In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

Thumb five acts poster

Jane Fonda in Five Acts

Director Susan Lacy has the great advantage of a subject whose life has been extensively documented literally since birth.

Thumb fahrenheit eleven nine

Fahrenheit 11/9

The messiness of Moore’s film starts to feel appropriate for the times we’re in. With a new issue being debated every day, is it any…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives




Ever notice how movies come in twos? It's as if the same idea descends upon several Hollywood producers at once, perhaps because someone who hates movies is sticking pins in their dolls. "Virus" is more or less the same movie as "Deep Rising," which opened a year earlier. Both begin with small boats in the Pacific. Both boats come upon giant floating ships that are seemingly deserted. Both giant ships are inhabited by a vicious monster. Both movies send the heroes racing around the ship trying to destroy the monster. Both movies also have lots of knee-deep water, fierce storms, Spielbergian visible flashlight beams cutting through the gloom, and red digital readouts.


"Deep Rising" was one of the worst movies of 1998. "Virus" is easily worse. It didn't help that the print I saw was so underlit that often I could see hardly anything on the screen. Was that because the movie was filmed that way, or because the projector bulb was dimmed to extend its life span? I don't know and in a way I don't care, because to see this movie more clearly would not be to like it better.

"Virus" opens with berserk tugboat captain Donald Sutherland and his crew towing a barge through a typhoon. The barge is sinking and the crew, led by Jamie Lee Curtis and William Baldwin, want to cut it loose. But the barge represents the skipper's net worth, and he'd rather go to the bottom with it. This sequence is necessary to set up the skipper's avarice.

In the eye of the storm, the tug comes upon a drifting Russian satellite communications ship. In the movie's opening credits, we have already seen what happened to the ship: A drifting space cloud enveloped a Mir space station, and sent a bolt of energy down to the ship's satellite dish, and apparently the energy included a virus that takes over the onboard computers and represents a vast, if never clearly defined, threat to life on earth.

Sutherland wants to claim the ship for salvage. The crew board it, and soon are fighting the virus. "The ship's steering itself!" one character cries. The chilling answer: "Ships don't steer themselves." Uh, oh. The methods of the virus are strange. It creates robots, and uses them to grab crew members and turn them into strange creatures that are half-man, half-Radio Shack. It's up to Curtis, Baldwin and their crewmates to outsmart the virus, which seems none too bright and spends most of its time clomping around and issuing threatening statements with a basso profundo voice synthesizer.

The movie's special effects are not exactly slick, and the creature itself is a distinct letdown. It looks like a very tall humanoid figure hammered together out of crushed auto parts, with several headlights for its eyes. It crunches through steel bulkheads and crushes all barriers to its progress, but is this an efficient way for a virus to behave? It could be cruising the Internet instead of doing a Robocop number.

The last half hour of the movie is almost unseeable. In dark dimness, various human and other figures race around in a lot of water and flashlight beams, and there is much screaming. Occasionally an eye, a limb, or a bloody face emerges from the gloom. Many instructions are shouted. If you can explain to me the exact function of that rocket tube that turns up at the end, I will be sincerely grateful. If you can explain how anyone could survive that function, I will be amazed. The last shot is an homage to "The African Queen," a movie I earnestly recommend instead of this one.


Popular Blog Posts

"You Were Expecting Someone Else?" Why a Non-White James Bond is the Franchise's Logical Next Step

Not only would Idris Elba make a great James Bond, the franchise has been building towards casting an actor of color ...

Grace and Nature: On Criterion’s Release of The Tree of Life

On the new Criterion release of Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life, which includes a new 50-minute-longer extended cu...

Jonah Hill, Emma Stone Star in Netflix’s Daring, Brilliant Maniac

A review of the phenomenal new Netflix show starring Jonah Hill and Emma Stone.

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus