Welcome back to our series of SyFy Channel reviews, where we attempt to be the site which tells you everything you need to know about every SyFy Channel original movie. Well, at least all the ones I can get hold of, anyway. Today’s effort gives us the acting gifts of a former Miss World contestant, a former boxer and the bad guy from “Commando”!
What we have here is a modern “homage” to Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Lost World”, where a bunch of people get lost in the jungle and find a plateau on which the dinosaurs never died out – to be fair, the characters recognise the similarity themselves and reference it, which is refreshing. The plot is otherwise nice and simple. A group of soldiers is tasked with rescuing a bio-chemist who’s been kidnapped by Marquez, a South American terrorist; Marquez also has a warhead which can contains some chemical weapon, and he kidnapped the biochemist in order to have her turn it airborne and kill tens of thousands. This is achieved fairly quickly, but on the way out their helicopter is damaged, and flying off course lands in a mysterious, uncharted valley with some long-thought-extinct creatures in it.
Add in, back at the base, a military official who wants to level the entire area to both kill the terrorist leader and destroy the toxins, and a Colonel who’s trying to save his guys, and you’ve got yourself a movie. Two of the three top-billed actors (Corin Nemec, as the Colonel, and Vernon Wells, as the Army suit) were filmed in one location, presumably as the production could only afford them for one day, and Wells went so far as to do his entire role sitting down in the same spot, which would be odd if it weren’t the second film we’ve covered where he does this, along with 2010’s “Shadows In Paradise”.
The team of soldiers is quite odd, in terms of casting. They’re US Army, for one thing, yet over half of them are English, including the Captain (with the rather odd surname “Steakley”) played by Gary Stretch, a former boxer who’s been acting since the mid-90s. His performance brought to mind Lewis Collins, the British TV actor turned failed 80s action-movie star, although Stretch at least shows some recognizably human emotions. There are a bunch of ageing, not-exactly-professional English guys in this, which made me wonder if they were ex-boxer buddies of Stretch’s, but I honestly couldn’t be bothered to do more than cursory research, which turned up nothing. Marquez is a terrible performance by a guy called Israel Saez de Migel – although he does, at one point, drop a speech about how US corporations will ruin this dinosaur land if they ever got their hands on it, so he suddenly doesn’t seem quite so villainous any more.
The two main female roles are interesting-ish. Alicia Ziegler is Corporal Sarah Haldeman, and she’s just one of the guys, obviously able to cope with any situation – she’s also one of the rare characters who appears to have a life going on behind her eyes. I thought “this is refreshing” until the scene where she has a wash in the lake, in just her undies. I guess it’s a sign of progress that the only T&A is not the average B-movie sort? Yeah, that’s a hair too fine to split, perhaps; although the woman you’d expect to fulfil that role, former Miss World contestant and long-term Spanish language TV star Natascha Berg, is reasonably dressed throughout (she’s not a great actor either, but that’s by the by). Oh, apart from when she’s kidnapped at the beginning and she’s wearing her knickers, I forgot that bit. Dammit this entire paragraph is worthless now!
You’ve got an entire main cast of semi-amateurs, with the two main pros basically being sideline guys, and the guys with a decent number of credits (both Marquez and the scientist who they discover living with the dinosaurs) overacting awfuly. I’ve not even got to the dinosaurs yet! They’re all terrible, to the extent you’d be embarrassed to see them on a low-budget TV documentary, and the movie ought to be ashamed of itself.
Honestly, it’s another *shrug* SyFy movie. Nothing much happens, it’s not too terrible, the acting is bearable, the only proper embarrassment is the effects. Writer Rafael Jordan, while writing some of the worst SyFy efforts of them all (“Crystal Skulls”, for one), has written so many (he’s presumably SyFy’s in-house guy) that it’s going to run relatively smoothly; that’s about as positive as you can be about this one. He even slips in an in-joke – the name of the country they’re in at the beginning is Val Verde, the same as the country that Arnold Schwarzenegger must liberate at the conclusion of all-time classic “Commando” (which Vernon Wells, of course, was in). It’s sad that that was my favourite moment.
Rating: thumbs down