Waiting for the Giants (2000)
Ok, a bit of backstory first. I've been watching the first two seasons of Heroes on boxsets this month and I must say that I likes (despite the muddled time-weaver that is season two). When surfing around the internet looking for some tidbits on the show, I came across a list of movies that were similar to Heroes, and this movie was on the list (and the only one I hadn't heard of before). In a weird twist of luck, I had it on an old public domain sci-fi boxset so I popped it in the DVD player and sat back to enjoy.
2000's Waiting for the Giants takes the mutants-as-allegories plotline of the X-Men movies, adds a dash Watchers and a pinch of Akira and a sifter of Mutant X and stirs them all together to create a weird stew of a movie. And it sucks. And it's fantastically boring. And I wish I hadn't watched it now.
The movie takes place in an alternate future 2007, where "mutants" with extrasensory powers have been around since at least the late 1980s, if not sooner. These "special people" are called "Giants" for some reason and are generally feared and reviled throughout the land. The problem is that they are "different" and therefore scary and evil to the unwashed huddled masses that make up the majority of our fair nation's citizens. Yes, you guessed it, Waiting for the Giants uses mutants as a stand-in for minorities, AIDs patients, Libertarians, the disabled, homosexuals, people who like According to Jim, foreigners, and generally anyone who isn't a white middle class male (ie me).
We open in sunny Miami, Florida (though it was filmed in and around Louisville, Kentucky) in the farflung year of 2007. A man named Ray, a doctor in the Guv'ment Giant Poking Program, and his milfy wife are at home when the authorities come to arrest him (though not really explained why). Ray valiantly hides in a closet while the redneck racist National Guardsmen (or paramilitary soldiers) shoot his wife dead (!) and then ransack the place.
Soldiers are bad, they shoot people like this.
Ray, who will be our film's hero character, is played by Lorne Hughes, whose sole claim to fame is a fleeting bit part in an episode of The District, that and having a name better suited to a cowboy in 1870s Wyoming Territory. Ray, who looks like Blair Underwood, is a Giant himself, with the power of mind-reading and faint premonition.
Ray (I wasn't aware people still wore those in 2000).
Ray runs to his 1998 Jeep Wrangler and drives off, heading somewhere. The entire rest of this movie is Ray and his Jeep and the open road, with Kerouacian adventures and meet-ups along the way. Ray drives through the city, Ray drives through the country, Ray stops to get gas, Ray stops to eat a cheeseburger, Ray does all those things that you did on your last trip to grandma's house (except without the mutants and the killer soldiers, I hope). The highlight of these frequent driving scenes is the soundtrack by local indy rocker Joel Timothy, who is trying really hard to sound like Bob Dylan. The songs are just folksy and bluesy enough to be cute, and soft enough to keep you from having to crank down the volume between scenes.
Ray in his Jeep, cruising the open roads.
Violating the whole theme of running-from-the-law, Ray pulls over when he sees a body bag on the side of the road. Inside it is a blind thirtysomething man named Nate, who will end up being his sidekick for the rest of the movie. Nate is played by Christopher Stone, known solely to the outside world for being a janitor in a three-second background shot in a single episode of the insipid Ugly Betty. He's indeed blind, but it's psychosomatic, he could see if he wanted to but for some mental reason his brain won't let his eyes function. Oh, and he looks like Tom Cavanaugh.
As we see in a number of discombobulated flashbacks, Nate was being used in some secret Guv'ment project on how much pain a man can take. When his usefulness was over they dumped him on the side of the road, alive but in a body bag (dumbest thing in this dumb movie). Once Ray cleans him up and gets him some new clothes, Nate proves that, while he can't see, he's a great talker and rambles nonstop the rest of the film in a most annoying way. Of course, an actor is only as good as the material he's given and the direction he receives, so I can't pound on any of these actors too hard. Phillip Lacy directed, produced and edited this movie, as well as co-wrote the script and probably made the donut runs for the crew. This is his only directorial credit other than an art school slasher flick in 1993, and I'd be most surprised if he's now not a cashier at a Home Depot in Anacostia.
Nate back in the secret Guv'ment facility at Alkali Lake...
They drive for three days (where?) and talk a lot along the way. They stop at a diner and chat seriously about race and bigotry and stuff. As are most movies with Big Socially Relevant Messages, this is a hurtfully boring film, lulling you into a Venderman insomnia coma as your finger caresses the fast-forward button. I squirmed my way through The Happening and kept the shotgun safely out of reach for all three hours of The Thin Red Line, but I have to admit to overusing the mute button on several occasions during Waiting for the Giants and it was only through a monumental effort that I relented at times and forced myself to actually listen to the blithering tripe spouted by every character at every opportunity.
Talking in the diner.
While driving at night, they nearly run over a woman lying unconscious in the middle of the road. Showing us his Giantism mind-reading power for the first time, Ray holds her head and reads her mind and sees (via flashbacks) that she's running from a sexually abusive older male relative. They put her in the Jeep and leave, seeing in her a kindred soul on the run from a hard life (though a case for kidnapping could be made). Nate takes the news that Ray is a mutant well, he's been through a lot himself, and it doesn't stop him from babbling on incessantly. Oh, and her name is Annabelle, Ray found that out from his mind-reading, I guess.
Ray finds Annabelle in the road.
Annabelle wakes up eventually after a night's recovery and everyone introduces themselves. She's a mute, though only because of trauma, and while she's clearly frazzled and terrified, she relaxes quickly once she knows she's in safe hands. Nate is in "love at first sight" (his words), which is predictable. [Editor Pam: Not surprising. If he's been held captive in a Government lab for years, he couldn't have had much of an opportunity to date. By now, any woman would look good to him, although since he's blind, maybe "look" isn't the right word.] Annabelle is played by Suzanne Turner, this movie's sole "working professional actress", having appeared in a number of mid-level movies and television series over a few decades. She's fairly pretty, and looks sorta like a 1990s Calista Flockhart with Jennifer Anniston's upper body. She's also a Giant who can heal the sick and injured with a touch, but we don't know this yet.
And on they drive. There continues to be a fuckton of talking while on the road, the screenwriters clearly trying to be David Mamet without the same mastery of the English language, and the director was clearly limited in what he could do with the material. But, in their defense, characters talking is vastly cheaper than blowing stuff up or elaborate action scenes or even liability waivers for nekkid chicks. I'd be shocked if the budget was more than $20,000, mostly for Fuji film stock and sound recording equipment. It was probably filmed in maybe three or four weekends (all these people certainly had day jobs during the week) and having people talk back and forth is an easy way to get footage in the can quickly.
Blah blah blah kill me.
In several insert scenes we see Annabelle's grandfather (a creepy old man with Drew Carey glasses and Dollar Store overalls) as he hunts for his escaped loveslave. He has a shotgun and a big chrome-plated revolver and drives in an old Chevy pick-up down the lonely backroads of Florida. He sees her at a gas station, and again along the highway, and it's clear that he's going to catch up to them at some point, with disastrous consequences for everyone involved.
Gramps sure does like his guns.
Meanwhile, our Jeep-borne heroes come across a man and his injured daughter along a lonely stretch of road, victims of an off-screen car accident. In an amazing coincidence (yawn), the man is Senator Wax, who is high-running the Guv'ment's push to exterminate the Giant problem (yes, he's just like the President in X-Men 2). Annabelle shows them that she too is a Giant when she "heals" the injured girl by transferring cosmic energy from her chi center or something. They flee when they hear the police coming, leaving the Senator to (surely) rethink his virulent anti-mutant stance.
Somewhere in that blurry optical effect is Annabelle saving the kid's life.
They next drive into the country and get out to wander around a watery meadow (why?). They then have this weird-ass dream sequence, where it seems like they are joining in each other's dreams while floating in the air. For me, the wheels came off during this scene and there was little left to keep my interest after this. God, what a long movie, I just keep thinking of things I could be doing with the 88 minutes I spent watching this snorefest. I could cook up a nice jambalaya and corn dish, I could call my mom, I could clean up this pit of an apartment before the health department comes rappelling in through the windows from helicopters, I could make love to a beautiful woman (and then use the other 84 minutes to watch a couple episodes of The Cosby Mysteries), I could take a shower (first this week!), I could even walk down to the river and try not to throw myself in. But no, I decided to waste those precious 88 minutes watching Waiting for the Giants. This is what my life has been reduced to.
I, too, had this dream once where I examined a black man's elbow.
While Ray goes back to tinker with his Jeep, Annabelle and Nate play hide the weasel. There had been simmering sexual tension between the two of them since the first day they met, and it comes as no surprise that after their trippy mind-linked daydream (whatever) they would take the next step. They strip down and jump in the creek, Annabelle showing Nate where to put his hands, if you know what I mean. I'll leave alone the argument about an abused woman using her sexuality as her only means of communication and expression in favor of saying nice things about her shapely calves.
Sweet sweet love in the crick.
Annabelle's randy grandfather shows up now, brandishing his shootin' irons and rambling on about mutants and blacks and hookers and Al Franken and the decline of the British Royal Navy. He gets into a heated argument with Ray, who is clearly at his wit's end, and Ray ends up on the ground with a bullet in his chest. The sudden loss of his best (only) friend shocks Nate out of his self-imposed blindness, which allows him to bumrush the old man and smack him over the head with a rock. In a totally unexpected move, the healer Annabelle chooses to save her abusive grandfather over fast-fading Ray (who has been nothing but nice to her).
This is not going to end well for Ray.
The epilogue takes place many years later. Nate can still see and now he has better hair and is living with Annabelle. Ray's son (he had a son?) comes to give Nate a cassette tape and an envelope containing Ray's information on Giants and the Guv'ment. The movie ends here, with the assumption that Nate will do something important with this information (surely they didn't expect a sequel?). [Editor Pam: Judging from the many things left unexplained, it's possible a lot of footage was cut out of this movie, for which we can be grateful.]
A sign on a gas station wall, showing just how hated the Giants are. The Egyptian symbol is a recurring thing throughout the film, and all the Giants we see carry one (Ray has an ear ring and Annabelle has a necklace). Its exact meaning is never explained.
Written in January 2009 by Nathan Decker and edited by Pam Burda.
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