…and the quest to see everything

Double: “Outbreak” and “NeverEnding Story”

Preparing for Contagion, I watched Outbreak, since both have the same subject. Col. Sam Daniels (Dustin Hoffman) and Robby Keough (Rene Russo) – are a divorced couple but they stay amicable, his military status still maintaining her respect, her bravery calling for his devotion. Besides, they’re both in the medical industry and any developments in that field both concern these high-positioned professionals.

ph. Warner

Patrick Dempsey looks less McDreamy and more longer haired, leather jacketed Scott Speedman. His character,  Jimbo Scott, in 1995, is a leftover from the grunge movement. He is one of chains in smuggling a non-indigenous monkey into California and lets her out into the redwood forests. She sneezes on him, making him this film’s Gwyneth Paltrow, and when Robby finds him, he’s too sick to utter a word. He falls victim to the airborne and mutating Motaba virus, its original strain being discovered in Zaire three decades before the film’s time frame. He dies along with his girlfriend, one of a few doctor dying through human error (Kevin Spacey) and more get infected.

After ‘going rogue’ from corrupt higher-ups (Morgan Freeman and Donald Sutherland), Daniels and Maj. Salt (Cuba Gooding Jr.) find the Motaba carrier, they go on TV and a concerned mother of a rural home call in that the monkey is in their backyard, her daughter christening her as Betsy. Cue the character’s spectator-ship echoing ours in such a tense moment – this happens a bit in many movie so I’m not surprised. Salt points a tranquilizer gun near the girl, the girl’s parents telling Hoffman ‘I can’t stand this.’ I can’t stand it neither. These officers characters get Betsy, then they fly away again.

This film is punctuated by characters flying in and out of America that they might as well call this movie “Army Helicopter.” Personal and worldly issues mix here in the most melodramatic of ways. The world was still reeling from AIDS, which gets a shout out in this movie, but thankfully Twelve Monkeys gets released seven months later, adding surrealism to 1990’s apocalyptic paranoia.

Outbreak‘s director Wolfgang Petersen is also responsible for The NeverEnding Story, about a kid who gets bullied because he reads or something. Again there’s the spectator within the spectacle, for example Bastian telling Atreyu (Noah Hathaway, whose credits include playing a ‘Harry Potter Jr.’ before the books came out) to run. The story engages Bastian so much that he’s reading and staying in school way after closing to find out how it goes. He’s aware that the story isn’t real, but he cares about fictional characters in a way that never stops  after childhood. The film also shows that like him, a great reader bridges those two worlds to learn lessons about himself and the dangerous real world.

This film is pre-CGI so it’s still marvelous how Petersen gets most of the giant creatures and sets on-screen, both of which produce wonderment and fear. The talking creatures don’t look like mere scale sculptures and the sets look painted on to colourful effect. Some of the magical entities, like double sphinxes that kill passerby with their laser eyes, are accurately created to standards of antiquity that won’t ever be depicted the same way. I also get Flash Gordon/Clash of the Titans ’81 flashbacks because of the topless sculptures/violent subject that is still right for a children’s film. And despite the faltering British accent, Hathway’s Atreyu never gets lost within the magnificently designed sets.

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