Evolution (2001 film)

Evolution is a 2001 American comic science fiction film directed by Ivan Reitman. It stars David Duchovny, Orlando Jones, Seann William Scott, Julianne Moore, and Ted Levine. It was released by DreamWorks Pictures in the United States and by Columbia Pictures internationally. The plot of the film follows college professor Ira Kane (Duchovny) and geologist Harry Block (Jones), who investigate a meteorite crash in Arizona. They discover that the meteorite harbors extraterrestrial lifeforms, which is evolving very quickly into large, diverse and outlandish creatures.

Evolution was based on a story by Don Jakoby, who originally wrote it as a serious science fiction horror thriller film, until director Reitman hired David Diamond and David Weissman to re-write much of the script into a comedy which Don liked. Shooting took place from October 19, 2000 to February 7, 2001 in California and Page, Arizona, with an $80 million budget, and the film was released in the United States on June 8, 2001. The film grossed $98.4 million internationally. A short-lived animated series, Alienators: Evolution Continues, loosely based on the film, was broadcast months after the film was released.

A large meteor crashes in the barren Arizona desert late at night and is witnessed by would-be firefighter Wayne Grey. The next day, local college science professors Ira Kane and Harry Block investigate the crash site, discovering the meteor has landed in a cavern and 'bleeds' a strange blue liquid when scraped. They quickly learn that the meteor harbors extraterrestrial nitrogen-based microorganisms that condense millions of years of evolution within a matter of hours: the next day, the microscopic organisms have evolved into asexual fungi and flatworms that cannot breathe oxygen, and aquatic life the day after that.

The site is soon sealed off by the U.S. Army. Ira and Harry ask General Russell Woodman and the clumsy CDC Dr. Allison Reed to aid in their research, but their efforts fail when it is revealed Ira was discharged from the army after a failed experiment of his went terribly wrong. Woodman steals Ira and Harry's research, forcing them to infiltrate the base to get another meteor sample. To their shock and awe, the caverns now harbor an alien rainforest teeming with tropical plant and animal life, including flying insects and carnivorous plantlife. That night, a large reptilian creature fatally mauls the owner of a local country club, and the next day a dog-sized frog-like animal attacks two elderly ladies in their own home. Ira, Harry and Wayne find a valley behind the home filled with suffocating dragon-like creatures, which they theorize cannot yet breathe oxygen and are escaping from the meteor site through the local caverns. However, a newly-born dragon quickly adapts to the earth's oxygen and terrorizes a shopping mall before being gunned down by the trio.

The positions of carbon and nitrogen relative to arsenic and selenium in the periodic table are referenced in the film.

With the media becoming increasingly involved in the alien attacks, the Governor of Arizona visits the site demanding answers. Allison believes that the aliens will engulf the United States in two months, and Woodman suggests a napalm strike to destroy the meteor's contents and the town around it. Though the governor does not want to bomb the community, the base is suddenly attacked by primate-like creatures that wound several members; this convinces the governor to approve Woodman's napalm strike. Disgusted, Allison quits the CDC and joins Ira's crew. Ira later realizes that intense heat triggers the aliens' DNA and that the initial impact to earth activated its evolution. Allison's pleas to Woodman are ignored and the town begins evacuating for the impending bombing strike. Looking at the positions of nitrogen and carbon on the periodic table, Ira theorizes that selenium might be poisonous to the aliens as arsenic is to Earth's carbon life. Much to Ira's surprise, two of his dumbest students, Deke and Danny Donald recall that selenium sulfide is the active ingredient in Head & Shoulders hair shampoo, which they decide to use against the alien organisms.

Wayne procures a firetruck and fills it with the shampoo with help from his college students. However, Woodman's napalm strike goes off ahead of schedule before the team can try their plan, triggering the entire alien ecosystem to fuse together into a single immense amoeba-like blob that stands hundreds of feet tall. The giant mass begins multiplying through mitosis, which it would do infinitely until the country was overtaken by thousands of these gigantic creatures. The team maneuvers their firetruck underneath the mass and discovers a rectal-like orifice to spray the shampoo into; moments before the creature splits into two, the team is successful and the monster explodes. The governor declares Ira, Harry, Wayne and Allison heroes; Wayne is made a fully credentialed firefighter, and Ira and Allison begin dating.

Later, Harry, Ira and Wayne are shown promoting Head & Shoulders for both hair care and fighting the aliens.

Sarah Silverman, Richard Moll, Tom Davis, Jerry Trainor, Miriam Flynn, Caroline Reitman, Steven Gilborn and John Cho have smaller roles.

Evolution was based on a story by Don Jakoby, who originally wrote his draft in 1998 as a serious science fiction horror thriller that was described as "humorless and violent" and "The Thing meets The Andromeda Strain, envisioning John Carpenter to helm his idea.[3] Ivan Reitman loved the script but saw potential in the film being successful as a comedy, calling it the "modern-day successor to Ghostbusters" he had always planned to make. Rietman hired writers David Diamond and David Weissman to re-write much of the script and combine it with elements of another screenplay, a comedy written by Todd Phillips and Scot Armstrong about three friends who hunt aliens.[4] Although Jakoby was initially upset about the script's change in tone and atmosphere, Diamond and Wiessman worked closely with him to ensure the final product was something he was happy with. The original script ended with the alien organisms evolving into an ultra-intelligent humanoid species that climaxed with a "battle of wits", but this ending was deemed not exciting enough and was replaced with the climax seen in the final film.

Shooting took place from October 19, 2000 to February 7, 2001 in Page, Arizona and around the greater Los Angeles, California, particularly in the Santa Clarita, California region. The shopping mall scenes took place at the Hawthrone Plaza in Carson, California, and scenes taking place at the local college were filmed at Cal State Fullerton.[5] The first scene to be shot was the monster attack on two elderly ladies. David Duchovny turned down an unspecified role in Star Wars Episode III to instead star in this movie.[6] Tippett Studio was put in charge of designing over 18 various aliens in the film, each different than the last.[7] Sony Pictures Imageworks handled the animation for the alien flatworm sequence with some additional VFX provided from Pacific Data Images.[citation needed]

The film's music score was composed by John Powell, conducted by Gavin Greenaway, and performed by the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra. A soundtrack album was released on June 12, 2001 and is available on Varèse Sarabande.[8]

Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 43% based on 138 reviews and an average rating of 4.94/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Director Reitman tries to remake Ghostbusters, but his efforts are largely unsuccessful because the movie has too many comedic misfires."[10] On Metacritic, the film holds a score of 40 out of 100 based on 32 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[11] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade B+ on scale of A to F.[12]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times the film 2.5 out of 4, and wrote: "it's not good, but it's nowhere near as bad as most recent comedies; it has real laughs, but it misses just as many real opportunities."[13] Todd McCarthy of Variety called it "A consistently amusing action romp."[14]

Evolution was made into an animated series called Alienators: Evolution Continues, which ran on Fox Kids from 2001 to 2002.