DirectorGuillermo del Toro
Release Date(s)1997 (September 27, 2011)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: A-
It’s hard to imagine now but when I saw Mimic in 1997, I really didn’t know who Guillermo del Toro was. I’d heard of his 1993 feature debut Cronos but hadn’t seen it yet. I went to see Mimic with no expectations, didn’t have much opinion of it one way or the other, and promptly forgot all about it.
Watching the new director’s cut of the film, I realized just how thoroughly I had forgotten about it. In fact, over the years I had begun to confuse it with another 1997 monster movie, The Relic. Consequently, I can’t say with any authority how the director’s cut improves on the theatrical version.
I knew producer Bob Weinstein had clashed with del Toro over the film and had it recut against his wishes but that’s about it. If nothing else, Mimic is no longer just another eminently forgettable monster movie. This version definitely bears del Toro’s stamp.
Mira Sorvino stars as an entomologist called in to assist the Center for Disease Control in combating a virulent plague that threatens to wipe out an entire generation of children. She genetically engineers a cockroach, the Judas Breed, that destroys the disease-carrying roaches. Three years later, she’s married her CDC contact (Jeremy Northam) and the Judas Breed has been all but forgotten. But instead of dying out like it was supposed to, it survived, reproduced, and evolved, turning into a gigantic insect that can camouflage itself as a human. Along with transit officer Charles S. Dutton and Giancarlo Giannini, searching for his missing autistic son, the group descends into the abandoned subway tunnels beneath New York to exterminate their creation.
Even with del Toro’s new tweaks, Mimic is far from perfect. But at least now you can get a sense of what might have been possible if he had been given a freer hand. There’s a religious, philosophical, and evolutionary subtext buried deep down in the film. Since del Toro was never quite able to address it, it remains somewhat muddled. You can tell he’s trying to say something but it’s never quite clear what that might be. Still, you can hear echoes of it.
If the movie fails to achieve its more ambitious purpose, it mostly succeeds as a gross-out killer cockroach movie, which I’m sure is exactly what Guillermo del Toro didn’t want to hear. But the movie looks fantastic, the creature designs are imaginative, and the cast is fairly successful in their work. Sorvino doesn’t entirely register but there’s a fun caustic dynamic between Northam and Dutton and Josh Brolin has some amusing moments as Northam’s assistant.
Whatever quibbles you may still have with the movie, Lionsgate has done a terrific job bringing it to Blu-ray. This is, by design, an extremely dark film but the transfer captures it expertly with fine grain and deep, rich shadows that leap with detail when necessary. Even better is the robust 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, a phenomenally active track that’s just as good at exploding to life as in capturing the subtle skittering noises of the Judas.
Extras include a video prologue with del Toro promising as honest a look at the movie as is legally permissible. He more than delivers with a biting, funny, candid, and extraordinarily interesting audio commentary that I’d rank as one of the best commentaries ever recorded. Del Toro returns with a new video interview titled Reclaiming Mimic. The other two featurettes, in standard definition, appear to be vintage special features, although as far as I know neither was included on the previous R1 DVD. A Leap In Evolution looks in-depth at the creature effects, while Back Into The Tunnels is an on-set making-of, including brief interviews with the cast and crew. The disc also includes a few deleted scenes, storyboard animatics, a gag reel, and a digital copy disc.
After listening to the commentary, it becomes clear that the version of Mimic that Guillermo del Toro wanted to make can never be reassembled. It was simply never shot. But now, we have a version that’s much closer to his intent and is certainly more memorable than the forgettable theatrical version. While the initial announcement of a distribution deal between Lionsgate and Miramax was greeted with some skepticism, it’s truly heartening to see Lionsgate taking better care of some of these movies than the original owners ever did.
- Dr. Adam Jahnke