This Giant Papier-Mâché Boulder Is Actually Really Heavy (2016)

This Giant Papier-Mâché Boulder Is Actually Really Heavy first published by SciFiNow

When arrested super-geek Jeffrey (Daniel Pujol) drags womanising Tom (director/co-writer Christian Nicolson) and avowedly SF-hating Gavin (Lewis Roscoe) to a genre convention, the thirty-something Aucklanders are pulled into the lo-fi world of an old movie (Space Warriors In Space). The trio must then try to find a way back to Earth from this ‘parallel universe’, even if Jeffrey (now calling himself Kasimir) feels right at home in his new fantasy milieu. Meanwhile, they find themselves joining forces with Councillor Emmanor (Sez Niederer) and the reptilian Professor Voss Gottlieb (Jarred Tito) against the evil-guffawing battlelord Froth (Joseph Wycoff) and his heavy-lisping, side-bunned companion Fralligay (Tansy Hayden).

“Whoever did this was on a real low budget,” observes Gavin as he examines the control panel on their space ship. His words might as well refer to This Giant Papier-Mâché Boulder Is Actually Really Heavy itself. For Nicolson’s film is an amateurish DIY love letter to, precisely, sci-fi DIY amateurism, and to those pioneering pre-CG days when fantasy adventures were evoked through threadbare mise en scène, cheap costumes, dodgy props, paper cutouts and stock sound effects (Wilhelm screams abound here).   

The movie-come-to-life premise, familiar from The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), The Last Action Hero (1993), Galaxy Quest (1999) and The Final Girls (2015), enables a deconstructive take on the genre’s trappings and tropes, as Nicolson not only pastiches the old-school SF of different decades past, but also exposes the very artificiality of its sets and scenarios. This postmodern ‘meta’ approach partially immunises the film against charges of wooden acting, leaden dialogue and stiff production – for these, after all, likewise characterise the films and TV series that Nicolson is affectionately parodying. Less welcome is the meandering pace and overextended duration. The result, though clever in concept, is unfocused, leaving much of the Python-esque comedy lost in space.  

Strap: Christian Nicolson’s feature debut is a high-concept, lo-fi sci-fi parody.

© Anton Bitel