Occasionally, Jessa and I find ourselves at our local Wal-Mart browsing their DVD shelves for something to watch. More often than not, we end up looking for something that fits our tastes (sci-fi or fantasy), but looks low budget and like it could be so terrible it’s good (or at least fun to watch). On past excursions, we’ve picked up Red (not to be confused with the big-budget action movie), Hansel and Grettel: Witch Hunters, and Jack the Giant Slayer. A few weeks ago, we picked up Quantum Voyage. The decision to buy this movie began with the fact that it had no Rotten Tomatoes entry… …And then it didn’t have an IMDB entry either… The final kicker was the “Wal-Mart exclusive” sticker – this movie had to be low budget enough for us to enjoy, especially with Dean Cain and Malcolm McDowell in it.
After watching it, Quantum Voyage surprised me. My expectation going in was a weak story with some action schlock, neat special effects, and some sort of sci-fi technobabble about time/space travel. It has a black hole and a space marine with a rail gun on the cover after all. What I got was a few neat special effects (though still cheesy), decent acting, and a strong speculative fiction story (that has nothing to do with space/time travel, spoiler: no space marine nor black hole). As a special bonus, the whole movie was filmed in Colorado, and there were a number of landmarks and buildings that I recognized.
The place where Quantum Voyage fell down was actually in the writing. It may seem odd to have a strong story and weak writing, but that’s how I felt after watching this movie. The message was so strong and compelling that even though things didn’t quite fit together, it still came through. Still, I feel that this film was brave – the writer attempted to pull off a difficult but powerful story, and didn’t quite hit the mark. I contrast this to other movies we’ve watched where the writer tried to go with the safe and easy story, and did well, but made something that was ultimately forgettable.
My main issue with the movie was that, at the end, the story felt incongruous. To describe it as a puzzle with pieces missing isn’t quite right – it’s more like there were pieces missing and pieces that overlapped and were different. This, to some extent, makes sense in the context of the movie – the characters acknowledge “weird things” going on – but there’s a lack of explanation about why things are they way they are. In fact, at one point in the movie, the best explanation I had for the “weird things” was that characters were characters in a manuscript and the writer kept changing things on them mid-scene (a very meta interpretation of events). Unfortunately, the explanation given falls short, and the result is that it feels very jumbled.