Attraction - review
Better visuals than most big-budget Hollywood sci-fi
Attraction is a film that you've never heard of but have probably seen clips of online since last year. It's a Russian science fiction film that features special effects that rival most Hollywood releases, outside of those Marvel superhero movies. Clips of the major battles scenes are what initially attracted me to the film, so with a U.S. release I'm happy Attraction came our way.
The film tells the story of an unidentified flying object crashing to Earth. It's not a very original story but one that feels fresh because we see how the Russian's might react to the situation. These sorts of films have been around for ages but have almost always been from the view of something landing in the United States.
Russia is massive, so it's probably just as likely, if not more so, that something would end up crashing there. What makes Attraction really special is that the movie plays with the alien invasion idea that has become boring at this point, but we'll touch on that in a bit.
Stick a CW logo in the corner and you're all set
What I want to discuss first are the visual effects of the film. The intro scene of the spaceship crashing to earth is absolutely stunning. It might be the best crash landing I've ever seen on film to date. The team that produced the special effects really have done some outstanding work.
Watching the film with a group of people all we could say was "Wow" over and over again. The ship itself also features a really unique design that I haven't seen employed before. Spaceships in films never quite look like they make sense with regards to how space and physics work, but this one does.
Attraction is a visual powerhouse, so much so that I'd say check it out just for that. But the film itself from a narrative point of view isn't nearly as strong as the visual component. In most respects the story would be fine teenage drama fare, but paired against blockbuster level visuals it just can't keep up.
***Spoilers from here on out***
After the amazing crash scene Attraction drastically shifts into a CW level teenage love story. The bulk of the story unfolds through the eyes of a young woman and her rabble-rousing friends. They end up stumbling upon an alien object that was ejected from the ship as they explore the area that was blocked off by the government.
This group of rough teens are set up as the good guys as the film early on straddles the line of being an actual alien invasion. They chant about the Earth belonging to humans and what not, but it feels forced. Look, a giant alien ships crashes destroying a dozen blocks and these kids think the lot of them with some bats are going to take back their city. A city, mind you, that isn't being attacked as the ship is just sitting there clearly damaged.
But this all changes as the lead girl of the picture comes across an alien that's been injured after saving her. He's clearly human (pretty sure it's never explained why this is) and she connects with him and nurses him back to health. From this point forward Attraction turns into a love story between the pair as she leaves her group and douche boyfriend.
The army does not shoot the insane looking alien
The plot and writing sort of goes belly-up at this point playing like a bad CW show from the early 2000's. The new pair sneak into government buildings, sneak around town, and she teaches him how to act human as they look for some artifact. The other subplot sees her now ex steal a robot suit they found near the crash site and build a silly revolution with people wanting to take back the streets.
Again, the aliens (the handsome model guy is the only one in the film) are doing nothing aggressive. They have crashed after that impressive intro and the ship is just sitting there occasionally sucking up water as that's what it uses to repair itself. There really isn't any defined clash in the narrative other than people being mad thanks to Facebook.
Essentially the bulk of the story is bad-boy being mad his girlfriend left him and wanting to beat-up the new guy she's fallen for. It's so by the numbers that it hurts. The only thing new in the mix is that the new boyfriend happens to be an alien, even though his looks like a male model. And this back and forth continues throughout the film until the closing battle.
So much of Attraction is simply boring, especially after such a bombastic introduction. The action picks up the last ten or so minutes of the film as crappy ex-boyfriend has become a villain, causing a mob to break through military lines to attack the stories tall alien spaceship. With bats. Baseball bats. And rocks.
The ship, of course, sends out drones to beat up these dummies as it tries to defend itself which kicks off another amazing visual effects segment. Again, this is one you may have seen online. By this time the audience has learned that the alien ship simply crashed and aren't bad guys or want to invade amking everything happening silly.
Lover boy simply wants to return home after he gets back his magic artifact that grants him eternal life, because that's also a thing used only for foreshadowing the finale fight. Ex-boyfriend commandeers the alien robot suit because no matter how technologically advanced your species is a fingerprint scanner is beyond you. He ends up becoming totally evil (his trim becomes red!) and tries to kill new boyfriend.
The random mob included a graphic designer and screen-printer who work quick
Silliness aside, the fight scene is again stellar. The alien robot drones fight the people without killing them all the while ex-boyfriend and new alien boyfriend fight each other amidst the madness. And then it's all over before you even realize it. Attraction really is just a teen drama hidden inside a science fiction film.
Unfortunately, this means it doesn't really cater to anyone of those audiences in earnest. Science fiction fans will love the effects and the bits we get from the alien's back-story, but hate the boring hallmark channel romance. Teen drama fans may enjoy the love story, but chances are they will never see the film as it's marketed as a big-budget action film, which it isn't.
But Attraction does do one thing that makes me really happy and something most film of this type never do. It portrays the military and its leaders as competent officials. The head military guy (the girls tough dad) argues against action, makes clear sense, and is the voice of reason.
It's refreshing to see the military not depicted as power-hungry madmen that reach for the nuke button or call for tank battalions the second something weird happens. Even during the final battle the military breaks though and subdues the people fighting the aliens, getting orders to not engage the alien drones against government orders.
I so wish the film revolved around him and his ongoing fight against angry people and scared government officials. There is a real adult drama hidden right under the surface that is never fully explored. It's a shame that Attraction wants to play up the dated love story instead.
Leave in the intro and the ending, even with the people rioting, but focus the bulk on the story about the military commanders choice on what he needs to do to save lives knowing they stand no chance against this superior alien thing.
That said, I still really enjoyed Attraction for what it shows. That those outside of Hollywood can now produce these blockbuster films. The visual effects are incredible, the cinematography it solid and the acting is fine, especially since the film is dubbed and translation into English can sometimes lose the originals intent.
Attraction is currently available to rent on streaming services and on Blu-ray if you want to get the most out of those nice visuals. This one is totally worth a rent, but just don't go into it expecting a non-stop Independence Day sort of film like the trailers suggest.