Millennium (1989)

(Second viewing, on DVD, June 2009): Fans of SF author John Varley often point at this film to explain his silence throughout the late eighties. Varley himself has plenty to say about it (see his short story collection The John Varley Reader for the details), but the result is a pretty poor film. Oh, it starts out well: Despite some unconvincing special effects and moments, the first half-hour creates an effective mystery, and there are a few spectacular scenes detailing the aftermath of a plane crash. Kris Kristofferson isn’t too bad as the lead, although he (like most of the actors surrounding him) look like they have escaped straight from the seventies. But then there’s a time-traveling sequence that, like too many time-traveling sequences, falls in love with the cleverness of showing everything twice when once was dull enough. The result stops the film dead for about twenty minutes, a loss from which it never completely recovers. The film gets worse and worse as it nears its end: despite a few flashes of interest, the film suffers from a disjointed third act that breaks dramatic unity with a few plot jumps weeks ahead before settling for a perfunctory future sequence and a consciously trippy epilogue. Trust me: You’d be better off reading Varley’s 1983 eponymous “novelization” (ie; what he wanted to do, untainted by outside forces) for the better experience. The DVD has a lame “alternate ending” that is suitably hidden deep in the menu system, a few unenlightening production notes, and nothing else.

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