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Entry updated 2 February 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (1997). Dimension Films. Directed by Guillermo Del Toro. Written by del Toro and Matthew Robbins, based on "Mimic" (December 1942 Astonishing Stories) by Donald A Wollheim writing as by Martin Pearson. Cast includes F Murray Abraham, Josh Brolin, Charles Dutton, Giancarlo Giannini, Jeremy Northam and Mira Sorvino. Theatrical cut 105 minutes; Director's Cut 112 minutes. Colour.

An entomologist (Sorvino) combats disease-carrying cockroaches by releasing a Genetically Engineered super-roach which will exterminate them in mating; but her creation survives and breeds in the New York subway system, where it evolves to giant size and develops the ability to mimic and feed on humans.

Written initially as a segment for Miramax's abandoned Light Years anthology (see Impostor), del Toro's Hollywood debut was upgraded to a full-length feature at script stage. Production was marked from the start by clashes with the studio, who insisted that the bugs be cockroaches (to the cliché-hating and entomologically scrupulous del Toro's dismay) and imposed a series of script changes to make the film more Alien-like, with the result that a film intended to eschew gunshots, explosions, and action sequences saw its director, in his words, "cattle-prodded anally into learning to direct action", a skill which served him well in his later US films. John Sayles and Steven Soderbergh were among those who contributed drafts, and four second units, one under Robert Rodriguez, were assigned to shoot additional material, sometimes precisely that rejected by del Toro, who then reshot much of it himself anyway. The 2011 Director's Cut stripped most of this away apart from some of Rodriguez' footage, reducing the more conventional genre elements, and reinstating a subplot about the heroine's fertility. Despite its fraught making, the film broods a nest of interesting and effective conceits around the notion of predator mimicry, the hubris of Scientists, and humanity's supersession by insect mimics, as urban society grows increasingly insectiform and susceptible to biological forces. The studio rejected del Toro's original ending, a homage to the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers in which Sorvino's character would escape on to a subway platform to realize that all the other passengers are roach mimics.

Of the two mutually unconnected DVD sequels, Mimic 2 (2001) posits one bug missed by the first film's extermination; the film mimics del Toro's blue-and-amber palette without, however, appearing to understand its coding. Mimic 3 Sentinel (2003) is much more interestingly conceived, restaging Wollheim's original story as a homage to Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954), and is very finely shot (in Bucharest, playing New York City), with only the necessary concessions to the formal exigencies of genre. [NL]


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