The two “Interceptor Force” installments represent the early days of SyFy (then Sci-Fi) Channel original movies. The first movie wasn’t made for them, much like “Epoch”, but was bought in soon after and became a ratings hit; SyFy then quickly greenlit sequels for both. “Epoch: Evolution” was rubbish, with a garbled religious message (the main actor’s son was the Messiah), so it’s nice to see a sequel that is an improvement in several ways over its predecessor (while still having plenty of weird stuff to mock and talk about).
We’re once again treated to an opening scene of Olivier Gruner being a badass, so you know he’s got legit skills for later – in this instance he beats up a bunch of Chechen freedom fighters in a scene that makes you realise how important fight choreographers are to movies. One of my pet hates is when the hero beats up a bunch of people, but the guy who’s fifth in line does nothing to defend himself despite having ages (relatively speaking) to draw his gun, move away, whatever. Oh, and right at the end of the “cold open”, before he leaps off a bridge right into the cockpit of a hovering fighter-jet (!), he drives a bike away from the rebel camp, but all the soldiers are able to keep up with him on foot, comfortably. But luckily, this “we have no idea what we’re doing” attitude fades away quite quickly and we’re on to more normal action.
It turns out another alien has come to Earth, with a remarkably similar skill set to the fellow from part 1, only more super-powered. This one can vapourise you with a touch and then assume your physical appearance, and, quickly infiltrating a Russian army base (it got shot down over Eastern Russia), it…blows up a Wooden Tower! Yes, our favourite prop in the movies is back, and as my friend Rich said last night, you really ought to store your high explosives and barrels full of flammable material somewhere else, because one shot and it explodes, sending the guard inside flying to his death. RIP Wooden Tower! We’ll see you again soon!
As most of the cast died at the end of the last movie, and Brad Dourif’s gambling debt to the producer was paid off via his appearance in part 1, we need some new cast members. Boss of Interceptor Force (which has a sweet new logo that the camera focuses on for far too long) is Nigel Bennett, best remembered for the evil chap in all-time great cheesy 90s vampire TV show “Forever Knight”; Gruner’s sidekick / best mate is the great Roger Cross (“Continuum”, “Dark Matter”, “24”), the weapons expert is a former German “Big Brother” contestant who also had a music career at the time; the tech expert is Adriana Sikes, played by Elizabeth Gracen, who was the comic relief / love interest in later seasons of “Highlander: The Series”; and the scientist who’s not really part of the team at the beginning is Adrienne Marie Wilkinson, best known from her run on “Xena: Warrior Princess”. If you’re a fan of genre TV, this movie is populated with its royalty!
The first thing to note is the budget is substantially bigger than part 1. The team are given fancy new weapons, including one that fires razor-sharp chains, and another that scrambles a thing’s molecules – they don’t look like cheap cosplay props, which is a definite improvement. The sets are bigger and better too; as well as blowing up a few buildings, the inside of the nuclear power plant where about half the movie is set looks good too. There’s a scene on a plane which looks like it was actually filmed on a plane, a huge step up from part 1 (although watching the cast jiggle with turbulence, I couldn’t help but notice how bad they all looked).
The movie seems like it’s going to be similar to “The Hidden”, the great alien-loose-on-Earth movie, but ends up more as a cross between that and “The Thing”. But, it never really commits to one or the other, so there’s no tension when they’re wondering “are you human or not?” and basically no use of the camouflage trick to infiltrate a group of humans. It wanders close-ish to “Alien” territory, if we’re being honest, just an “Alien” that’s able to insult the life choices of the main cast (there’s a surprising amount of back-chat from our alien friend, who’s – wouldn’t you know it – the partner of the alien they killed in the first movie). Oh, one of the sleazy Russian soldiers who’s there to help out I-Force (nice try for a cooler name), it turns out, stored a bunch of black market nuclear warheads inside the nuclear power plant, and the alien figures out how to detonate them, in revenge for its mate, I guess?
I like the characters and like their rapport with each other, so kudos to director Philip Roth this time. The relative absence of a team member who’s secretly plotting against the other team members is quite refreshing to see in a movie like this, so kudos again. Okay, there’s a romance at the end which wasn’t so much as hinted at during the previous 90 minutes; and the expert at the Interceptor Force base who suddenly appears with 30 minutes to go and then becomes sort-of a main character is a curious choice (also, he doesn’t look like an actor, at all, so maybe he’s one of the producers who insisted on a part). But by and large, no arguments on that score.
There’s a couple of logic holes, which begin to irritate the longer the movie goes on, though. The constant transformation of the creature makes no sense – in several scenes, the switching between its actual form and one of a handful of humans it’s vapourised makes its job much more difficult. It appears to have control over it, as it does sneak out of a few spots thanks to being transformed, but it’s still pretty dumb. And then there’s the death of a main character, which comes out of nowhere and really brings the tone of the last 20 minutes down. It feels like someone didn’t read their “scriptwriting for dummies” book, as the tension that built up between them should have been resolved in a fight, or friendship, not in “whoops, I shot you because I thought you were the alien”. I did begin to wish, too, after the millionth bullet was fired at it and it did nothing but annoy it a bit, that they’d stopped and tried to figure out a slightly better plan. How often do you need to fail at something before you give up? Quite a lot, is the answer, if you’re anyone in this movie.
This is a strong entry for SyFy, though. Gruner never really got better as an actor, but he tries, bless him, and they’ve surrounded him with a capable and charismatic bunch. The action is solid, if occasionally a little less than logical, the scenery is lovely (when they’re outside) and decent-looking (when they’re inside).
Rating: thumbs in the middle