Dreamscape is yet another potboiler from the Hollywood SF factory. Potboilers have an undeservedly bad reputation. Sure, they're made exclusively to make money, but, when well done, they can give value for your admission price. I don't want to see Bergman, Kurosawa, and Renoir all the time. Dreamscape is a good enough film, and I doubt if anyone expected more from it. I certainly didn't, so I wasn't disappointed. On the other hand, I also wasn't surprised.

The premise is that those with strong psychical ability can project themselves into the dreams of others. Once this is done, they can become active participants in those dreams. If they're good enough, they can even shape them to fit their desires. Now, throw in a handsome young psychic blackmailed into participating, a kindly old researcer who means well, a sinister rightwing government type who's backing the experiments, an obviously looney psychic, a beautiful doctor who doesn't want to jeopardize the experiments by falling in love, and a President whose nuclear related nightmares are impelling him towards disarmament. It shouldn't take you too long to figure out the major plot twists. Even the minor characters are formulaic. A little kid beset by nightmares obviously exists to provide out hero with a nasty monster to fight and to demonstrate his abilities. An expose-type author is marked for death the moment we know what he's after.

Any surprises in the film are on a very low level, such as just what will pop out at what point in a nightmare. This isn't the way to make a good movie, but it is the way to do a genre picture. The audience for such a film isn't after brilliant insights and novel plot twists. They just want the rollercoaster to follow the same tracks as usual, and it doesn't take much from the enjoyment that you can see the whole ride's progress from the moment you get on.

The cast does solid work. Dennis Quaid is strong and resourceful as Our Hero. Kate Capshaw finally gets a break from screaming impotently (the bulk of her assignments in Indiana Jones and Best Defense). Max von Sydow plays the kindly scientist and Christopher Plummer the evil head of an intelligence agency (I suppose that they just flipped a coin to see which of them got which of the two parts; both actors are old hands at these sorts of things). Eddie Albert is convincing enough as the President. He plays it as least as well as Ronnie.

The effects are OK, though the dream snakeman is animated rather unconvincingly. One or two of the images in the dream sequences are striking, but overall these are not very imaginative dreams. Photography and music are about par for this kind of thing. Joseph Ruben,the director, managed to get in a few good touchs but was ultimately unable to convince me that I hadn't seen this all before.

In one sense, Dreamscape is a very good movie. You are almost certain to know beforehand whether or not you will like it. I liked it more than, say, The Philadelphia Experiment, since it really knew where it was going, but much less than Raiders of the Lost Ark, since it couldn't provide any surprises on the way.

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