Galactic Theater

Welcome to the Galactic Theater, where we'll explore the works of master manipulators of light waves, examine the themes brought to play, and critique the final products of months of hard work.

W A R N I N G !

This review does not represent the opinions of the general public. It reflects my personal thoughts and opinions on the movie.

That said, on to the review!

Now Showing: The Relic
Broadcast Dates: January 10, 1997
Format: Cinematic, television format

Novel adaptations of movies often lose much in the transition, and movie adaptations of novels are no different. It becomes especially difficult for a person who has read the novel to accept the movie. Sometimes, however, the movie is a piece of art in itself. The Paramount adaptation of The Relic, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, is just such a work.

To commemorate the paperback release of the sequel to The Relic, a terrifying novel titled Reliquary, I'll be reviewing the movie adaptation of The Relic, starring Penelope Ann Miller, Tom Sizemore, and Linda Hunt. I admit here and now that seeing the previews of the movie prompted me to buy the book, which I had seen before but had dismissed in favor of something else. I'm glad I bought the book, and even gladder that I saw the movie.

Lieutenant Vincent D'Agosta (Sizemore) of the Chicago Police Department heads to the docks on Lake Michigan to investigate a ghost ship. Closer inspection, however, reveals that it isn't a ghost ship at all. D'Agosta and a fellow detective discover the crew in the ship's bilge: a badly decomposed, horribly massacred, and definitely torn apart. It's a ship from Brazil, and the other detective immediately concludes that the slaughter must be drug-related. D'Agosta isn't too sure, however.

One week later, a guard at the Museum of Natural History in Chicago turns up dead...very dead. For the children who discover him, it is a traumatic experience. For Dr. Margo Green (Miller), who greeted the guard every day but didn't know him very well, seeing his corpse before the police can intercept her is an unsettling but not quite terrifying event. D'Agosta, the officer on the scene, sends the guard's body to the medical examiner whose expertise reveals something no one expected: a portion of the guard's brain is missing. Whoever killed the guard removed the thalamoid region of his brain, that portion that controls hormone production. The condition of the guard's body parts is so similar to what he found in the ship's bilge that D'Agosta immediately makes an unsettling connection between the two. What he can't figure out, however, is what a museum guard has to do with seven sailors killed in a drug conflict.

In the meantime, Green has been working with some plant samples acquired from a crate recently arrived via air freight from Brazil. It is the result of a fellow/rival scientist's work: John Whitney's explorations and investigations into the Kothoga, an evil spirit reputed to exist in the region he's currently inhabiting. At first Green finds nothing strange except that the plants are infected with a strange virus. It isn't until a common beetle eats some of the leaves and mutates that she begins to suspect something's wrong. By that time, however, it's too late. Despite D'Agosta's best efforts to prevent it, Dr. Ann Cuthbert (Hunt) hosts a grand gala in the museum to mark the opening of a new exhibition.

Problems begin to mount as D'Agosta and a team of dogs encounters something deep beneath the museum...and he orders his officers to evacuate the building. A dead body turns up, starting a panic, and a short circuit in the security system traps several handfuls of guests in the museum with the strange, mysterious, deadly creature stalking them. Now the humans trapped inside must choose their fates: stand and fight to survive, or flee and hope to survive. D'Agosta and Green make their choice...but then she discovers the unthinkable.

Though the movie is a far cry from the novel, I think it stands on its own. The relocation from New York (in the book) to Chicago (in the movie) is acceptable because it makes certain that the key element in the book--the tunnels beneath the museum--have a reasonable counterpart in the coal tunnels leading to the docks. The movie producers economized in characters, removing such figures as Bill Smithback the journalist of FBI Special Agent Pendergast, but after seeing how well portrayed the main characters are, I find that it still works.

The movie has played on Home Box Office (HBO), where I first saw it. By now I'm sure it's available on video cassette from Paramount Pictures. I'm not sure I expect Reliquary to appear in movie form as a sequel to The Relic since the movie changed so much, but I'm sure a master manipulator can pull it off. In the meantime, you can always find the books. I naturally suggest reading The Relic first, and Reliquary second, but the authors did a good job of making the sequel work as a stand alone novel. If you want to know more about either book, then visit my reviews of them. The Relic appears in the Archive and Reliquary is this update's featured Tome of Shadowstalking in Starfire Reviews.

Interested in buying this video? You can! Just follow the link to order the VHS version or the DVD version. You can also visit the Stellar Video Store for other titles.


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