For those of you who demand very strict fact-checking from my reviews, this isn’t really a SyFy Channel original movie at all – it was produced independently but then SyFy bought it outright, showed it regularly and produced their own in-house sequel with most of the original cast returning. Those of you who enjoy snark will be pleased to know that this different route to the screen doesn’t mean it’s any better than the average movie from this lot, although its popularity did contribute, indirectly, to their decade-plus run of original movies. Boo!
4 billion years after…something…we’re in Bhutan, the tiny China-adjacent kingdom, where an enormous, half-mile high ”torus” (very very approximately, an upside-down pyramid, but just look at the picture above) has emerged from the Earth, at the same time as a medical miracle happens – a small child who just died is brought back to life. The Bhutanese government invite the Americans so they turn up with army guys and a few scientists and all sorts of fancy equipment, and first have to figure out how to get in before they can explore the wonders of the torus. Then the Chinese turn up as they’re naturally interested in having a look at it, and things get complicated…
Those of you who’ve seen “2001”, “Aliens” or “The Abyss” will recognise quite a bit of this (no alien creatures though, sorry) with its “something is coming back to check on humanity” message; and those of you who’ve seen other SyFy movies will notice the small, dark cramped places doubling for Ambassadorial offices and military briefing rooms. The torus itself looks great, an interesting design and they’ve bothered to make the inside suitably non-human too; I only wish they’d spent that time and effort with the rest of it – the news broadcast, for instance, looks terrible, and they use the exact same backdrop for a Presidential press conference later in the movie. Why do low-budget movies struggle so much with the news?
There’s also a weird fail when it comes to Buddhism – Bhutan is 70% Buddhist, but they make reference at the beginning to a “holy man” (a bloody opportunistic one, given how quickly he gets word out) who’s made some meaningless statement about God and the torus. Of course, Buddhism doesn’t have a God in it, so it just sounds weird – plus, we see a few monks later on, and they’ve all got full heads of hair, a definite no-no. Just make a tiny bit more effort, movie!
It’s got quite the cast – Uncle Phil from “The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air” plus David Lo Pan and one of the other guys from “Big Trouble In Little China”, in the “That Guy” stakes; then there’s William Zabka in a tiny thankless role; Ryan O’Neal as a Government fella, and David Keith as the main scientist who just can’t play by the rules, man (amazingly, he and Keith David have never worked together, which is a mistake on some casting director’s part surely). It’s also one of the last films that was properly rude to China – they’re shoot-first-ask-questions-later types and muscle in where they’re not invited; plus, their US ambassador is weirdly obsessed with noodles.
I hope we wouldn’t be quite so quick as a species to destroy something like that, with such awesome power, but that’s what the competing armies in this decide to do. The ending is sort of confusing, where we’re told rather than shown what we’re supposed to take away from the movie. Okay, I can just about get it, but…it really feels like they ran out of money and had to wrap it up as quickly and efficiently as possible, which is certainly a possibility as the torus is a really nice special effect and must have cost a lot.
So, there’s not really a lot to say about “Epoch”. It’s a nice idea wrapped in a ton of padding, plus it does a fairly poor job of making us believe the stakes are high. I shall remain slightly intrigued about where the sequel will take us.
Rating: thumbs down