Ossus Library Index Science Fiction Movie Index

THE RELIC

Directed by Peter Hyams (1997, Paramount Pictures)
Starring Penelope Ann Miller

A scientist and a lieutenant battle a mutating monster brought back to the museum from Brazil.

 

 

2 stars

December 23rd, 1999 on TV  
   

The beginning of this movie was actually quite well done for a thriller.  Deductive reasoning, followed by a fairly intelligent follow-up.  Unfortunately, with an hour left in the movie, it degenerates into a chase and jump thriller. 

A man from the Chicago Museum of Natural History was doing some research in Brazil, where he encountered some sort of mutant.  He sends a relic back to Chicago, and some fungus-covered leaves in another box.  The staff thinks the leaves are packing material, until an insect eats some of the fungus, and becomes huge, and mutates into a half lizard. 

Of course, there is a murder in the museum that shuts it down right before a big gala.  The main character, a scientist who is about to lose her grant, but is not planning something extreme to get it back (surprise there!), becomes a suspect, but soon becomes the lieutenant's best friend. 

The first part of the movie is interesting, because they don't even know that there is a mystery with the fungus leaves.  They are searching for a human murderer, not knowing yet that the fungus is even part of the plot. 

Once it does become apparent that the murderer is not human, the gala is of course in full swing, with all the rich and important people dressed for a night full of "superstition". 

The monster is quite well done effects-wise.  But otherwise, there is a lot of running through tunnels, people being dragged underwater screaming, and ceilings falling onto people's heads. 

I still can't figure out why the lieutenant tried to bait the monster, then runs out of the way and abandons it immediately.  Or why the people who went on the dangerous underground escape arrived outside at the same time as the people who didn't, and were rescued by police from outside.  Also, the monster appeared to be able to navigate between the upper and lower levels of the museum very easily.  Maybe it discovered some back routes, but it appeared to be terrorizing both areas at the same time!

The ending was pretty neat, from a scientist's point of view, though I doubt anyone without a chemical background could understand just exactly how she started the fire.  Spilling  just about every chemical in the lab onto the floor, she picks up what I have to assume is either sodium (which is combustible when mixed with water), or some other hypergolic chemical.  Either way, it was neat, but not explained at all. 

There was, of course, an unrealistic part to that climax.  The monster seemed to be gaining on the scientist in every scene, but she somehow managed to stay ahead of it all the time.  The monster was traveling straight, and she was knocking over jars and shelves, opening containers, and gathering her hypergolic chemicals.  Hmmm.  Ah well.

All in all, entertaining and engaging at first, with a middle that is typical of the genre, and a neat, scientifically-explainable climax.

 
   

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