After the success of Guillermo del Toro’s breakthrough debut film, “Cronos” (1993), the director moved his career to Hollywood and chose the science fiction-horror film “Mimic” (1997) to be his American debut. In this film, the children of Manhattan have become plagued by “Strickler’s Disease” through the overrun population of cockroaches. Entomologist Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino), along with her husband, Dr. Peter Mann (Jeremy Northam), create a cross-bred insect called the Judas Breed, that when released will destroy the infected roaches. Three years later, Susan discovers that her Judas insect has found a way to not only survive, but mutate into a first class killing machine, that has spawned a colony of Judas bugs deep inside the New York subway system.
I won’t lie to you; “Mimic” is a “B” movie. It was treated like a “B” movie from the start, and as a result, del Toro and his ability to be an incredible storyteller were stifled. The clashes between the director and Bob Weinstein have been well documented over the years, and it is obvious that nobody was on the same page for this film. My guess is that Miramax was hoping to capitalize on some “big names” being in a film filled with monsters and scares. del Toro, on the other hand, looks to be making a highly stylized, first rate science fiction-horror film, much in the spirit of his future projects. The result was an absolute mess, but that is why it is time to give this film a second chance. It is no longer 1997, and after many, many years, Guillermo del Toro finally was able to piece together a “director’s cut” that captures his imaginative vision to the best of his abilities.
The director’s cut is a much better film than the original. The story flows nicely, and the scares and suspense are much greater than I had hoped. Of course I tend to always enjoy director cut’s more, simply because I feel that they do a better job conveying exactly what the director envisioned. The director’s cut runs only seven minutes longer than the original film, but the changes certainly make for a better picture.
Even now when you look at this film as a whole, many things seem out of place; especially the actors. I like Mira Sorvino as an actress, and I want to like her in this film- but I just can’t. She is extremely miscast, and her appearance in the film seems to be Miramax trying to capitalize on her recent Best Supporting Actress win for “Mighty Aphrodite” (1995), as well as an attempt to see if she is capable of carrying a film as the leading actress. Jeremy Northam is even worse. He doesn’t belong on the set or anywhere even remotely close to this film, not because he isn’t a talented actor, but because this film couldn’t be more wrong for him and his various talents.
The supporting cast picks up the slack, but far too late. Charles S. Dutton plays a transit cop with a chip on his soldier, and he does it well. He could even be a relative of his character in “Alien 3” (1993). Josh Brolin has a small role as Dr. Mann’s assistant, but it is hardly utilized, and Alexander Goodwin plays a “special” young boy who has some unexplained fascination with the Judas bug. He even spends some time in the bug’s lair, although the reason for this is unexplained. His role is memorable because it is a child in peril, and del Toro loves to capitalize on his audiences’ love of children, but the role doesn’t even make sense, and certainly is unnecessary to the plot. And then, just for good measure, we have Giancarlo Giannini and F. Murray Abraham, who despite their big names and abundance of talent, are completely wasted.
It is hard for an “A” director to make a “B” picture, and “Mimic” brings this blaring problem to the foreground. As you watch this film everything seems wrong, until you look closely at the way del Toro has directed. Forget about the script and the story; even try to forget about the cheesy music and the sub-par acting. There is an undeniable quality that del Toro brings to the film, and it is unfortunate that only the directing and the glorious cinematography by Dan Laustsen were able to reach this high level. “Mimic” is a visual delight that might be more enjoyable if one were to turn off the lights, turn down the volume completely, and just enjoy the visuals in their own splendor.
Continue to join Lasso the Movies in a walk through director Guillermo del Toro’s career as we count down each of his films, in preparation for “Pacific Rim” (2013), due in theaters Friday, July 12th.
“The Devil’s Backbone” (2001)
“Blade 2” (2002)
“Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006)
“Pacific Rim” (2013)