Movie Review: Phenomenon

© 1997 Dan Heller

Quick Review: you could see it...

What I liked: John Travolta continues to surprise me by taking on new and different roles from his previous movies. He shows a real talent for portraying personas from different backgrounds, temperments, or cultures. In this case, he plays a character who obtains intellectual powers far beyond anything humanly known (or possible?). He evolves very nicely from a simple small-town guy into an intellectual powerhouse, but maintains his warmth, compassion and basic values.

What I didn't like: many interesting issues are presented, but few are actually questioned or explored deeply. It seemed as though the director wanted us to consider such issues on our own, which we can do, but aid from the characters would give them slightly more depth than what we're left with. As a result, I felt a mild "empty" feeling when the climactic ending arrives. Interpersonal relationships are well-defined and character development was sufficient, but there was a perceived lack of empathy, especially given the dramatic events that exude emotions.

Forest Gump gets smart: I can't help but compare the movie in some odd way to Forest Gump because of the way people treat others and the pity and compassion we feel for the main characters because of their "handicap." I feel that Tom Hanks was more effective at allowing us get to know him and feel strongly about/for him, especially when the ending comes, and you realize just how taken you had become with him throughout the movie, yet might not have seen it coming. In Phenomenon, Travolta doens't surprise us with how well we ended up feeling for him; you don't get as absorbed by his nature or character as you do for the Forest Gump character. But I don't fault Travolta for this. It's mostly the script and his surrounding movie environment to blame.

Final comments: it's a good date movie, if you don't go for any other reason. I recommend it because it is a good movie in and of itself, despite the mildly-intended negative comments above. You'll walk away thinking, "aww, that was a good movie," but you won't walk away thinking it was a great movie.
Photo Gallery