Cosmic Sin Review- An Appropriately Titled Sci-Fi Dud
I love aliens. I love their gross and gooey egg pods and their weird tentacles and pincer-like hands. Hell, if done right, I love a rom-com disguised as an action rebellion story about aliens (see Defiance). There are boundless angles both philosophically and in story arcs. Cosmic Sin is… bland science fiction vitriol that not even the biggest sci-fi fan could fall in love with.
Bruce Willis stars as a retired general dubbed the Blood General. He was discharged after using what’s dubbed the “Q Bomb.” He has been called back to action when a human research team made first contact. The initial meeting and subsequent interaction are anything but pleasant. Since he had no trouble dropping bombs before, he is the logical choice now.
Unfortunately, there is none of the heartfelt backstory of Kurt Russell’s Colonel Jack O’Neill. Willis’ General Ford is just cold and macho. Shockingly, despite obvious parallels to the H bomb we have now, or the nukes dropped on Japan during WW 2, there is absolutely no philosophic angle. There was no justification for killing some to save more, no fleeting ideas of what could’ve happened if we all just got along peacefully. That through-line continues to the very end of the film.
If nudged correctly, this film could have been satirical or superficial enjoyment. It also could have been an intriguing question about the ethics of war and genocide. Both would have been better than the tone-deaf seriousness of Cosmic Sin. Dr. Lea Goss(Perrey Reeves) attempts to steer the conversation in that direction but is quickly shut down. She raises the point that the Aliens they encountered may not represent the whole, but that’s quickly shot down. At best, the plot comes off as Utilitarian. At its worst, it comes off as borderline fascist. The cosmically farcical title is nothing more than a placeholder for a more profound thought that no one ever has. In the end, there isn’t really an ethical dilemma, just a trite ending.
Despite Bruce Willis’s experience in good action films, he phoned it in on Cosmic Sin, and to be fair; I can’t blame him. The dialogue is clunky and out of place 90% of the time. The other 10% is passable. I spent most of the film hoping Willis would flash that signature grin and chuck the prewritten words for his own. Maybe instead of the sixteenth tachyon thrown in a “yippee ki-yay.”
Willis’ character jumps back and forth from being a rocket-wielding Die Hard version of himself to the guy who “just wants someone to look at the stars with him.” Props for the attempt, but the script leaves little room for any of the characters to feel real. And in the biggest bizarre choice, the movie takes, Frank Grillo’s character General Eron Ryle is left in space for nearly half of the runtime. Why pay for the face if you aren’t even going to use it???
Grillo is a proven comedy and excels at the kind of high octane space movie this wants to be. He was great in Hulu’s Boss Level. That movie is fun as hell and very self-aware. Cosmic Sin thinks it’s Arrival but is really Starship Troopers. That’s no knock on Starship Troopers. I love that movie, but part of its appeal is the wild abandon approach the actors and the director take. They know it isn’t high cinema, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be great.
The special effects and costuming felt like the entire budget was spent on Willis, and this was all they could muster. Throughout the film, the actors are in an exo-suit. Perfectly normal for this type of movie, except it’s annoyingly clear that they aren’t much better than a mix of laser tag gear and football pads. The “armor” shakes and vibrates like flimsy pieces of paper in the more robust action scenes. This would be incredibly distracting if it weren’t for the forced dialogue and horrendous exposition. Hot take- using the word “tachyon” and “Q-bomb” repeatedly to explain random plot holes, does not a sci-fi movie make.
Excluding the costuming, special effects were attractive. Sweeping vistas of space add a level of polish that this film direly needed. Explosions and gunfire, for the most part, seemed real, even if the fake jerking from actors weren’t. The one critique I have about gunfire is its use. Although overdone to some extent, the horror of having an alien inside you is still thrilling, although it’s ripped away in an early scene thanks to a very bleak suicide from one of the soldiers.
I was left wondering where the enjoyment was. No one seemed to be enjoying themselves except for a wisecracking (Marcus Bleck)Costas Mandylor who at least is aware of what type of movie this is and embraces it full force. The best parts of the film are when nothing is happening and that’s a problem. Lovely shots of the forest juxtaposed with the neon high-tech world create a fresh atmosphere for the film, right before the guns and aliens come out and blow it all up. Maybe the film would have benefited from a fire or two in final editing. Cosmic Sin is streaming everywhere you watch movies on March 12th, 2021.