty pairing him with lisa bonet, thus making thier relationship less believable.
all in all worth seeing as a fan of speculative fiction. i would someday like to see a longer version that has a chance to dig a little deeper into the bits that matter more. making the less relevant bits less obtrusive.
Taking into account the original, this remake is waste of time for the
viewer, I brief it as chopped scripted, awfully directed and wrongfully
acted disposal of tape, I don't call these "things" movies.
James Caan cripples the doctor's character, maybe the main actor deserves some credit, but only maybe. The only difference in which this remake may look better than the original is on the photography.
The story is broken and hard to follow, the main parts of the original are lost, giving way to time wasting scenes of nice settings. What a shame. I strongly suggest to find the original and leave this remake forgotten for years to come. Not even Ed Wood would make this remake worse.
This production had a lot of potential. Ursula LeGuin's novel is a
classic, but this opportunity to make a new TV adaptation with name actors
failed to produce anything but a muddle. Given that there was already a
much-loved TV adaptation from 1980 that followed the original novel almost
scene-for-scene, the producers' decision to change the basic plot
of the novel in this version was a good one in principle, but in practice
they managed to destroy any hope of showing the characters' relationships
develop. The doctor/patient relationship between James Caan and Lukas Haas
is so hostile and unprofessional (with Caan shoving Haas into his chair
a James Bond heavy at one point) that I couldn't even believe that Haas
would let himself get hypnotized by this guy. The romance between Haas and
Lisa Bonet seems to appear full-fledged out of thin air; the plot attempts
to provide some feeble justification for this, but the total lack of
between the two actors doesn't give us any clue why Bonet has gone from
thinking Haas is a psycho to jumping into bed with him.
There's no rule that says a cinematic adaptation can't take liberties with its source material, but unfortunately, in this case, from the plot to the character development to the dialogue, every aspect of this story was handled much better in the original novel. This movie destroys the dramatic tension of LeGuin's novel by trying to compress too much story into too short a time (with tons of ads) and barely even contains enough exposition to enable viewers to suspend their disbelief.
A major disappointment. At one point, the script cleverly refers to "old time TV shows about parallel realities", but in the end, what could have been a refreshing adaptation of a literary classic (with a good cast) came off like a third-rate episode of "Quantum Leap".
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