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Monday, March 09, 2009

CYCLOPS (2008)

This SciFi Channel movie is every bit as zero budget and cheesy as its predecessors, but unlike them I found CYCLOPS to be quite entertaining for most of its running time. The film looks and feels just like an episode of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS (which automatically scores points in my book), only with even worse CGI and a hell of a lot more outright gore, including several instances of the man-eating title character tearing off people's heads and limbs and tucking into them like they were a $10.99 budget legs & thighs meal from Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Taking place during the last days of the reign of Roman emperor Tiberius (played by one of my favorite shameless actors, namely Eric Roberts), the story deals with an innocent cyclops — noted to be the last of his supposedly exterminated species — who was minding his own business and not fucking with anybody, when a trio of wandering assholes attempt to steal his flock of sheep and some hares he'd dressed out for a meal. The cyclops is understandably irritated by such shenanigans and makes short work of the would-be thieves, killing and eating two of them while one escapes and finks him out to the emperor. The emperor assigns the quelling of the cyclops to his head centurion, Marcus (Kevin Stapleton), and in no time flat the poor creature is brought back to Rome in chains and prepped to fight against condemned prisoners and gladiators as the ultimate attraction in the arena, providing an audience sick of seeing tigers and lions tear people apart with what is essentially a novelty act. The centurion then falls out of favor with the emperor and swiftly finds himself sentenced to fight as a gladiator, thus suddenly turning the movie into a junior high school-level ripoff of the vastly superior GLADIATOR (2000).

There's a bunch of business involving Tiberius' total asshole of a nephew and potential successor, Falco (Craig Archibald), as well as the intrigue and slave revolts common to stories of this type, but what's really meant to put asses in seats is the concept of a cyclops — a fucking cyclops! — fighting in the arena and pulling off his opponents' body parts like he was snapping into a Slim Jim. We get very little of that, but when the cyclops is let loose to do his thing it's loads of fun and gory in a way that Ray Harryhausen movies never were (just about the only thing I can think of that could make flicks like THE 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD or JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS even better). But the aforementioned GLADIATOR knockoff plot eats up far too much of the film's second half, and the cyclops himself is a rather sad bit of CGI that's not only genuinely bad, but it also looks like he's taken the time to grease himself up with vaseline before each of his scenes, an aspect that only serves to accentuate his bogusness.

The whole thing is wicked stupid and replete with bits that are downright ludicrous and make no sense whatsoever, not even within the context of a cheesy fanasy flcik, but how can you truly hate any film in which the hero and the cyclops kick much ass during the climactic gladiatorial revolt and the hero alerts the cyclops of an assailaint about to chuck a pilum through his lone eye by screaming, "Look out, cyclops!" with a totally straight face? CYCLOPS is by no means anywhere near the same universe of quality or fun as even the weakest of Harryhausen's efforts — yeah, I'm talking about you, SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER! — but it is entertaining enough as a time-waster. If you choose to check this out, make sure to watch the DVD version because that's the one with all the crunchy gore.

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