A review of Warner Archive's release of Gene Roddenberry's 'Genesis II' pilot on DVD
No, I have not abandoned my plan to write up everything I see this year. I'm just off to a slow start for the year. I saw two films yesterday that I can't write up because of embargo, "Creation" and "Legion" (yes, it was a very Paul Bettany Friday), but I've got a few titles to catch up on, and I'm watching a triple feature tonight while I do some other work, so I'll have plenty to share this weekend.
I love the Warner Archives program. I think it's a precursor to what studios will eventually offer via subscription once we've all got crazy fat broadband pipes into the house. It really shouldn't be considered a shock that some titles aren't considered "commercial" enough to get a regular DVD release, complete with marketing costs, but that doesn't mean those titles should remain lost in home video limbo forever. Even if they're not great films, the curiosity factor makes some of them worth seeing.
In this case, I've been curious about "Genesis II," a failed Gene Roddenberry pilot, since I read an article about it in Starlog magazine about a thousand years ago. Alex Cord stars as Dylan Hunt, a scientist who is part of a NASA program to perfect suspended animation for astronauts on long-distance interstellar exploration. As the head of the program, he decides to test it on himself (because I'm sure that's NASA protocol) and, unsurprisingly, it goes badly. So badly that whe he wakes up, it's hundreds of years later and civilization as he knows it has collapsed completely.
Cord is one of those guys who could only have been the star of a TV show or a movie in the '70s, hairy and hyper-masculine and preposterous in every single moment. If I wanted to sum up why the pilot didn't work, I'd say Cord is a big part of that. I wouldn't tune in for any weekly anything with this guy. He is disco creepy with a capital D.C. He's supposed to be the audience surrogate, experiencing this strange new world, but this guy is just as alien to me as the two-naveled mutants. Of which, there are evidently many in the future.
My long-established fetish for films that are set in the future that are now our past comes into play in the beginning of the pilot, and I love the world of the mid-'90s, with the end of all war in the world and the underground bullet trains. Roddenberry had an optimism to him that manifested most clearly in "Star Trek," but that is obvious in this one as well. Even the dystopia of the world he wakes up in is underscored with a hope that things will get better with the help of Cord's character.
Mariette Hartley plays a woman who may or may not be trying to help Cord (hint: she's not), and Cord is introduced to three distinct classes of post-Apocalypse survivors, including a near-primative sub-class of servants. As a kid, I only knew Hartley as the woman from those James Garner Polaroid ads, and as a result, I can't really take her seriously here. The tech stuff in the film is silly, the outfits are sillier, and the uplifting ending with a bunch of kids standing around basking in the warm breeze of a nuclear explosion is flat-out insane. Even so, I'm glad I finally saw this one, and just as with all the Warner Archive releases I've seen so far, I consider it pure win for the film nerd that this releasing line exists.
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