Review – The Puppet Masters (1994)

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Listen to this review:

u13Gaaggakqw8BIuhv9Qq2eq5bhWelcome to Mind Control Month, Aliens Week: Day 5. Well, it’s the final day of Alien mind control week. That’s okay, though. Mind Control Month has only just begun, and I’ve got a lot more in store for you. Next week will be more of a classic route, as it is simply put, science fiction week. Got a few movies ready to talk about, but we’ll just focus on today’s review of The Puppet Masters. When preparing for this week, I looked up some alien mind control films, and on each list all over the web, this movie showed up. The title and poster alone looks like it belongs somewhere in the 80s, but it’s a mid-90s film, which is a little confusing to me, for whichever reason.  Not knowing where to really even begin with this one, let’s start with the plot.

When a flying saucer reportedly lands in rural Iowa, The Old Man (who runs a secret branch of the CIA), decides to investigate. He goes in person, accompanied by agents Sam and Jarvis, as well as Dr Mary Sefton, a NASA specialist in alien biology. They find that aliens have indeed landed and are planning to use their mind-control powers to take over our planet. – IMDb

This could almost be seen as a variation of the Body Snatchers films because that’s ultimately what’s going on here. The aliens take over the bodies of the humans, spread like wildfire, and ultimately plan to take over the planet. You’ve got the main concept down pat. What we really have to investigate is their actual story, which to be honest, starts out perfectly and really loses traction as it goes along. Personally, I loved how it began. You have this small team of highly-secret government agents that sort of looks like Mulder, Scully, and their dad. You immediately get the sense that these random people, in the beginning, will single-handedly save the planet and you instantly get on board.

Here’s the main problem though, even though the film gives the people ample time to develop and grow into something memorable, they don’t actually take that road. Each one of them really begins to blend into one another, and they aren’t even the ones that are aliens. Even when it comes down to Donald Sutherland. He couldn’t look less enthused about making this movie if he tried to. Finally, as the film progressed, I am relatively sure I lost all interest before it actually ended, which is too bad.

All of this is just first impressions though, right? Let’s stop being downers and break down the film to interpret the stars!

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PEOPLE SCORE – 6/10
Acting – 1|Characters – 1|Casting – 1|Importance – 2|Chemistry – 1

First, we’ll take a gander at the people category, which really didn’t do as well as I imagined it would. No one really did the best job at acting. In a certain light, I do understand why, as most of the population had an alien doing everything. On the other hand, when you do have real human characters, they needed to really shine against the emotionless aliens, and they don’t. The characters were initially promising in the beginning but ultimately went down a dull and boring route. The casting was ultimately okay, but others could play the characters just as well, if not better. They did a pretty decent job with the importance of the characters and what each character adds to the plot, but nobody really had the best chemistry. This was a so-so category.

WRITING SCORE – 4/10
Dialogue – 1|Balance – 0|Story – 1|Originality – 1|Interesting – 1

I guess we’re on a little bit of a snowball effect here, because we’re not getting the best score in the writing category, either. Nothing about the dialogue really stands out all that much, there’s an unnecessary amount of steps in regards to the pacing of the film, which just made it feel over-convoluted for no real reason. The story itself didn’t have anything truly meaningful that shouts out other than survive and research. Is it original? To a degree, but it’s mostly a copycat of the Body Snatchers films. Is it interesting? I think it started out that way, but I lost all interest as it went along.

BTS SCORE – 6/10
Visuals – 1|Directing – 1|Editing – 1|Advertisement – 2|Music – 1

Once again, we are left with a so-so score for a pretty important category. A score like this is only really expected in comedies, where these things aren’t always that important or necessary…but I would say they were important here. Apart from some nice practical effects, there isn’t much to love about the visuals. Plus, I lost investment in the creatures when they started to swing around like Spider-Man. Neither the direction or editing had any real challenges. Everything there was as typical as it gets. I do consider it as-advertised, but the music is also something pretty typical and forgettable.

NARRATIVE ARC SCORE – 9/10
Introduction – 2|Inciting Incident – 2|Obstacles – 2|Climax – 1|Falling Action – 2

Alright, so we have a little bit of redeeming qualities in the narrative arc category. Everything mostly seems to be in place here, other than the actual climax of the film. Depending on who you ask, you’ll get a different response, but I found it to be slightly anticlimactic in comparison to everything else that happens before it. The introduction is actually the best part of the film, in my opinion. The inciting incident is when they have a run-in with their first alien. The obstacles come down to scientific research and the ever-expanding alien problem they have. The falling action returns to a new norm, making this an overall decent category.

ENTERTAINMENT SCORE – 1/10
Rewatchability – 0|Fun – 1|Impulse/Buy – 0|Impulse/Talk – 0|Sucks you in – 0

I’m so sorry, Donald Sutherland. I did this to you twice this week, but the movies I watched with you as one of the lead actors…just weren’t all that entertaining. The only subcategory that actually got any points was fun because I will give it to them that the beginning of the film had a lot of great promise. The rest of the movie just pretty much tanked my expectations here. I wouldn’t rewatch it, buy it, own it, want to talk about it, and no, it doesn’t suck you in. As far as entertainment goes, this isn’t a movie like that.

TOTAL SPECIAL – 35/50
Alien Mind Control – 10|Horror – 5|Thriller – 5|Sci-Fi – 10|Halfway Decent – 5

Now, we move onto the specialty categories for The Puppet Masters. First and foremost, how does this fit in with this week’s theme of alien mind control? Really well, actually. Better than the classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers films, as the aliens are actually taking over the hosts – or controlling them like puppets, so to speak. How about the horror and thriller aspect? I think both are there, just not heavily focused on. They could’ve been better had the actors attempted something with more range. How was the sci-fi angle? Very well done. This was another film that definitely attempted to explain how things were happening instead of just having the audience accept it, so I definitely applaud that. Was it halfway decent? Personally, I have to say no to that. I feel like what they were going for in the beginning didn’t hold true for very long, and that sort of had to do with the actors specifically. So they could’ve definitely used some help on that front.

TOTAL – 61/100

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