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Reviewed by Rick Klaw, ©

Format: Movie
By:   Gary Felder (director) and Scott Rosenberg (writer)
Genre:   Science Fiction
Released:   January 4, 2002
Review Date:  
RevSF Rating:   4/10 (What Is This?)

Originally planned as a 30 minute segment for the scrapped anthology film The Light Years Trilogy, Impostor so impressed the Miramax brass that they ordered a full-length feature film. They should have stuck with the original.

Based on the short story by SF legend Philip K. Dick, Impostor is a tale of identity and paranoia in a future (2070 to be exact) that is ravaged by an intergalactic war. Weapons expert Spencer John Olham (played by Gary Sinise) attempts to prove and regain his identity after he is accused of being an alien android. Not just any android, but a near perfect replicant of a human down to the molecular level complete with memories of the original. Housed within these androids are powerful bombs made up of organic material and undetectable by any human means.

First published in 1953, the original PKD story is a classic of paranoia and was the first time he dealt with what would become a central theme of his work: Am I human? Or am I just programmed to believe I am human? Considering it was written so early in Philip K Dick's career, Impostor is an amazing piece of fiction. The movie is a very faithful adaptation to the original story. This is not necessarily a good thing.

The concept works wonderfully as 12 page story but is overlong as a feature length film. The original short story works, because essentially this is a wonderful "idea" story but not strong on plot or characterization. Hard to make the "idea" concept work for 90 minutes. Director Gary Fleder and adaptor Scott Rosenberg obviously have a great affection for Philip K. Dick, which earns them some brownie points with this reviewer. It all makes me want to see the original shorter version.

Unlike another recent genre film, Impostor really needed its prologue. Too bad they screwed it up. The prologue adequately brings the viewer up to date about the Earth/Alpha Centuari conflict even though it does cause a bit of confusion. During the introductory sequence, the order of events is muddled. It's difficult to tell what happened when and in what order. (Olham tells us that the cities are covered in energy domes, but then he remembers launching rockets as a kid with his father. It takes a second to realize that the domes came after the rockets. And that is but one example.)

The prologue isn't the only part that is difficult to follow. All of the fight scenes are a mess. The action takes place in dark alleys or rooms and it is never clear who is fighting whom, what they are doing or even who is winning! Several filmmakers seem to think a convoluted fight scene adds realism to a film, but give me a break.
The acting is adequate and the special effects are better than average, but no better than expected from ILM. Almost everything is adequate or at the best mediocre in this movie. It has the feel of an Outer Limits episode.

Impostor plays with some interesting (if well-trodden) concepts, but ultimately it is a small screen film. Some things play much better on TV and I suspect this one will. Besides, rumor has it that the DVD will contain the original short film, so in the meantime read the original Philip K. Dick short story and wait for the small screen on the Impostor.

Rick Klaw is the fiction editor for RevolutionSF.

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