Thursday, June 27, 2019
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *drama*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *cosmological, sociological*
And now, ladies and gentlemen, before I tell you any more, I'm going to show you the greatest thing your eyes have ever beheld. He was a king and a god in the world he knew, but now he comes to civilization merely a captive - a show to gratify your curiosity. Ladies and gentlemen, look at Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World.-- Carl Denham, KING KONG, (1933)
It's time to show Kong that man is king!-- Preston Packard, KSI (2017)
Without question, the best aspect of KONG: SKULL ISLAND (henceforth KSI) is that it dispenses with one of the main themes of the '33 classic: Kong's doomed fascination with a girl from the wrong side of the species-tracks. This theme, reduced to dumb parody in the 1976 remake and to crude biological reductionism in the 2005 version, seems to be one that more modern filmmakers simply can't get, so KSI takes a wise course by eschewing "the girl in the hairy paw."
Instead, the four writers of KSI and director Jordan Vogt-Roberts pick one of the less celebrated themes of the 1933 original: the inevitable battle between the primordial and the modern. The 1933 film makes clear that Kong is top dog on his island, capable of meeting any challenge there, but as Carl Denham says, in modern civilization Kong becomes the captive of his punier but better equipped hypothetical descendants.
Further, this powerful myth-theme-- largely ignored in the original's only true sequel, SON OF KONG-- takes on several new connotations. The most pervasive change is that the new Kong's saga is now a part of a greater cosmos, that of Legendary Pictures' "Monsterverse," merging the prehistoric monarch with the titanic kaiju of Japanese cinema. In the interest of forging this universe of godlike monsters, Skull Island is not just an island where a lot of dinosaurs survive, but a gateway into the depths of the Earth, where innumerable levithans still thrive.
I chose not to review KSI when I first screened it, in part because I knew it was a big part of the Monsterverse setup. The first film in the series, 2014's GODZILLA, just barely sets forth the basic rationale, while 2019's GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS more fully develops the concept of the monster-filled underworld, first used in Toho Picture's initial Godzilla picture in 1954. Once I re-screened both of these films, I felt better able to assess how Legendary re-imagined the Kong franchise.
For one thing, the fate of Toho's monsters is never as tragically inevitable as is the fate of Kong. Even when they perish, as does the original Godzilla of 1954, they're often replaced by virtual simulacra of the originals, as happened with both Godzilla and Rodan, for two. This falls in line with the ambiguous ending of the '54 GOJIRA, where it's suggested that even after Godzilla's defeat some other denizen of the underworld will arise to chastise unrepentant humankind.
One reason for the difference is that the original works for Kong and Godzilla mirror their societies in different ways. In the world of the '33 KONG, the World War has been over for some time, and the major societal threat is the economy, not the horrors of war. America's military might only surfaces at the end of the story when knightly fighter-pilots engage the Big Ape in combat. Japan in '54, though, was still a defeated country, and one defeated in large part by a radical new technology, rather than by force of arms.
In order to reframe Kong's world to make him face a military threat as the kaiju-titans do, KSI's script brilliantly comes up with introducing the New Kong at the close of America's first major military defeat: the end of the country's involvement in Vietnam in 1973. True, KSI can be fairly criticized or fishing a little too often from the APOCALYPSE NOW well. One characters is named "Marlow" after the narrator of both APOCALYPSE and its literary inspiration Conrad's HEART OF DARKNESS, while another character is named after author Conrad. There's no character named after the story's pivotal character Kurtz, but Colonel Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) takes over Kurtz's role in KSI as the representative of civilization's corrupt desire to "exterminate all the brutes." Still, even though there are too many "big C's" in KSI-- Conrad, Coppola, and the Credence Clearwater Revival-- the idea of juxtaposing Kong with the end of Vietnam is an inspired choice.
The '33 KONG concerns the activities of civilians, led by ambitious entrepreneur Carl Denham. KSI has a Denham-figure in Bill Randa (John Goodman), but he's not a showman, except insofar that he wants to "show" the world the truth about the titans beneath the earth. (And even Randa has a military association, since he was the only survivor of an earlier titan attack.) Yet, although the civilians in KSI play some important roles in understanding Kong's nature, the script is really all about the Big Ape's conflict with the military detachment led by Packard. Though Packard is brought along on the Skull Island expedition simply to serve as protection for the civilians, the colonel's actions end up getting some of his men killed by the hostile anthropoid. From then on, Packard transfers all of his frustration over the "abandoned" war in Vietnam to killing the King of Skull Island. Packard fails in much the same way that the Japanese military in GOJIRA fails to slay its enemy, and Packard can't pull an Oxygen Destroyer out of his deus ex machina.
I should also note that Kong, too, is an ape dedicated to war. This island lord doesn't ask his worshipers to give him virgin sacrifices to devour. Like Randa, Kong is a last survivor, since his people were slaughtered by some of the nastier denizens of the under-earth: big lizards called "Skull Crawlers." The Crawlers, like the other inhabitants of the island, lack Kong's mythic resonance, but at least they do provide an ever-present threat to the eco-system, against which Kong had to be (to borrow the JFK quote) "eternally vigilant."
Lastly, though many of the characters are forgettable as characters, the script does give all of the actors at least decent lines. The one civilian character who's as important to the narrative as Packard is Hank Marlow, an American soldier stranded on the island since World World II. Marlow, unlike Packard, has learned the true nature of Kong's role, in part because Marlow has listened to the pacific natives, the Iwis. Marlow also gets the film's funniest lines, but his best contribution is that he represents an earlier concept of the soldier. Marlow fought for his country to promote peace at home, and while Packard claims to be "the Thin Blue Line" protecting civilians from chaos, it's evident that he really wants to kill Kong for his own sense of empowerment.
KSI is probably too derivative to be more than just a good blockbuster-film with some vivid scenes and a little thought-provoking materials. Still, the film shows far more respect for its source material than most current superhero films do. Thus, even though Legendary's two Godzilla films are not quite as well conceived as KSI, the success at re-imagining the King of Skull Island bodes well for next year's confrontation between the respective kaiju-lords of America and Japan.
Thursday, June 20, 2019
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *drama*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *psychological, sociological*
Everyone knows, or thinks that they know, about Nathan Juran’s 1958 ATTACK OF THE FIFTY-FOOT WOMAN. Though the film wasn’t the last of the “giant menace” films of the 1950s, the title alone has been used for very specific parodies (as opposed to generic parodies with names like “the Thing That Ate Cincinnati”). One particular movie-poster, showing the gigantic bikini-clad woman looming over a turnpike, has been recycled by pop culture far more than most movie-posters of the era, certainly more than ATTACK’s spiritual predecessor THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN (1957). ATTACK’s final ten minutes is often all that most people remember about the flick: the sequence in which a spurned wife turned into a giantess rampages into a small California town looking for her cheating husband and his mistress. For good measure, ATTACK’s superimposition-FX, used to create the titular giantess, were so poorly done that director Juran cited those dodgy effects as the reason he used a false name, Nathan Hertz, on the film’s release.
At best, ATTACK is celebrated as a “trash classic,” if only for its one iconic image. I won’t try to claim it deserves a much higher status: that it can measure up (so to speak) to a genre-classic like THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (also 1957). But there are some aspects of ATTACK that deserve more attention.
Immediately before Mark Hanna wrote ATTACK, he also penned THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN, which was an original script, unlike the novel-derived SHRINKING MAN. COLOSSAL MAN, though, does not have any of SHRINKING MAN’s naturalistic dialogue or characterization, but depends largely on stock formula character-types. Hanna’s conceptual follow-up to COLOSSAL MAN, though, is closer in tone to that of THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN, in which the main character’s SF-mutation is made a vehicle to describe that character’s psychological weaknesses.
In addition, ATTACK has a much more sordid, downbeat quality to its species of melodrama than the majority of fifties “creature features.” The story of Nancy Archer, an heiress with psychological baggage and a husband whom she calls a “gigolo,” resembles other SF-films of the time than the same period’s premiere anthology-serials: ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS. From 1955 to 1965, the show constantly featured tales of misplaced love and the illicit desire for filthy lucre, possibly playing to the national tastes exemplified by the lurid paperbacks of the postwar era.
ATTACK begins with Nancy, our poor little rich girl, fleeing her small California town in her car, drag-racing into the desert out of pique at her husband Harry. Juran establishes that Nancy didn’t exactly catch Harry cheating: he was merely making eyes at a local bar-girl, Honey Parker (a name loosely reminiscent of Nancy’s own). Nancy’s rapid exit, in fact, gives the audience the chance to see what a rotter Harry is. Once Nancy’s gone, he and Honey get as hot-and-heavy as anyone can in a public place. Harry makes clear that he only married Nancy for her money, and Honey suggests that, thanks to Nancy’s past history of drinking and psychological tests, she's a prime candidate for the “booby hatch.”
What happens to Nancy out in the desert seems made to order for Honey and Harry. A white sphere, always described as a “satellite” rather than a spaceship, lands in front of Nancy’s car, which immediately stalls out. Nancy then meets the pilot of the ship, a giant male who doesn’t seem to wearing many, if any, clothes. He reaches for Nancy, though like Harry what he really wants is her money, or rather, its objective correlative in the form of her diamond necklace. Nancy flees her Close Encounter of the Kong Kind, hotfooting it back to the town.
Local sheriff Dubbitt and his goofy deputy Charlie don’t belief Nancy's story about the big white satellite and its occupant, but they do think the rich lady might’ve encountered some avaricious drifter after that fabulous diamond, which could “tempt the devil himself.” When Harry hears about the story, he hurries to Nancy’s ritzy estate, to console his poor wife and to learn if she’s ripe for the funny farm.
Scripter Hanna never says much about the source of Nancy’s wealth. Since she doesn’t work, it’s probable that her riches are a paternal bequest, given that women couldn’t be CEOs in those days. Apparently both of Nancy’s parents are deceased, though there’s an old butler, Jess, who seems like a father-substitute, since he genuinely cares for Nancy and “has known her since she was a little girl.” Harry and Jess clearly don’t like each other, and one of Harry’s first sardonic remarks is to suggest that maybe he ought to be the butler and Jess ought to be her husband. Since Harry feels no jealousy of Nancy, Harry’s sarcasm may reflect his consciousness of his status in terms of social class, though to be sure Hanna also never tells us what Harry was doing before he latched on to his current meal ticket. The first conversation between the couple establishes that Nancy did try to kick her Harry-habit at one point, but she called him back to her because she’s madly in love with his worthless hide. (A later sequence establishes that another male confidante, Nancy’s family doctor, rather unwisely advised Nancy to mend fences with her hubby.) Harry doesn’t believe the story about the giant alien, but he plays a waiting game, hoping Nancy will condemn herself out of her own mouth.
He doesn’t have long to wait. Nancy obsesses about the fact that no one believes her, and she’s especially set off when she hears—or imagines that she hears—a local newscaster relaying other observations of the “satellite.” But he makes a joke of Nancy’s alleged sighting, speaking as if “the man in the moon” is another suitor for the rich lady. That night Nancy forces Harry to drive her into the desert, looking for the elusive white spacecraft. Harry, hoping for more evidence against his nutty wife, gets the shock of his life when they find both the ship and the alien. This time the giant accosts Nancy, still wanting her shiny bauble. Harry drives madly away, so freaked out by the encounter that he’s not even concerned with her fate or how it might benefit him. He stops at the estate only to grab some of his clothes, intending to flee for parts unknown. Jess tries to interrogate him and the two men fight. Harry wins but because he takes time to stop in town to pick up Honey, the law overtakes him.
However, the lawmen don’t have to go looking for Nancy. The next day she’s found atop the roof of her house, with strange scratches on her throat, no necklace, and her body full of radiation. The broad implication is that the giant returned her home after taking her necklace. But since he never speaks or indicates any telepathic powers, the film never tells the audience how he knew where her house was (unless he has a mind-reading machine aboard his ship).
While the doctors cluck about how to treat the irradiated heiress, Harry and Honey recover their low-class priorities, and Honey suggests that Harry use the treatment as a pretext to shoot Nancy up with the wrong kind of medicine. Before he can do so, the still unconscious Nancy manifests her new kinship with her alien rendezvous: growing to a titanic size, though apparently still not quite fifty feet yet. One might think that after such an unsettling experience, Harry would renew his desire to let the devil take the hindmost. Instead, after failing to murder Nancy, he simply retreats to the bar and goes back to hanging with Honey—thus setting up the movie’s final scene.
Before that happens, the script allows the audience to find out what’s going on with the alien giant. Jess and the sheriff belatedly notice the really big footprints that the giant left from dropping off Nancy. The two of them track their owner all the way to his satellite. The humans enter the sphere and observe that the giant’s ship runs on diamonds, including the one taken from Nancy. Before they can emulate the hero of “Jack and the Beanstalk” and re-steal the necklace, the giant shows up. The humans escape the ship, and the giant, now wearing gladiator-like clothes, follows them. Gunfire doesn’t affect the alien, though he is staggered slightly when the sheriff hits him with a grenade. The extraterrestrial vents his wrath by smashing the sheriff’s car, gets back in his ship, and takes his leave of Planet Earth.
As soon as the visitor leaves, Nancy wakes up, clothes herself in bed-sheets, and goes looking for her cheating hubby. One never knows if she even remembers her experience with the giant, but maybe she picks up some of his hypothetical telepathy, given that she’s immediately certain that Harry’s with her rival. Long story short: the despicable plotters get themselves snuffed, but the terminally unhappy heiress doesn’t fare any better (even though her metamorphosis lets her live the rest of her life as an “atomic blonde.”)
The main attraction of the iconic end-scene is that it plays like a science-fiction send-up of an old trope: the aggrieved wife hauling her mate out of the local gin-mill. Yet, to be sure, Nancy is no beleaguered hausfrau, and there’s no evidence that she cares about anyone beyond her amour fou toward Harry. And though a fifty-foot woman can’t help but take on some of the aspect of frustrated femininity, it’s significant that Honey, Nancy’s “other self,” may be of a threat to Nancy than Harry is, since Honey’s the one who comes up with ways to get rid of Nancy, either consigning her to the nuthouse or to death. At the core of ATTACK, then, is a story that neither cheesy effects nor corny jokes can overshadow: a story of Doomed Love akin to all those articulated both by elitist entertainers like Alfred Hitchcock and by cheap paperbacks of sordid melodrama. And it seems doomed, not just because of the class-war between Nancy and Harry (or maybe between Harry and Nancy’s dead father), but because no one in the story *knows * himself or herself—except, apparently, the enigmatic giant from the big white spheroid.
(I note in passing the perhaps accidental use of vampire-imagery in ATTACK: the fact that Nancy is infected because of “scratches on her neck.” But the appearance of this motif may be mere coincidence, on the same level as the possible influence of “Jack and the Beanstalk.’)
Thursday, June 13, 2019
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *adventure*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *psychological, sociological*
I've not read the Vera Chapman fantasy-trilogy from which QUEST FOR CAMELOT was loosely derived, but it doesn't sound like the writers of this Warner Brothers animated bomb took more than cursory tropes from the original books.
Though as I recall advance hype for the film emphasized the gutsiness of would-be female knight Kayley, she's no Mulan (whose Disney film appeared in theaters about a month after the debut of QUEST). Because this Warner Brothers feature smacked of so many Disney-isms, I'd like to believe that its genesis was an attempt to move in on DIsney's territory with regard to presenting empowering female characters. Yet the writers don't really build up their heroine as did,say, the film MULAN that same year. Indeed, the illustration above shows Kayley holding the sword Excalibur with her battle-partner, the blind hermit Garrett, who ends up doing most of the heavy lifting in the film. Though the producers may have paid some lip service to empowerment, from here Kayley looks like the same old Disney princess.
Kayley is in many ways the epitome of the "wannabe" hero. In the film's first segment Kayley's father is killed by an evil lord named Ruber (Gary Oldman), who was trying to assassinate King Arthur himself. Ruber-- whose character is given a lot of over-ripe lines, much like Hades in Disney's HERCULES from the year previous-- is surprisingly not executed for the crime of attempting the king's life, but is simply exiled. Fatherless Kayley then spends most of her time not thirsting for the blood of her father's killer but messing around the family farm, fantasizing about becoming a knight but doing nothing whatever in the way of training.
Being a bad penny, Ruber turns up again. He employs a griffin to invade Camelot and steal Arthur's legendary sword Excalibur, though the monstrous bird is attacked by Merlin's eagle Ayden, so that the sword is lost in a dense forest below. While all this is going on, Ruber and his pawns-- who have been transformed into half-human, half-weapon entities by magic potions-- show up at Kayley's farm and announce their plan to use Kayley and her mother as cover as they infiltrate Camelot. Kayley learns that the villain's plan to acquire Excalibur has gone awry, and so she flees to the Forbidden Forest, hoping to find the sword and deliver it to its owner in Camelot-- which is perhaps the main connotation of the rather-awkward title of the film.
While wandering about the Forbidden Forest, Kayley meets, and receives aid from, a handsome blind guy, Garrett. This young man also hoped to become a knight, but he was blinded, and though he received some encouragement in the day from Kayley's late father, Garrett still ended up dwelling in the forest, shunning human contact. Garrett also hangs around with the eagle Ayden, who spends most of the film in Garrett's company (making Merlin's status with the bird a little dubious). In fact, though Garrett can't see he shows a Daredevil-like propensity for unsighted combat, as Ruber's thugs find out when they try to overtake Kayley. In a rather confusing bit of exposition, at least part of the time Garrett seems guided by cries from the eagle, though there are a number of times when the eagle isn't present to guide Garrett, and he still moves about with no less facility.
Garrett reluctantly allies himself to Kayley's quest, and though the adventures in the forest are extremely derivative fantasy-fodder, some of the adventures are at least lively. However, neither Kayley nor Garrett are anything but standard stereotypic "good guys." Ruber's constant blatherings make him him foolish rather than sinister a la Hades, and one of his most peculiar plots-- realized in the last third of the film-- is to meld the magic sword with one of his own hands. That does seem like a rather twisted way to obtain temporal power in Merrie Old England, which wouldn't be too merry for Ruber if he ever forgot himself and scratched his ass with the wrong hand.
All of the songs are forgettable, as is most of the comic relief, though I suppose some kids with siblings might have liked the two-headed dragon Devon-and-Cornwall, whose two heads, voiced by Eric Idle and Don Rickles, constantly snipe at one another. The action toward the end is fairly rousing, but the film has no concept of archaic fantasy-magic: it's all on the level of "presto-change-o" and nothing more. Though Kayley gets her heart's wish of being able to save King Arthur-- who is almost as physically unimpressive as she is-- and eventually finds love as well with Garrett, I kept feeling like the real title ought to have been QUEST TO BITE DISNEY'S STYLE.
Tuesday, June 4, 2019
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *comedy*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *cosmological*
If the viewer can ignore the tedious live-action sequences, directed by the Farrelly Brothers and starring a slovenly Bill Murray and his winsomely cute daughter, then OSMOSIS JONES provides a decent formulaic action-comedy.
The idea of personifying parts of the human body goes back at least as far as Jonathan Swift's arguments between brain and stomach, but I don't recall that many attempts to use the trope in cartoons. In this case, the main cartoon characters are the personified inhabitants of Frank (Murray), a slob who constantly neglects his health. This creates a lot of work for all of the body-parts trying to maintain the body's integrity, not least a "police force" of white blood cells. The title character is the street-smart ("vein smart?") officer Osmosis Jones (Chris Rock), who gets no respect despite his devotion to his job. When a new disease strikes the body of Frank, Osmosis ends up getting teamed up with Drix, an anthropomorphic "cold pill" out to terminate the infection. Like most buddy-cop films, the principal heroes Osmosis and Drix don't get along, with the former being too laid-back and the latter too uptight. However, they end up learning that the Body of Frank has bigger problems than a head-cold: an invading virus, Thrax (Lawrence Fishburne) wants Frank dead, which means that all of the separate elements of Frank's body will die as well.
The buddy-cop stuff is routine at best, but the animation is lively, and Chris Rock's saucy rap works tolerably well against David Hyde Pierce's stuffiness. The feature cartoon flopped in the box office. However, it may have educated a few kids on the various functions of the human body-- at least, the ones that you could get in a PG movie-- and that gives it a little more cachet than most modern-day animated features.
Monday, June 3, 2019
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *drama*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *cosmological, sociological*
While KING OF THE MONSTERS isn't quite bold enough to qualify as one of the best iterations of the Big G, it's a huge improvement over the preceding film in the series, the 2014 GODZILLA.
One of the best changes is the selection of Michael Dougherty as the director, in contrast to previous helmsman Gareth Edwards, who tended to stage the 2014 film in scenes dominated by darkness. In contrast, Dougherty-- who, among others, collaborated with one of the writers of the 2014 film-- makes sure that all of the scenes of big monster-combat are easy to follow. Whereas the 2014 film was trying too hard to keep things realistic, Dougherty's film is a valentine to the best of the Toho Studios monster-mythology. I'm not crediting Dougherty alone with this idea, for clearly the producers had to pay Toho for the use of other kaiju, principally King Ghidorah (Godzilla's principal foe), Mothra and Rodan. The final film in the series, projected for 2020, is also based on the Toho mythology crossbred with that of Universal's only giant creature, in a rethinking of 1962's KING KONG VS. GODZILLA. (KING includes a brief glimpse at Kong on his Skull Island stomping-grounds, no doubt to build fan-support for the 2020 film.)
The roles of the human characters are marginally better in that they go from being "not interesting at all" in 2014 to "slightly interesting" in 2019. The principal characters-- Mark Russell, ex-wife Emma, and their teen daughter Madison-- are introduced as if the audience ought to already know them, though this is their first appearance. We soon learn that Emma possesses an almost religious devotion to "the Titans," as the various prehistoric beings have been named, while Mark despises the monsters because he and Emma lost one of their children during a monster-rampage.
Most of the prehistoric behemoths are, unlike Godzilla, still hibernating beneath the earth, and Emma becomes worried that the American military will use her monster-research to find and destroy these sleeping Titans. Thus she collaborates with a British terrorist (whose motives are inconsistent at best) to make sure that all 17 of the monsters are revived, so that they can become the new dominant creatures on Planet Earth, and in some way reverse humankind's tendency to reduce the planet to ruin.
Emma Russell's extreme eco-terrorist agenda is rattled off a little too quickly to have any dramatic impact, and to be sure she reverses her course to protect her own kid, though she was apparently OK with the kids of other mothers falling into monster-peril. Yet she's such a blah character that I neither liked nor disliked her: she obviously was just there to serve a function in the plot, as much as were Mark and Madison. Indeed, some of the supporting side-characters, such as Rick Stanton (modeled after the "Rick" character in RICK AND MORTY) and Doctor Serizawa (modeled after the heroic scientist from the 1954 GOJIRA), are far more compelling than the dysfunctional family of the Russells.
If one can make the decision to ignore the human characters and their dubious pontifications, then GODZILLA KING OF THE MONSTERS delivers what the Toho series did best: portraying the impossible vision of a world where giants not only walk the earth, but spend most of their time fighting for supremacy. I was particularly taken with a Mothra/Rodan battle, given that the two kaiju never have an extended fight in the Toho films. That said, the three major battles between the two "apex predators," Godzilla and Ghidorah, are the film's best effects, and the only downside is that I don't know how a Godzilla/Kong matchup can possibly improve on these mammoth dust-ups.
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *drama*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *psychological*
Despite looking like it had an A-level budget, EVE OF DESTRUCTION is a bland recycling of TERMINATOR tropes.
EVE is one of the many movies that justifies the phrase, "This story works perfectly well as long as you assume that everyone in the story is an idiot." In this case, the main rationale for the U.S. government to build a female robot is that supposedly there's a deep concern that they might not be able to bomb an enemy power due to missile defenses. Thus if they can build a robot intelligent enough to masquerade as an ordinary traveler, then the robot can supposedly pass through customs and detonate a nuclear bomb inside the enemy territory. Obviously this scheme has so many problems with it that it's impossible to believe that such an expensive project would ever get greenlighted.
However, even putting that objection aside, one would think that the last thing the military would do would be to stick a working nuke inside a robot that was still in its testing stages. In addition, the test robot-- named "Eve" after its lookalike creator, scientist Eve Simmons-- has not been given the sort of personality that might serve in undertaking an espionage mission. Instead, in a loose emulation of robot-stories ranging from FRANKENSTEIN to STAR TREK, the creation reflects the personality of the creator. This too would seem to be the last thing that a military mind would want, much less to have the robot somehow programmed with the memories of its creator. So of course, when the robot gets loose, it starts doing the things that Eve Simmons would've liked to have done if she had unlimited power-- killing a neglectful father, abducting the child she has to share with her divorced husband.
The military is also tremendously incompetent in marshaling forces to track down and incapacitate Eve the Robot, choosing to depend on one man named Jim McQuade (Gregory Hines), an expert in terrorist nullification. Other than bringing in McQuade, the organizers seem content to let innumerable cops and bystanders get blown away by the addled mechanism. Perhaps all of these idiocies might've contributed to a satire of the military-industrial complex had such been the script's intention, but it seems obvious that the writer was just in a hurry to get to the action-sequences.
Renee Soutendijk plays both Eve Simmons and her berserk creation, and the former gets to run around in the company of McQuade, trying to advise him on how to battle the killer robot. There are various poorly staged battles between Eve the Robot and McQuade, or between Eve and the cops, but it's all pretty uninvolving, including the big finish wherein the robot kidnaps the real Eve's son.
The only clever thing in the whole mess is the full name of the robot, which is "Eve VIII," as in the old joke, "Adam ate one and Eve ate one too." There are one or two clumsy misogynistic remarks that might suggest that Eve VIII's problem is that of emulating the "horny" and "psychopathic" aspects of her creator. But EVE OF DESTRUCTION doesn't even work as a full-fledged misogynistic fantasy, registering as just another stupid TERMINATOR ripoff.