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26 out of 34 people found the following review useful:

Death to Hollywood!

1/10
Author: Peter Maranci (pmaranci@gmail.com) from Woonsocket RI, USA
9 September 2002

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!!

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16 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

A Miss

4/10
Author: gatebanger from United States
11 September 2002

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.

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10 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Dr. Haber up to his old tricks?

2/10
Author: Mark Weller (mweller@ihermes.com) from Irvine, California
12 September 2002

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.

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10 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Very disappointing remake

2/10
Author: flonesaw from United States
14 October 2005

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.

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11 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Ugh...

1/10
Author: karmitz
28 June 2003

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 character.

Lest you turn into a pillar of salt like Lots' wife, avert your eyes...

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12 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Looks like an episode of the new Outer Limits but there's no awe or mystery here

3/10
Author: mfisher452 from Oklahoma
9 September 2002

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.

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8 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Provocative, highly watchable

7/10
Author: Rogue-32 from L A.
12 September 2002

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.

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10 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

not bad, different ... and commendable.

8/10
Author: schlipp from seattle
25 December 2002

let me preface by saying ive seen the 1980 version, and ive read the book.

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.

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11 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Disgraceful remake

1/10
Author: a_gf from Spain
22 September 2005

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.

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Breathtaking premise with a superficial execution

8/10
Author: arch29 from Florida, USA
13 October 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I was surprised that most of the other comments here are negative. I greatly enjoyed this film, perhaps because I haven't read the novel or seen the 1980 PBS version (which is heralded by IMDB'ers as being much superior). I think that Le Guin's premise and plot are so masterful and breathtaking that even a superficial rendition, in a too-short film such as this one, is compelling.

In this version of _Lathe_ I found a theme that later recurs in Le Guin's _Earth Sea_ trilogy: The characters say the phrase "always now", expressing their desire to treasure this moment and live in it forever. Compare this to Earth Sea's metaphor that each life is a word spoken, bounded on both sides by silence (birth and death). There's a yearning to defeat that death by living in the moments in between, forever. Yet, perhaps that too would be a kind of death, were it even possible.

*SOME MINOR SPOILERS*

One of the plot's most engaging elements occurs when the two nexuses simultaneously attempt to redirect the course of the world. Very nice, but a little disappointing in its execution here: There's no real climax or feeling that the two of them are battling each other, nor does the world respond in a sufficiently dramatic way. An alternate approach would have been having the world torn asunder, perhaps literally if not only in the sense that two separate versions were created, one for each of them. The erupting volcano was a nice symbolic touch and the film could have used more of this type of world-rending imagery.

The words spoken at the beginning and end of the film: "The mind, that ocean where each kind does straight its own resemblance find. Yet it creates, transcending these, far other worlds, in other seas" are from Andrew Marvell's beautiful 72-line poem "The Garden", published in 1681. There are so many literary, film, and TV works that borrow from _Lathe_ (I'm assuming that Le Guin was the first to explore these ideas, since she published it in 1971). One of the most striking of these is the film _Frequency_: A seismic timescape event ripples forward into the present, but those who are close enough to hear the ham radio remember both the new and the old histories. That powerful irony is my main attraction to stories like these: The protagonist must cope with the duality of knowing that the world had another fate - one that is now irretrievable.

I'm also reminded of Greg Egan's novel _Permutation City_, where simulated worlds, upon termination, "find themselves in the dust", thereby resuming their existence. Greg Egan's _Quarantine_ is also related: The protagonist can subconsciously influence the world to stave off countless undesirable fates.

Another example is the film _Dark City_, which is powerfully reminiscent of _Lathe_: One again, the protagonist can influence the world subconsciously. In addition, people have their memories replaced, but this isn't enough to change the essence of who they are - there's something more to us. Even the plot is similar: People keep appearing in different roles, but the town is so small that they meet the new versions of each other again and again. This irony is spooky. The beginnings of both films (waking up disoriented, in a new iteration of the world) are also very similar, and remarkably, so are their ends (protagonist rediscovers his true love, meets her again and they both know, somehow, that they're connected).

Finally, _Lathe_ is very similar to the "many worlds" theory. In fact, the premise could be explained as George Orr jumping from one parallel universe to another with each new dream. However, this is contradicted by the fact that the world feels deja vu, implying that the new universes didn't exist before he dreamed them into being.

Two great novels that explore "many worlds" very poignantly are James P. Hogan's _Proteus Operation_ and Greg Benford's _Timescape_. They evoke the terrible agony of knowing that an alternate world exists, in turmoil, but that it can't be contacted or saved.

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