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Overall Rating
2.95

Awesome: 5.17%
Worth A Look: 22.41%
Average43.1%
Pretty Bad: 20.69%
Total Crap: 8.62%

5 reviews, 28 user ratings


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Flight of the Phoenix (2004)
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by David Cornelius

"Yet another pale imitiation of a classic original."
2 stars

It’s hard to be fair to the new “Flight of the Phoenix,” an adaptation of the novel by Elleston Trevor, because I keep wanting desperately to compare it to Robert Aldrich’s 1965 film version, which got everything so right that I wonder why a remake was necessary. The fact that John Moore, the director of this new version, gets everything wrong in those same places makes me eager to simply make my review a list of direct comparisons.

I’ll try not to, however, since every time I confront a remake, I always tell myself to judge it on its own terms. (Such advice doesn’t always work, of course, especially when the new version is a pale imitation of a classic.) I will allow myself a one sentence contrast, and it is this: where the 1965 film takes its time letting the story unravel on its own, quietly but fiercely, the 2004 version opts to make everything louder, and louder, and louder, until it’s convinced that the only way to get dramatic impact from such a premise is to pound loudness into the viewer.

For a while (and here’s where I force myself to ignore the original movie… good luck), Moore’s “Phoenix” gets things right. It shakes up the story a bit, ditching the military characters and making everyone involved employees of an oil company. Flying out of a lousy Mongolian outpost, they get slammed by a nasty sandstorm and crash in the Gobi desert, presumably somewhere just inside the China border, although nobody’s too sure. The crash sequence is great stuff, nerveracking and fierce, one-upping such modern crash scenes as the one in “Cast Away.” So far, so good.

With survival a prime issue, a bizarre stranger and the film’s only non-oil company employee (Giovanni Ribisi) suggests they build a new plane out of the working parts remaining from the old one - a plot point that doesn’t appear until much later in the 1965 version (sorry, can‘t help myself), suggesting that this new version is eager to tighten things up, move things along much faster, and simply Get On With It.

It’s around here that things start to go south. Uncertain of how to keep things moving in a movie in which so little happens, screenwriters Scott Frank (who should’ve known better) and Edward Burns (who doesn’t, no surprise) keep tossing in increasingly annoying moments. It all starts with the casting of Sticky Fingaz (perhaps not his birth name?) as an eye-patched badass; his character exists merely to inject some hip-hop lingo into the proceedings. We even get a bit in which he takes over the stereo system and blares Outcast’s “Hey Ya!” Good song, bad scene.

Then come the occasional explosion or electrical storm, which make for some decent action sequences but feel too forced and out of place in what’s meant to be more of a character piece. And, in what evolves into an obnoxious turn of events, the arrival of a tribe of nomad baddies (arms smugglers, the story guesses), handled so expertly last time out (sorry again!), here becomes a cop out - whenever the plot gets stuck, just toss in some random nomads. (Their arrival during the final scene was so unnecessary that it borders on laughable.) By attempting to spruce things up for a modern audience, the film winds up being a series of wrong choices.

Worst of all, the filmmakers opted to dumb things down, instead of trusting the viewer to be remotely intelligent. There’s an overlong explanation of the meaning of “phoenix” dropped in for all the morons in the audience, and a major revelation regarding one character is drawn out past its breaking point (the clumsiness of the scripting is only intensified by Marco Beltrami’s ham-fisted musical score, which mistakes “loud” for “important”).

Moore, who also made the dumb-but-enjoyable Owen Wilson actioner “Behind Enemy Lines,” here tries to cram too much action into a film that doesn’t need it. Fortunately, the cast rescues many a scene. Dennis Quaid, in the Jimmy Stewart role, is as magnetic a screen personality as he’s ever been, and his energetic presence keeps the story plowing over its mistakes. Ribisi makes for a nice mystery man (even if the script fumbles the mystery); Miranda Otto is wonderful enough (and gorgeous enough) to make things worth watching; model-turned-actor Tyrese Gibson shows a growing promise as a star; and Hugh Laurie brings more out of his character’s breakdown than the script requires, thank goodness.

Still, the cast can’t fully save a dying production. This new “Phoenix” makes too many mistakes, the biggest one being the mistake of confusing “modernizing” with “dumbing down.” Moore’s version may interest those unfamiliar with the original movie, if only because they don’t know what they’re missing. But know this: you’re missing one hell of a whole lot.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=11347&reviewer=392
originally posted: 03/01/05 16:59:47
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User Comments

5/16/10 dr.evil The inbred & Quaid discussion @ the site of the shot guy is silly laughable 1 stars
12/01/08 Roz Not as good as the original, but I still enjoyed it 4 stars
5/16/08 PAUL SHORTT LOUD, NOISY, CHAOTIC AND OVERALL UNPLEASANT 1 stars
2/09/07 Soranos I often found myself, not watching the screen. It's Interesting at some parts though. 3 stars
1/24/07 Matt Plot holes you can park a 747 in, but good fun. Quaid stands out. 4 stars
12/29/06 David Pollastrini very good 4 stars
10/29/06 Marty i was embarrassed for the movie 2 stars
8/13/06 George Brought 2U by hollywood cliches 'R' us. 3 stars
12/05/05 millersxing Cluttered with cliche and irrelevant claptrap. 1 stars
10/31/05 Quigley does the word "unnecessary" mean anything? totally predictable, but well-acted 3 stars
10/22/05 Jack Script is horrible - acting is worse - Ribisi amusing. 1 stars
9/18/05 Bad Critic Very predictable and lame. Don't waste you time. 2 stars
6/18/05 stage did not see 1st movie. perhaps that's why I enjoyed so much. Very interesting script. 4 stars
6/13/05 Terry Hercher Writing:excellent (some dialogue transcends time); character development:superb; 5 stars
5/08/05 Valerie pretty good! 4 stars
4/16/05 Carol Conway Passed the time pretty well 3 stars
3/26/05 hannaho Eh, it's okay, but it certainly will not overshadow the original. 3 stars
3/24/05 Joe I want my 99 cents back 1 stars
3/21/05 Kyle Pretty hoaky. Token female char rediculous. DQ shirtless worth seeing! 2 stars
3/17/05 rick compared to the original this stinks 2 stars
3/04/05 Chris Stephens Look's boring 2 stars
3/04/05 Phyllis Skoglund My expectations were high so I was let down; I won't buy this “Flight of the Phoenix". 3 stars
2/23/05 Debi Gosert Convincing action-adventure in the best sense. Based on a true story? 5 stars
1/10/05 jeff good comic story. acting could have been better. 4 stars
1/07/05 Elizabeth S Thin characterizations and logic lapses, but kind of fun. 3 stars
12/27/04 Lord Jiggy a comic-book movie (see Goldman), but well done and not insulting 4 stars
12/24/04 Dan GREAT! 5 stars
12/20/04 Ray A pain in the ass 2 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  17-Dec-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 01-Mar-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  21-Jul-2005


Directed by
  John Moore

Written by
  Scott Frank
  Edward Burns

Cast
  Dennis Quaid
  Giovanni Ribisi
  Tyrese Gibson
  Miranda Otto
  Hugh Laurie



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