Megafault – “A crack in the world has started… we have 24 hours to stop it”

Disaster movies form a special subset of the broadest definition of the horror genre. They tend towards one or both of two themes, namely flat-out survival or reunification with family, friends, etc. They also always, at least in my experience, include some of the craziest, most off-the-wall pseudoscience you will ever find in life anywhere.

Megafault focuses on five people. Amy Lane (Brittany Murphy, King of the Hill, Sin City) is a seismologist with the United States Geological Survey. After Charlie “Boomer” Baxter (Eriq La Salle, ER, Coming to America) blows up a mountain in Virginia, earthquakes shoot out east to Washington, D.C., and west on a path of destruction towards the Pacific Ocean, so Amy’s mentor and the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency Mark Rhodes (Bruce Davison, X-Men, Harry and the Hendersons) sends her out to investigate. Meanwhile, Amy’s husband Dan Lane (Justin Hartley, Smallville) takes their daughter Miranda Lane (Miranda Schwein, Megafault) to the family home in Denver, Colorado. Various things get destroyed, there’s a phenomenal amount of explosions and really bad special effects, and in the end, the earth is saved once more (duh).

Top left – Amy Lane; top right – Dan and Miranda Lane; bottom left – Charlie “Boomer” Baxter; bottom right – Mark Rhodes

I’m gonna say this once to get it out of the way now – the acting was bad. It was flat, it was uninspired, and it almost seemed like they had to try harder to be as bad as they were than they would have to be halfway decent. These people see whole cities getting destroyed, and just point it out to each other like they’re looking at a particularly interesting piece of art or something. And the special effects were worse – way too many fake explosions, images of fissures that looked like they had been Photoshopped over the film footage, and horrible CGI flight sequences. Awful, awful stuff. For instance, in the opening scene, as Boomer blows up a mountain, the explosions look like they lack depth, instead being two-dimensional. Moreover, somehow the mountain collapses (without sending debris and rubble flying every which way) despite the explosions seeming to come from the surface and not underground (ignoring the fact that at the very opening of the movie, trucks are seen driving out of an underground mine, presumably after having placed dynamite at various points in the mine). Then, once the ground continues shaking from tremors and such, Boomer quickly realizes that something’s wrong and spots fissures heading straight for the miners closer to the explosions. Predictably, however, all of them are oblivious to the way the earth is disappearing in front of them until it’s too late and they get swallowed as the surface splits apart. Because actually managing to see the earth fall away in front of you is too much to ask. Of course, the fissure continues on its course and makes straight for Boomer, who tries valiantly to outrun it before falling into the growing crater himself.

After the earthquake hits D.C., Amy and Mark are talking about how it’s a first-of-its-kind event for the area, reading 7.0 on the Richter scale; yet somehow, after she flies out to the apparent epicenter of the event, she’s the only geologist there. In fact, except for the helicopter pilot, she’s the only person at the site – there are no rescue crews, there are no excavation crews, there are no awkward bystanders trying to get a better look at what happened; it’s just her and the pilot, until they hear Boomer blowing his truck’s horn. But if there was such a large earthquake, and people knew where it was, why on earth were there only two people who went out to see what happened? Moreover, once Amy manages to rescue Boomer, aftershocks and more fissures send them running back to the helicopter. This time, however, despite the inability of Boomer to outrun fissures earlier while driving a truck, somehow the three of them manage to run back to the helicopter in time to get in and get it airborne, getting off the ground just before the place where the helicopter had landed disappears. So how is it that three people on foot can outrun what one guy in a car couldn’t?

Jumping now to Dan and Miranda, who were put on a military plane to get them back to Denver – en route, the C-130 Hercules they are in collides with another plane (air traffic control towers in Indianapolis having been destroyed, thereby eliminating all possibility of planes to ever know what’s going on ever again), losing an engine. Obviously, a plane that big can’t fly with only three of four engines working, right? Wrong. Now, had part of a wing been destroyed, then I could understand the thing crashing; but the movie only presents the damage as being to one engine, somehow causing the plane to crash. I’m not a pilot (nor do I play one on tv), but follow links here, here, and here to read more things supporting my statement, some of them from actual pilots.

I know I said that I wouldn’t say more about the acting, but there’s one scene in the movie that deserves special recognition. After Dan and Miranda crash land, they hitch a ride from a trucker (who, conveniently enough, is hauling a tank full of petroleum, which later explodes). As they drive, their path meets up with the earthquake racing across the United States, which leads Dan and the trucker to an exchange wherein they repeat each other and seemingly agree with each other while simultaneously arguing, all the while talking about the danger of their situation in the completely deadpan, unengaged tone that is ubiquitous in this movie. Somehow, despite the overall dismal acting in the movie, this scene stood out as substantially worse than the rest, and to me, that’s pretty remarkable.

“I can’t stop… That fissure’s right behind me…”

Back to Amy and Boomer – given the widespread destruction, martial law gets declared and all air traffic gets grounded, but since Amy has to get to her family, she and Boomer steal a helicopter, causing the military to arrest them. At the base to which they get taken, they meet a general and Amy ends up working with him to try to stop the earthquake. Here’s where the craziness starts. The earthquakes are so destructive because (somehow) the U.S. has a previously undiscovered fault running the whole length of the continent (leading to the movie’s title); therefore, if nothing is done to stop the quakes, the fissures will continue all the way to the Pacific Ocean, destroying the entire West Coast and sparking tsunamis that will then go on to destroy the rest of the world. Obviously. But there’s hope, because the military has a secret satellite weapon that was originally designed to cause earthquakes in enemy territory by freezing the water table with lasers so that when the water thawed, the release in energy would cause massive tectonic disruptions. Obviously. So they plan to intentionally start another earthquake that will cancel out the megafault, much in the way a controlled burn is used to help stop a wildfire. And here’s the key – if the second earthquake continues westward, it will just run into the Grand Canyon and then stop, because there’ll be no more earth for the quake to travel through. Obviously. (Keep in mind, I’m not making any of this up.) The movie fails to explain, of course, how it could be that the man-made earthquake would be stopped by the Grand Canyon but that the megafault would not be, but that’s such a minor point, it’s really unimportant.

The supposedly invisible beam from the ice-making death-laser.

Now, once the army freezes the water table to start another earthquake, it results in the weakening of the mantle underneath Yellowstone National Park, destabilizing the Yellowstone Caldera and causing magma to boil to the surface and melt everything in the area, literally starting the state of Wyoming on fire. But the megafault gets slowed and eventually stopped, which is good. But the earthquake caused by the space ice laser starts travelling towards the Caldera, threatening to unleash a fiery river of death upon the continental United States, which is bad. So Amy and Boomer head to Wyoming in the hopes that they can create a second Grand Canyon by blowing up a large part of the state, thereby causing miles and miles of coal mines to collapse and a canyon to form. (I repeat, I am not making any of this up.) Enter the seemingly-obligatory montage scene – five minutes of army guys in army trucks placing army explosives around the area, combined with images of Amy and Boomer setting charges to later detonate the explosives. What bothered me about this scene is that thirty-five or so charges were placed, and I felt like they showed us the placement of each and every one. To me, a good montage should demonstrate how much time has passed and work been done in a concise fashion. This always means that things get cut out, so that the placing of thirty-five or so charges doesn’t show the placing of each and every one. So not only did this movie fail at acting, special effects, and science, but it also failed at montages.

Because Wyoming doesn’t have enough problems as it is…

Finally, during the climax, Boomer and Amy have to drive past each charge to set them all off via an infrared transmitter in their Jeep. Ignoring the fact that they, again, have to outrun fissures, and ignoring the fact that the charges supposedly have a delay of three seconds yet seem to cause explosions before the Jeep has actually passed them, I was unable to ignore the fact that, of the fifteen or twenty scenes of explosions going off all around the Jeep, only four or five looked to be unique shots. Although I wasn’t counting, I do remember seeing the same scene (literally) at least three or four times within an eight- or ten-minute segment of the movie. And there were a couple scenes like that. So add “original film footage” to the list of things at which this movie fails.

Two more lists for you – things that were used to chase people – earthquake fissures, power lines, gas line explosions, magma, and avalanches. Places that were destroyed just for the purpose of destroying them – Louisville, Kentucky; Vail, Colorado; Denver, Colorado; and the entire state of Wyoming.

“Look out! A CGI avalanche is about to destroy a CGI chalet!”

Final thing this movie failed at – dialogue; said as Amy and Boomer try to outrun fissures and explosions – “Drive harder!”

So did this movie do anything well or right? Surprisingly, yes. At one point, Amy says that there are up to three thousand earthquakes a day (presumably worldwide). As you can see here and here, that one fact is supported by actual evidence. So good on them for getting that right.

Until next time, keep an eye out for flying sharks.

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Posted on February 28, 2012, in B-movies, Movies, SyFy Channel, The Asylum and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Wait, so the movie succeeded at leaving out tsunamis, then? Also, Eriq LaSalle, your career doesn’t HAVE to be dead! I’m thoroughly astonished that his character didn’t bite it at the end.

    Things I learned: freakishly large earthquakes are only interesting to Brittany Murphy, faults in the earth’s crust will chase people maliciously, the United States military has an ice-making death-laser, and Wyoming is a crappy place to live.

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