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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Attraction (Prityazhenie) movie review: when ET is dreamy

Attraction (Prityazhenie) red light

MaryAnn’s quick take…
It has a spectacular opening sequence, and features a few minor tweaks to alien-invasion tropes. But the teen romance at its center reduces this to a very inconsequential first contact.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): big science fiction geek
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
male director, male screenwriter, female coprotagonist
(learn more about this)

A few years ago, Fedor Bondarchuk directed the first ever Russian film shot in 3D IMAX, the historical action drama Stalingrad, which was a huge box office hit there. Now he’s back with Attraction, another huge hit in 3D IMAX in Russia last year. The film is not, alas, being released in 3D IMAX in the UK, which is a shame only because the spectacle of its opening sequence might just about make the movie worth paying for, too experience it in such a dramatic format. Though the stupidity on the part not only of humans but also of superadvanced ETs that is required to make that opening sequence happen kinda negates the coolness of it.

During a meteor shower over Moscow, a rather gorgeous orb of an alien interstellar spacecraft is damaged by one of those tiny rocks, which makes it unlikely to have survived its journey to Earth in the first place. But never mind. The Russian military decides to try to shoot the alien ship down over this major city — population of Moscow: 12 million — and it actually succeeds in causing major damage even with our puny crude weapons! (See: the absurd fragility of said craft.) Later we learn that Earth is quarantined from outside visitors because of our extreme aggression, so you’d think that anyone planning to break that quarantine would harden their vehicle against our primitive barbarity. But never mind.

Attraction is a little bit Starman, a little bit The Day the Earth Stood Still, and a lot Twilight.
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The wounded spaceship’s slow descent across the Moscow skyline, cutting a trough of destruction that involves countless buildings, is intense — the casualty numbers that Russian TV news later announces seem way too low — and clearly inspired by a slew of Hollywood disaster movies. What comes after also recalls Hollywood sci-fi, mostly Starman and The Day the Earth Stood Still… though only if you squint hard enough. The primary influence on Attraction — when you realize this, the title suddenly makes sense — seems to have been, of all things, teen romances such as Twilight. Screenwriters Oleg Malovichko and Andrey Zolotarev set up a triangle among teen Yulia (Irina Starshenbaum), her violent dudebro boyfriend Tyoma (Alexander Petrov), and hunky, sensitive alien Hijken (Rinal Mukhametov), who popped out of the ship for a look around and got a bit stranded. There’s never a question whom Yulia will go for, so much of the film is about Tyoma seething and punching people while Yulia helps Hijken get back to his ship and teaches him about life on Earth and about humanity. There is an encounter with a dog, and a “funny” scene about Earth food. Because of course there are.

“I’m just dancing with my new alien boyfriend. Can’t a girl get some privacy? Jeez!”

“I’m just dancing with my new alien boyfriend. Can’t a girl get some privacy? Jeez!”

There are a few minor twists on the tropes of the genre to be found: I like that what’s happening here isn’t an alien invasion per se, more an accidental breakdown; and these aliens need our water, but not for the reasons we’ve seen before. And the cliché of human-looking aliens speaking an Earth language is inadvertantly underscored as one of the more ridiculous motifs of the genre by the fact that Hijken speaks Russian. That makes just as much sense (or lacks as much sense) as it does for Hollywood aliens to speak English, but the foreign (to us) langauge and the necessity of reading subtitles moves the dialogue out of the realm of something we absorb without thinking into something we’re forced to work harder to parse.

But storywise, Attraction fails to say anything new, and fails to cover familiar ground with any freshness. How is Moscow, Russia, and the rest of the world dealing with first contact? We barely have any idea! Yulia is the only person on Earth — well, except for her geeky schoolmate “Google” (Evgeniy Mikheev), whom she must enlist to provide some SFnal infodumps — who knows for sure that the aliens mean no harm. But the whole world can see that the damaged ship is just sitting there quietly repairing itself, and that the only aggression has been on the humans’ part. Yet the existential upset the incontrovertible proof of other intelligent life in the universe would bring to humanity is primarily represented by a young man’s rage at being dumped. When Tyoma leads a mob of Muscovites to attack the crashed ship with shouts of “This is our Earth!,” he might as well be shouting “That’s my girl!” Yes, he’s the villain, and humanity’s aggression doesn’t serve us well here, but Attraction feels like the most inconsequential scolding of violent human tendencies possible.


Click here for my ranking of this and 2018’s other theatrical releases.



red light 1 star

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Attraction (Prityazhenie) (2018) | directed by Fedor Bondarchuk
UK/Ire release: Jan 19 2018

BBFC: rated 12A (moderate violence, sex, language)

viewed at home on PR-supplied physical media or screening link

IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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  • RogerBW

    I suppose They Want Our Women isn’t so very far from My Woman Done Left Me.

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