I hope people are still fooled by The Asylum. That some kid right now is opening a present from his Grandma, and inside is “Age of Tomorrow”, and there’s a note attached that says “I thought this was still at the cinema! Enjoy, little Timmy!” fills me with joy.
Amazingly, that kid will enjoy the Asylum’s latest mockbuster, named after the new Tom Cruise film but taking its ideas from “Armageddon”, “Predators”, “Aliens”, “War Of The Worlds” and “Independence Day”. But initially I was worried they were cannibalising their own films for ideas, when it’s announced that an asteroid a quarter the size of the moon is heading for Earth. Hold on, didn’t we just see an one, of identical size, in “Asteroid vs. Earth”?
After quickly establishing that Asylum favourite, father-daughter separation, we get a rain of mini-asteroids in preparation for the big one, and the main strands of story are introduced. Father is a firefighter, and his crew are a wisecracking bunch (the axe gag near the beginning is brilliant); then there’s a “retired” army guy with some serious issues, called back in for one more job. Backing up the Army guy is Robert Picardo (off of Star Trek: Voyager), Kelly Hu, and his gang of badass soldiers, the “Roughnecks”. So far, so good, Asylum! You have the pieces in place, set them going into awesomeness!
The Roughnecks, with Hu in tow, set off for the asteroid to do a bit of “Armageddon”-style detonation. I hated “Armageddon”, the stupid film based on the stupid idea that it’s easier to train miners to be astronauts than it is to train astronauts to be miners; but luckily this gets past that stage rather quickly and we discover that not only is it not an asteroid but an alien attack ship launching platform; also, it contains a teleport device thing that sends them to the aliens’ home world. The aliens appear to be beaming people off the street back to their home planet, for purposes we never really become aware of – but there’s weird pressure chambers and medical equipment involved. Will they be able to stop the aliens, save Earth, and will the firefighter be able to save his daughter?
These questions are, amazingly in this one instance, not rhetorical. This film is action-packed, and for the Asylum insanely so. That list of “inspirations” I mentioned above is a good indication of how much action is packed into this film, so you get waves of attack and defence and heroism and the mysterious alien plan. Main cast members drop like flies too, which adds to the sense of “where are they going with this? Is there going to be some time-travel reset?” I felt bad when I noticed the sound of footsteps and drilling while they were on the asteroid (no air in space, so everything would be silent) because there’s a real sense everyone was trying their hardest with this one – and that comment caused my wife and I to pause the film for a few minutes and discuss the “if a tree falls in the forest and there’s no-one around to hear it, does it make a sound?” philosophical question, so thumbs up this movie.
The acting is almost universally strong, with the exception of Robert Picardo’s second-in-command, who must have bought his role in this movie via Kickstarter or something – he’s spectacularly rubbish. The Roughnecks all have characters, when someone loses a friend or relative, there’s a real sense of loss…add that to really decent special effects, a strong visual style and one of the most bummer endings in recent cinema and you’ve got an absolute top-drawer Asylum effort.
Not too surprising when you see the crew – directed by James Kondelik, who also directed the excellent “Airplane vs. Volcano” with his brother Jon. I think if they can make a film this interesting with the mini-budget the Asylum provides them with, then if they get their hands on a decent amount of money I predict really good things from them. It’s not perfect, like I’ve said, but it wasn’t boring for a second and had a lot of interesting ideas in it.
Rating: thumbs up