Thursday, March 07, 2013

Boston Sci-Fi Marathon Redux: The Ghastly Love of Johnny X

Well, I was going to review two or three from the Marathon, but ultimately decided I did't need to write more about Battle Royale after the big ol' post where I compared it and The Hunger Games, and I kind of conked out a bit toward the end of Reptilicus. Besides, reviewing that one would have meant a double-whammy of "eh, fifties sci-fi silliness isn't really my thing, and apparently that's just not done.

Part of it's principle - I'm not a big fan of science fiction as a nostalgia act, something you look back upon fondly. The golden age of science fiction should always be in the future, and fetishizing the way it was in the past strikes me as missing the core appeal of the genre, the discovery and imagination of new things, in favor of the trappings. A part of me wonders if The Ghastly Love of Johnny X doubles down on this in a way by paying such tribute to the pop-culture of the time; is this fondness for the actual thing, or what was learned via Happy Days and Grease?

The Ghastly Love of Johnny X

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 17 February 2013 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Marathon, DCP)

Many films boast of firsts, but The Ghastly Love of Johnny X has to settle for lasts: Last film shot on Kodak's Super-X black-and-white film stock. Last role for Kevin McCarthy of Invaders of the Body Snatchers fame. Last... Well, almost certainly not the last tongue-in-cheek homage to 1950s sci-fi movies. Probably not even the last musical one - though the songs do give it a little more energy than usual.

Johnny Xavier (Will Keenan) is a teenager from outer space, banished from his home world for being too much of a rebel, banished to... Earth! When next we see him, he's chasing down Bliss (De Anna Joy Brooks), the girlfriend who was also banished, who falls in with nice soda jerk Chip (Les Williams), who figures they can hide with his uncle King Clayton (Reggie Bannister), who is trying to mount a comeback show for legendary rock & roller Mickey O'Flynn, The Man with the Grin (Creed Bratton), who may be a big part of the reason Johnny got himself banished to Earth in the first place!

That description is relatively straightforward compared to the way the story actually winds up running; it's a mess of antagonists suddenly being sold as heroes, sidekicks becoming villains, and couplings that happen and disintegrate seemingly at the writers' distracted whims as opposed to any sort of thing that the audience feels from the characters or might find satisfying. The characters do everything for what feel like arbitrary reasons, right from the set-up of "you can come home if you do this" and then never bothering to convince the audience of why Johnny would even want to go home.

Full review at EFC.

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