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Harpies (2007)

Harpies reviewStarring Stephen Baldwin, Kristin Richardson, Peter Jason, Velizar Binev, Jonas Talkington, Atanas Srebev, Dessi Morales

Directed by Josh Becker


Jason Avery is an ex-cop now working as a museum security guard. Armed thieves break in intent on stealing a priceless obelisk that looks like a glowing crystal dinosaur egg that’s stored within this vault-like stone structure that looks like someone merged a Tardis with the Stargate. The scientist/anthropologist/whatever behind the theft talks of the obelisk giving him the power to control harpies, demonic winged female monsters of classic mythology. Through a series of contrived events, the obelisk opens a time portal that Jason promptly falls into, crash landing over a thousand years in the past in a land threatened by evil harpies. Initially only concerned with getting home, Jason gets roped into having to save the villagers, all of whom proclaim him to be this great “harpy slayer” that prophecy says would one day come to save the kingdom. A lot of hullabaloo involves this gold amulet and a mortal villain seeking to gain control of the obelisk in order to hatch a harpy army for him to command and conquer with. If you’ve ever seen Army of Darkness then you can pretty much fill in the rest of the blanks.

In fact, if you’ve ever seen Army of Darkness then you have absolutely no reason whatsoever to ever watch Stan Lee’s Harpies. Even if you haven’t seen Army of Darkness there’s really no reason whatsoever to ever watch Stan Lee’s Harpies.

Any similarities between Stan Lee’s Harpies and Army of Darkness are not a coincidence – especially since the director is a long-time cohort of Sam Raimi’s. Any similarities between Stan Lee’s Harpies and a good movie are non-existent. Sometimes a movie is so bad it’s good and sometimes a movie is so bad it’s just plain bad. Harpies is just plain bad – not even laughably bad. This is a movie that you can tell exactly what they were trying to do and still watch them fail pitifully every step of the way.

How pitiful does it get? So pitiful that I began feeling bad for pretty much everyone involved with this film’s creation. Poor quality CGI, impoverished production values, uniformly bad acting, and a clichéd script: all the stuff you expect from a Sci-Fi Channel original but this time with an extra added layer of embarrassment. There were scenes so poorly staged that it was cringe-inducing to watch.

Harpies reviewAnd for a movie called Harpies there sure weren’t that many harpies filling the screen. Every so often a woman in a cheap nightgown with frizzy hair, fangs, too much eye shadow, fake-looking wings, and a propensity to make squeaky snarls that sound like a mogwai in heat takes the screen (or their animated computer effects double does) to look appallingly stupid, flap their phony wings, and slash someone up with their claws. As pathetic looking and utterly devoid of personality as the harpies are, they’re still what the movie is titled after and deserved more screen time that they’re given. Heck, I’d take the harpies over the boring villain named Bor-something and his quest to unleash a harpy horde of which the bulk of the plot is devoted to.

Even if every other aspect of Stan Lee’s Harpies wasn’t an unmitigated failure, the film would still be doomed by the Stephen Baldwin factor. The man is no Bruce Campbell, that’s damn sure. Few people are. But this is a film that’s trying to make Stephen Baldwin into Ash-lite and Baldwin just does not have the sardonic charisma to pull it off. Campbell’s Ash was a self-absorbed nincompoop who still managed to do develop some courage and defeat the Deadites in battle while dishing out sarcastic one-liners. Baldwin’s Jason Avery is just a guy taking things way too seriously much of the time given the film’s tone and there’s no zip, no punch, nothing to Baldwin’s line delivery, not that the quips he spouts off are all that witty to begin with. What counts as clever here is having Jason say “nifty” in the same manner which Ash said “groovy” only without anything resembling personality in his voice. Stephen Baldwin gives a thoroughly disinterested performance that reeks of the producers’ having paid him enough to show up and act but not enough to act like he could give a shit.

I didn’t crack a smile once outside of a slightly amusing gag involving the difficulties of firing a catapult. Aside from that one brief moment there’s not a damn thing that works in the slightest. Shows like “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” and “Xena, Warrior Princess” (which the maker of this film even directed episodes of) did a vastly superior job mixing mythology, campy humor, and action like this one a weekly basis. It’s painfully obvious the movie they were trying to make was more ambitious than the Sci-Fi Channel budget would allow, evidenced by the sparse cast clad in Renaissance Fair attire; though that’s something of an amazing statement to make given this really didn’t appear to be all that ambitious a film, evidenced by how little action there is with more dull skulking about the forest and time wasted on the romance between Baldwin and a local blonde babe than on the actual harpy-fighting which last time I checked was supposed to be the whole point of the film. Even the Army of Darkness finale with Baldwin battling the final harpy inside the museum in present time is a dead zone of imagination.

Exactly what Stan Lee had to do with the creation of this movie is anyone’s guess. His name is clearly being used to market it even though the “STAN LEE’S” part of the title is notably missing from the opening title sequence. All I know for certain is that this is the second Sci-Fi Channel original movie with Stan Lee’s name before the title (the first being Stan Lee’s Lightspeed from last year), both of which now share the distinction of being amongst the worst original movies the Sci-Fi Channel has ever produced. I’m thinking Mr. Excelsior should just stick to comic books.


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Jon Condit