The Faculty (1998)
While I will be keeping up with more in depth reviews of the newest things to grace the cinema, here at thetwenty we value what’s been and gone and so I’ll be doing a steady line of mini-reviews as I trawl through my DVD collection, films I see on tv, online, rent etc…So with that in mind, lets get our heads down and study, The Faculty.
With 1998’s The Faculty you have a teen sci-fi vehicle full of faces that you’ll be acquainted with but not necessarily be able to name. Most recognisably is Elijah Wood (LotR’s, Sin City) and (the forever in my mind creepy) Robert Patrick (Terminator 2, X-Files). Accompanying this is a full array of nearly men (and women), Jordana Brewster (Fast & Furious), Clea DuVall (Girl, Interrupted), Shawn Hatosy (Alpha Dog), Salma Hayek (Dogma), Famke Janssen (X-Men), Bebe Neuwirth (Fraiser) and Josh Hartnett (The Black Dahlia) who is more well known but so painfully bland I have trouble remembering him. Even Usher and Jon Stewart make cameo appearances. Normally I wouldn’t go to the length of typing out a full cast roster such as this, but the brutally modest nature of it all makes the perfect metaphor for this movie, forgetful.
Now, this isn’t to say The Faculty is a bad movie as such, but it is so painfully unoriginal that it struggles under it’s own stylized culture references. You sometimes forget the movie you’re watching as you’re too busy thinking about something better it’s just referenced. It’s hard enough to make an old idea new and interesting without having the characters in your movie pointing out the exact places you’ve stolen your ideas from. In itself this is a decent update of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) for the younger, short minded generation. It has all the required ingredients, hip young cast, sharp quips and one-liners, the stereotypical characters for your audience to relate to and some good quality older actors for those of us needing more. But with its insistence on riffing EVERYTHING that’s inspired it, it kind of drains the final drops of credibility away.
At this point you might be thinking, having spent all this time complaining, why I started the last paragraph saying The Faculty isn’t that bad? Well, it does have one redeeming feature in Robert Rodriguez. I am a Rodriguez fan, El mariachi, Sin City and Planet Terror are all excellent movies, however he does seem to also take on things that are less suited to his style, such as Spy Kids and to a certain extent The Faculty which without Rodriguez would have been woeful. It’s slow to get going and once the does and the pastiche of reference and rip-off fully converge it’s only the movies tone and direction that saves it from being an ultimate snore. All this comes from Rodriguez’ sharp style and allowing the film not to take itself too seriously. Tension is cranked up even as we go through scenes where the anxiety has been almost dead from the start because you know exactly how the next 5 minutes will unfold due to the fact it’s been shamelessly lifted (I direct you to the much criticized scene ‘borrowed’ from The Thing (1982) where they test themselves to check if any of them are aliens) from another movie.
Ultimately I found myself enjoying the film once it got going, partly because of what it reminded me of and partly because it’s too inoffensive to hate on it’s own. The actors are mostly good without ever nearing great and the direction is extremely efficient and well presented even though the material is extremely paint by numbers. Watch or don’t watch it, you’re life will neither be changed nor be short-changed, and ultimately that’s where it goes wrong for The Faculty as copying your notes may pass you the test, but teacher always finds out in the end. C-.