Sunday, October 5, 2008

10.5 Apocalypse (2005)

So, what's 4 and a half months among friends?

Anyway, last time, I talked about 10.5, a made for TV disaster movie from 2004. I believed it was a surprisingly good TV movie which didn't seem to leave much room for a sequel. I mean, they knocked off part of California, it can't get much better (worse?) than that can it? Well, in 2005, a sequel came, and sure enough, they figured out a way to make it better (worse?).

10.5 Apocalypse starts out as you may expect for a sequel to a TV movie, with a greatest hits compilation of the events from the first movie. But wait? What's this? I don't remember a tidal wave and an ocean liner. So, step one of this sequel is to show that we didn't get the full story last time. And that while all heck was breaking loose on the mainland, the Poseidon Adventure decides to remake itself in the ocean simultaneously. So, even though the movie comes about a year later, the movie itself happens at the same time, and in the few days soon after the events of the first movie.

And to be pseudo-timely (a year and a half late), the quake also causes a tsunami which obliterates Hawaii. And by obliterate, I mean a wave that crashes into the TOPS of the high rises. And Mount St. Helens erupts, just for good measure. This is a pretty action packed 7 minutes. And a LOT of ground to cover. Or so we think, because...the tsunami and destruction of Hawaii is not returned to at all. It's just like "Hey, this bad thing happened, we should mention it."

So, after the breakneck action of the first 10 minutes, we slow down to meet our characters. Fortunately, if you saw 10.5, you'll recognize the most major players such as Dr. Samantha Hill (Kim Delaney) and President Hollister (Beau Bridges: please God no sweaty basketball scenes please please). Then we meet some our presumed cannon fodder for disaster, the citizen rescue workers. While there are thousands of workers, we focus on two brothers who are sent to work on the relief effort. Pop quiz time: when you have two brothers, who are very close and don't like to always play by the rules, and you send them into danger together, what happens? Right. One will live, one will die...but which one? YOU MAKE THE CALL!

I can already tell, without even looking that we have the same director on this movie. How do I know? Stupid zooms on every character every time they say an important line. I think this one time they zoom so close, I can see the person's cerebellum. Oh, and after a few hundred zooms, we get scenes of mountain biking. This guy loves him some extreme sports.

Time for the next big disaster shot of the movie. And this time it's a dormant volcano erupting. The CG in this movie isn't as solid as the first 10.5 movie, but the eruption is passable. The two poor, unfortunate souls we meet here are two people riding a ski lift, sadly, their time in the movie is short. So there's no real connection to them, they're just fodder for the avalanche of ash and lava.

Plot time. The 10.5 earthquake in the first movie was just the opening salvo in an event deep under the Earth's surface that is much larger than anyone anticipated. I love this idea. We've all heard of Pangaea, the big "supercontinent." Well, what they believe is happening now, is that Pangaea is reforming...right now. I can't make this stuff up. After hundreds of millions of years of moving away from each other, the tectonic plates miss each other, and want a big group hug, today. Time for disaster movie scientist cliche #245: the theory that this idea is based off of comes from a scientist (no so coincidentally, Dr. Hill's retired father) that was seen as a bit of a crackpot in his day, and his later work is seen as foolish. So say it with me THAT MEANS HIS THEORY IS PROBABLY RIGHT.

I'm going to go ahead and say it now, about 45 minutes into this nearly two hour 40 minute movie...they don't have enough interesting material. How did I come up with this hypothesis? They spend nearly fifteen minutes showing two guys digging out someone trapped under a hotel. Riveting stuff there, 15 minutes of "You see him? You got him? You got him? He can't breathe!" Yeah, there's a whole lot of rather uninteresting filler here. That's one place where I can see this movie is not up to the quality of the first. Immediately after this long rescue scene, we have a five minute scene of Dr. Hill's father PLAYING POKER. And really, that's all it is, a poker scene. Sure it's probably setting something up later, but for now we're just waiting for something to happen.

Well, in lieu of more disasters, we are treated to the personal drama section of the movie. Watching FEMA guys yelling at a pair of rescue team brothers, and then watching them yell at each other makes me wonder, what the heck happened to the boat in the opening credits? They just forgot about it didn't they? Heartless, I tell ya.

Sacrificial main character time. Something weird isafoot at Lake Mead, Jordan (Dr. Hill's main assistant, and while not really mentioned - possible love interest, this whole time) decides he needs to check on the situation...alone. FORBODING!

And sure enough not more than 5 minutes later, as Jordan flies towards Hoover Dam, he notes that the water temperature is pushing 120 degrees, and that the water is overflowing the dam when suddenly: DAM BURST!!!!! And it just so happens they didn't have the foresight to, I don't know, FLY THE HELICOPTER ABOVE the water level?

Just as an aside, two people closely related to main characters are now in Las Vegas. Could this mean... FORBODING??? (Yes, I'm going to run it into the ground, because there's just not much going on otherwise in this movie).

Plot twist time: 60 million years ago, the central plains of North America were underwater. Well, all this seismic action is eventually going to mean this sea is going to come back too...cutting the continent in half. Store this away for now, it may not seem like a lot now, but it becomes a big deal.

But first...remember that forboding I mentioned about characters in Vegas? Yeah, well, it's time to see what happens to a miniature model of Las Vegas on a shaky table. As the credits for the first half of the movie roll, we see that the harder Las Vegas shakes; the slower gravity goes, and despite everything shaking side to side, the buildings all fall perfectly straight down.

Part Two:

Wow, what a shame, in the time that the credits rolled, and they caught us back up on what we just saw...Las Vegas fell down. I feel gypped, I wanted to see that. But, miracle of all miracles, our side characters both survived.

Ooh, ooh, now it's time to just knock stuff down. Las Vegas fell down, Mount Rushmore is crumbling, a 60 mile long fault line just shows up in South Dakota...making it the first important thing to ever come from South Dakota! Thanks folks, I'm here all week.

APING THE CLASSICS: In the Poseidon Adventure, there's a moment where our hardy band of survivors decide to split from the supposed know-it-alls on the boat. Well, we have this exact moment in this movie. The elder Dr. Hill takes the lead, and decides that the casino they are all stuck in is underground, so the best way to survive is to climb up to the top of the tower. While the rent-a-cop security guy thinks it's best to go out the doors of the casino...despite the fact that dirt is falling on them from above. One group lives, one group dies...YOU MAKE THE CALL!

While we're on the topic of the Poseidon Adventure, I remember noting when I watched both it, and the Poseidon remake that whenever characters show a strong religious conviction...they usually bite it. I don't know if that says anything about the mindset of the filmmakers, or is a coincidence, but we have this same scenario ready to play out. We discover that one of the rescue workers has family in Houston, but they are refusing to leave, because God will save them. FORBODING!

I know I tend to talk a lot, and go into detail about what happens during these movies, but this second half is basically "wow, that fault is moving fast" cutting back to "Hey, we are remaking the Poseidon Adventure in convenient Earthquake form over here!!" There's just not much else going on.

APING THE CLASSICS II: One of the characters says "I've got a bad feeling about this" 'nuff said there. We know what's going to happen to that guy.

5 minutes pass...

And boom goes the dynamite. Moving on...

Time for the winner of the most ridiculous scene of the movie award:

You remember our brothers? Well, they have an argument as to whether to follow the book, or to play by their own rules. Well, older brother (Dean Cain) wants to be the hero, and go off book, but is resisted by the little brother which boils up into a fistfight DURING AN AFTERSHOCK. Don't worry about saving your lives guys, or the lives of the people you are supposed to be finding, punching each other in the face is way more important!

Remember when the country splitting in half was the big event? Turns out it's not, not even close. It turns out this big fault line runs through the largest nuclear power plant in the country (whose bright idea was it to build a nuclear reactor on a fault line?), that could make Chernobyl look like a spilled glass of milk. So, what plan do they come up with? We need to look no further back than the first 10.5 except instead of nuking the place, they are going to blow up a bunch of natural gas wells, and hope it reroutes the fault around the nuclear plant.

Time to answer the first YOU MAKE THE CALL: question: Yep, surprise of surprises, they actually killed off Superman in this movie. Dean Cain's character is the brother that dies. Which wasn't what I was expecting, but I guess we hadn't had a big name actor die in this one yet...and that does seem to be disaster movie cliche least one big name dies dramatically and heroically. He died saving his brother, his brother's pregnant wife, and a random showgirl from a collapsing building.

While they Doctors are getting all the bombs set up to reroute the fault line. There's a lot of yelling, a lot of shaky cam, and appropriate amounts of tenson building. And then ooh ahhh EXPLOSION TIME, as the natural gas lines start blowing up. And, as you expect, it works. The plant is safe, and seemingly, Houston is as well, as the fault completely stops. Let the celebation begin!! No cross continent split! Hooray.

To quote the great Lee Corso, not so fast my friend. Read my review of 10.5 again, at least the last bit about the random turbo ending that breaks off a piece of California. Nothing ends the way it should in a 10.5 movie. As the Hill's are standing there, taking in the view, ruminating on the day. All of a sudden, and completely randomly, the fault line opens up again. Literally, with 5 minutes left in the film just like in 10.5 chaos happens again to take away our Hollywood happy ending, the fault makes a bee line for Houston. And the fate of the religious family I mentioned earlier (that I had figured the movie forgot like that boat in the ocean) comes to its ultimate, and tragic end.

We end this piece of TV movie, with the fault hitting the Gulf of Mexico...the worst CGI plume of smoke ever shoots up, and the fault line fills up with water. Flooding hundreds of miles, and making a couple new great coast lines for wonderful development opportunities. For some reason, this filling of the fault sends everyone into crying fits like I've never seen before. Very strange. The final scene, much like the final scene in the first 10.5, is a satellite shot of the planet, a look at our new country...and a hokey speech by President Bridges.

This movie is nowhere near as good as the first 10.5. The second half in particular is almost shameful in just how blantantly they steal not only the entire plot for one of the best disaster movies ever, but also steals several plot devices from the first movie made just the year before. The acting again, is pretty decent. Although Beau Bridges is even more wooden as the President. At the end when he started crying, I half expected him to start leaking maple syrup.

Overall, 10.5 Apocalypse rates a B-. It's still a decent watch, although if you want to watch it, you probably should watch 10.5 first. It's a much more memorable movie.

Well, that wasn't so bad. I might do this again sometime. Actually, I'm looking at writing about a DVD that parodies disaster movies using puppets, along the lines of Team America.

Oh, and oh yeah...they never found the other group that didn't climb out of the casino. If you chose that, you made the right call.