Monday, January 16, 2012

It's the End of the World As We Know It....


It was End of the World Weekend at the Syfy Channel!

I love science fiction movies, especially those in which the fate of the planet is in jeopardy. One of my all-time favorites is 1951's When Worlds Collide. Armageddon, Deep Impact, Day  After Tomorrow, The Core...you name it, I've probably seen it a dozen times. I'll even watch the really, really cheesy ones...which brings me to the Syfy Channel's original movies.

They're so cheesy they should be served with crackers. And maybe some wine.

Their end-of-the-world movies follow a formula that incorporates the following elements:
1. Earth is faced with an extinction level event or the total destruction of the planet...
2. One lone scientist knows the truth and is capable of preventing the event, but arrogant government officials not only won't listen to him/her, they block his/her efforts to act in mankind's best interests...
3. There's a love interest, but the pair are separated by distance or marital issues...
4. The scientist is always aided by a pair of young geeks or slackers to save the day...
5. The separated lovers are reunited to usher in a new day!

In Saturday night's Collision Earth, the story opens with a trio of astronauts (two men and one woman) headed for the planet Mercury. Given that Mercury is the planet closest to the sun and the temperature there is something like a million degrees (okay, that's an exaggeration, but not by much), I'm not sure how astronauts can go there without ending up extra crispy. A major solar event occurs as they're about to land, knocking Mercury out of orbit, and in the process magnetizing it. Pieces of the rogue planet break off and go flying into space...in Earth's direction.

Not Venus, the planet next door. Earth. It's always Earth. Our home planet must be wearing an intergalactic Kick Me sign. Any time an asteroid, comet or planet runs amok, it ends up in Earth's path.



The spacecraft is in jeopardy, and two astronauts are killed. Only the lone woman, Victoria, remains alive, struggling to free her spacecraft from Mercury's magnetic pull. Earth's communications satellites are taken out by a solar flare, and her only means of contacting her husband, James, back on Earth, is through a tricked out two-way radio-in-a-briefcase built and operated by nerdy Christopher and Brooke.          

James, of course, is persona non grata with the US government. His former boss can't stand him and won't listen to him. James, a scientist and Nicolas Cage wannabe, has developed a weapon known as Project 7, capable of saving the planet. For whatever reason, it's floating around on an asteroid and has suddenly been activated. Isn't an asteroid a strange place to put our last line of defense? Don't those things travel throughout the galaxy? What if the asteroid's not in the neighborhood when we need it?

I think I know why James got fired.

Add to the mix some bizarre events related to Mercury's new magnetism messing with our gravity--like floating cars and moving mailboxes. In a scene worthy of Wile E. Coyote, an angry old SOB shooting at the young heroes gets a flaming vehicle dropped on him. 

As James and colleague Matthew race against time to activate Project 7, they encounter the requisite carjacker who steals their SUV and, of course, is killed when a magnetic surge picks up the vehicle and slams it down again. Carjacker, meet Karma.

For a while there, I thought poor Victoria was going to do a Bruce Willis and have to stay on the asteroid to manually activate Project 7.  

I won't ruin the ending for anyone who might still want to see it--Syfy does frequently re-run their films--but before you assume the Earth was saved at zero hour, remember Syfy's previous end-of-the-world movie, Annihilation Earth, in which the experiments conducted in a giant collider created a man-made black hole that swallowed the planet without so much as a burp afterward. 

Most of Syfy's movies are much-lower-budget versions of theatrical films. Example: last year's hit from Marvel Studios, Thor. Syfy's "original" movie, a Thor knockoff, featured a guy who looked and acted like a bouncer in a redneck bar. 

Syfy's answer to Deep Impact was Post Impact. Earthstorm was all too similar to a network TV movie, Impact, in which damage to the moon threatened life on earth. There were also a few Day After Tomorrow and 2012 knockoffs.

Original films? Isn't that false advertising? 



19 comments:

  1. No, it's "we don't have an idea or a budget so we have to look at what's coming out in the big studios for the next year and rip that off instead" advertizing....

    This isn't the sort of thing that you occasionally get two studios doing the same subject within a few months, like two Wyatt Earp biopics or two volcano movies... this is pure ripoff, and badly done at that!

    I think one of these things turned up on the Space channel here, featuring a cheesy looking sabre toothed tiger.

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  2. I've seen that one, too.

    Pure fromage....

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  3. Not to mention that most of these "death from space" movies have so many holes that could be filled simply by tuning in to "The Universe". That's why I got so pissed at the movie 2012. Nuetrinos don't mutate. They're not alive. They are so small, they pass through atoms. You certainly wouldn't have enough of them to heat up the inside of the Earth and not the outside.

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  4. I love "The Universe!" The Science Channel has some good stuff, too, like "Through the Wormhole."

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  5. I like the "kick me" sign idea...LOL

    I'm not a huge sci-fi fanatic, but I did like Deep Impact and Armagedden...However, this end of the world stuff is getting a bit much. I don't know why our planet seems to be the nerd of the bunch, so therefore gets "picked on", but I guess we wouldn't have much of a movie if we didn't.

    However, I'm not into cheese...

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  6. Collin thinks we should watch all of these movies back-to-back on December 21st.

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  7. I used to like SyFy when Seymour or Elvira introduced them during the late, late show. Back when Godzilla threatened the planet or locusts. I guess all the electronic SyFy engineering and interplanetary stuff reminded me too much of science and math class. (Not my favorites). Thanks for sharing this one about Mercury and poor James. I might like this one.

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  8. It was a good premise, but as Mike says, there were so many holes in the plot one could throw asteroids through them.

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  9. Norma,

    Yes, indeed, there are a lot of look alike films out there, and when it is with a smaller network and not the major companies, we know they don't have the budget like the big guys, but I agree with you...where are the original films? And yes, even the big studios are guilty of recycling movie scripts/formulas because it is so much cheaper for them, and they just add a new twist and so many people fall for it. Anyway, if they really wanted an original and interesting movie with a new twist, they should be willing to hire a great writer; in order to have a great film, there has to be a great story to base it on. Anyway, on our days off, we all do enjoy watching even these 'B' films, too. At least it is a change of pace. However, they should consider that viewers will have questions and they we are smarter than they give us credit for. Mercury...come on! Yes, I'm sure in reality they would have been crisper than toast! We need new blood out there writing more exciting and more believable stories for the silver screen. Take care!

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    1. Lena, I suspect they hire unemployed soap opera writers!

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  10. At least some of those SyFy movies give a nod in the general direction of actual science fiction -- that's more than can be said for a lot of teir programming.

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    1. They've done a good job with a few things. Battlestar Galactica got rave reviews--I couldn't get into it because I had been a big fan of the original, which was more of a Star Wars-type fantasy. But I have to admit it was well done.

      I did like the prequel, Caprica.

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  11. I like good SyFy movies, but the cheesy ones make me roll my eyes. And in truth I have always wondered why just one person knows how to fix the problem and everyone else is out in lala land. Loved this post.

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    1. Carole--I know you're a big Star Trek fan. You never did finish watching our Voyager DVDs. You know you can borrow them whenever you want....

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  12. OMG !
    I just laughed through out your post today... especially the Earth has a kick me sign part, so funny !

    I just love the Syfy movies because of everything you said... they are so bad and when am up late working and can't sleep there is nothing as bad/good as a crazy movie to chase the pain away.
    My all time favorite was "Lost Treasure Of The Grand Canyon" set in the Old West were a hidden Inca (?) people where thriving with an Dragon. whwahahahahahah !

    But to be serious for a moment... the former Syfy channel was so much better. But for a OMG moment can you believe they actually made this movie ? I am so with you.
    I did like Caprica, and Stargate series along with the Stargate Universe that was canceled.

    On a side note... Great poster !

    Godzilla fan... parsnip !

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  13. They're a guilty pleasure, aren't they?

    I liked "Monster Ark"--the premise being that God had given Noah another job that wasn't mentioned in the Bible.

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  14. I believe the term used most often now, when describing those syfy originals is "crap-tastic/" lol!

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  15. I like the horror and hacker movies on Sy-Fi. The other stuff is like CHeez-whiz. Processed. With lots of fake stuff and fillers.

    Shelly

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  16. Stargate is a personal favourite of mine, but then it's not cheesy. Some of the stuff that came later from the same director (10 000 BC, I'm looking at you) were cheesy....

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