Ah, The Asylum! Where would we be without you? Well, this site would be about 10 reviews lighter, and I’d have been able to do something useful with my life (not really).
The latest film they’ve decided to give the mockbuster treatment to is “After Earth”, the M Night Shyamalan directed, Will / Jaden Smith starring film about…not sure. I’ve not seen it and I’m not going to, but the snippet of it I caught on some movie show indicates it’s something post-apocalyptic, or possibly on an alien planet. On the streaming service I used, this film was billed as “Apocalypse Earth”, but the opening titles only called it “Alpha Earth”, which is a rather clever bit of soundalike wordplay on their parts.
We start with events already in progress. Looks like aliens are blowing up the Earth, and soldier Adrian Paul (star of Highlander: The Series and a lot of films like this) is escorting people to one of Earth’s arks, designed to scatter humanity to the four winds and ensure our survival. Problem is, the captain (Richard Grieco, an Asylum veteran) sets off with Paul still on the ship, they all have to go into cryogenic sleep…
…and they wake up an unspecified time later while crashlanding on a habitable planet, finding themselves almost instantly in a fight where other humans are being chased by “invisible” captors. This is as good a time as any to reveal one of the foundations of the Asylum formula – while they rip off the titles of other peoples’ films in order to make a quick buck, they never rip off the plots. That way, it’s more difficult for them to get sued by the big studios, but what they do rip off is a bunch of other plots and mash them all together. This is mainly “Predator”, then “Predators” (the one with Topher Grace, not the sequel to Arnie’s original) with chunks of “Avatar”, “Aliens” and “Planet of the Apes” thrown in.
Will our heroes succeed in getting off this hellish planet and making it home? Just how long did the cute local they meet on their travels spend in makeup every morning? Whereabouts is the sort-of-villain’s accent from? These are questions where you’ll need to pay for the answers with 90 minutes of your time.
It’s not the worst Asylum film I’ve ever seen. I like Adrian Paul from my insomnia-filled student days when “Highlander” used to be on every night at 3am, so it’s always fun to see him starring in something. But it’s not great, or even all that good. I sometimes get the impression that there are young, hungry filmmakers working for Asylum, with all sorts of cool ideas on how to elevate the material they’ve been given, but there’s a guy who holds the purse strings who insists on the absolute bare minimum. For instance, here’s a scene inside the cockpit of some futuristic fighter spaceship, and they’ve obviously just popped into the local aerodrome and filmed for ten minutes inside an old plane (old fashioned dials and switches everywhere).
I’m still waiting for Asylum’s Roger Corman moment. Corman, as I hope most of the readers of this site know, was famous for making super-low-budget genre films back in the 60s (he’s still going today). If he found a decent-looking set he could use for free, he’d write a film purely to utilise the set. But in amongst all that, he gave some great people their starts in the business (Jack Nicholson, Joe Dante, Paul Bartel, among many others) and made some incredibly good films – “The Masque of the Red Death” and other Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, “Little Shop of Horrors”, “The Trip” and “Death Race 2000”, to name a few. He was a man with a strong social conscience and an eye for nascent talent; Asylum could and should be doing the same.
Rating: a shrug followed by a football that almost hits you in the crotch