While 1999’s Jamie Lee Curtis vehicle Virus was a major flop, the disastrous horror hybrid did boast a killer conceit that had not been seen in earlier sci-fi movies. Occasionally, a superb premise ends up becoming an unwatchable finished film. Whether this is due to meddling from over-involved executives, wrong choices made throughout the project’s production, or a lack of connection between the director and the material, even great ideas can beget terrible movies from time to time. Hollywood’s history is filled with expensive misfires like this, particularly within the sci-fi genre.
Even Paul WS Anderson, who directed superb cult classic Event Horizon, went on to make the disappointing Alien Vs Predator. That sci-fi showdown is a perfect example of how an ingenious premise – in this case, a cinematic face-off between two titans of the sci-fi horror movie genre – can end up becoming an infamous mistake thanks to the wrong rating, the wrong pacing, and convoluted plotting. However, some failures are harder to trace. For example, one of screen veteran Jamie Lee Curtis’ only forays into the sci-fi genre, 1999’s Virus, took a premise that seemed like it was destined for blockbuster gold, and turned it into a financial catastrophe.
Virus Could Have Been A Sci-Fi Masterpiece
1999’s Virus has the dubious distinction of being what Jamie Lee Curtis maintains is the worst movie she has ever made. There is plenty of competition for that dishonor, as proven by the long list of Jamie Lee Curtis horror movies, but the actor’s comments on Virus speak for themselves. Per Curtis (via IGN), “It’s just dreadful… That’s the only good reason to be in bad movies. Then, when your friends have [bad] movies you can say ‘Ah, I’ve got the best one.’ I’m bringing Virus.” Despite how accurate this summation is, Virus did have an incredible concept wherein an alien force takes over a spaceship and gradually merges the bodies of its crew with the ship itself.
Based on a Dark Horse comic, Virus took the stunning, unsettling production design of Alien and Event Horizon a step further by making its seemingly deserted space shuttle the movie’s main villain. However, while Alien’s Xenomorph was hidden in shadow for much of the movie, Virus made the regrettable mistake of doubling down on this approach. Much of Virus’s fast-paced action was comically under-lit, leading famous critic Roger Ebert to bemoan that he could not make out what was happening in the movie’s final act. Although Virus’ impressive cast included Curtis and movie legend Donald Sutherland, the movie also had no sense of humor, making its shortcomings even worse.
What Went Wrong With Virus
Inexplicably, Virus was turned into a big-budget blockbuster, complete with tie-in action figures, despite being a violent, R-rated thriller. The 1990s was filled with adaptations of cult comics that tried to turn adults-only source material into mainstream juggernauts – an approach that doomed everything from Tank Girl to Judge Dredd, and one that spelled disaster for Virus. Like the relentlessly bleak Alien 3, Virus took itself far too seriously, under-lit action scenes, and filled its cast with unlikeable characters. Unlike Alien 3, Virus was marketed as a mainstream sci-fi movie, and its box office failure proved no amount of tie-in toys could turn body horror into a summer blockbuster.
Virus’ Wasted Idea Almost Killed Sci-Fi For Jamie Lee Curtis
While Jamie Lee Curtis has starred in some horror duds, this has never stopped the actor returning to the genre. Similarly, Curtis made some acclaimed comedies in the 1980s and 1990s, only for her efforts in the genre to earn less critical acclaim in the 2000s. Never one to be deterred, Curtis regained comedic acclaim in the 2010s with scene-stealing roles in the likes of Scream Queens. However, Virus’s failure clearly shook the otherwise unflappable actor. It was her last foray in the sci-fi genre until Everything Everywhere All At Once, which arrived some 23 years after Virus’ failure.
While Everything Everywhere All At Once and Virus could not be less alike in terms of tone and content, the two projects do fit under the broad umbrella term of the sci-fi movie genre. That said, it will likely be some time before Curtis signs on for another big-budget adaptation of a sci-fi story that leans into gory action. At least, that is what many might have assumed before her major role in Eli Roth’s Borderlands movie was announced. Another R-rated action movie that aspires to become a blockbuster hit, this outing will hopefully avoid recreating Virus’ impact on Jamie Lee Curtis’s future in sci-fi movies.
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