Monthly Archives: June 2012

Ghost Voyage – “Seven strangers awaken on a ship adrift at sea. Each has one chance to solve its deadly riddle. And if they don’t… there’ll be hell to pay”

Normally, I wouldn’t start a review with a bit of critique, as I prefer to ease into the discussion of the movie. But I feel that this needs to be pointed out right away – there are nine strangers who awaken on a ship adrift at sea, not seven as the movie poster would have you believe. I have no idea (obviously) who made that mistake, but he or she should probably review counting again. I might recommend that he or she also watch this movie again, but honestly, I can’t in good conscience wish that fate on anyone.

Ghost Voyage tells the story of nine strangers who awaken on a ship adrift at sea. They each have one chance to solve its deadly riddle. (Who would’ve guessed, right?) Michael (Antonio Sabato Jr., The Bold and the Beautiful, Earth 2), Serena (Deanna Russo, Knight Rider, The Young and the Restless), Nicholai (Nicholas Irons, Wicked Wicked Games, Berkeley Square) and the others find themselves on a ship sailing to an unknown destination. They meet the Steward (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Memoirs of a Geisha, Mortal Kombat) who informs them of the rules of the ship but nothing else before mysteriously vanishing. The group slowly explores the ship only to be killed in nasty ways one by one. Pretty standard stuff.

Left – Serena, Michael, and Nicholai; right – the Steward; bottom – Serena and Nicholai

As is par for the course, the CGI in this movie ran the gamut from middling-poor to downright awful. Shots of the ship at sea, when entirely computerized, were acceptable; shots of cigarette-smoke ghosts eviscerating hapless passengers were not so acceptable, and I can’t help but wonder if they didn’t use the majority of the CGI budget to create this strange octopus/skullspider/flame ghost thing that didn’t show up until near the end. But what really stood out was the combination of terrible script writing and wooden line delivery. Rarely can one find a movie that so expertly pairs the two with such an agonizing result (though there was a tongue in cheek homage to the SciFi Channel when one of the characters talks about producing a movie called Jaws vs. Orca; yes, I would watch that movie).

Aside from that, this movie did raise a number of questions, such as how Serena, the daughter of a fisherman, could be so clearly unable to swim; or why it is that, almost universally, ghosts move in jerky fashion from place to place (à la The Ring), then crane their necks at odd angles or have difficulty moving their arms properly (like in parts of Thir13en Ghosts); or, most important of all, how it is that the characters in these movies can remain so very clueless right up to the end when any viewer paying a shred of attention can figure the plot out after ten minutes or so. (Of course, now that I’ve said that, chances are I’m going to end up in one of those situations and not figure it out until it’s way too late but what can ya do?…) For example – they’re on a ship (blatantly obviously called the Azrael, of all things), in an unknown ocean, with an unknown destination, maps that show no land at all, and no sign of any crew whatsoever aside from the Steward. Can anyone out there in Readerland figure out where they are? Anyone at all? Bueller? Bueller? That’s right! They’re in Hell! Congratulations, you win the prize of not needing to watch the last hour of this movie, a gift of time that the rest of us can only envy (though arguably, they are only in Purgatory, or possibly Limbo, depending on how you interpret the movie).

You’d think they’d have figured it out the first time they ran into her

Normally, this is the point where I start to delve into the science stuff that one typically finds in movies of this nature. However, such science stuff is conspicuously absent from this movie, and I therefore have no science critique. So instead, I’ll discuss the philosophical and relgious implications of the film, of which there are many.

First, the obvious – the ship has nine passengers, and according to Dante Alighieri, the Inferno (Hell) has nine circles. Likewise, as Michael and Serena later discover, the Steward is allegorical to Charon, the ferryman on the river Styx in Greek mythology. (Also, on a side note, how is it that Nicholai and, later, Serena find the cargo hold of the ship filled with funerary symbols from all different cultures – a Celtic cross, an Egyptian funerary boat, one of the terracotta warriors – but still not make the connection that the ship has something to do with death?)

Next, although not all of the passengers’ pasts are revealed, there are some general ties to Dante’s nine circles. For example, two of the passengers sneak off into the Captain’s quarters to have sex, giving in to the sin of lust. Two others allow their anger to rule and destroy them, and another can be seen to represent gluttony by way of heroin addiction. (For a more thorough discussion on the seven deadly sins, follow that link.)

Left – victims of lust; right – one of the victims of wrath and Michael; bottom – victim of gluttony and his punisher

Finally, there is the salvation of the characters in the movie by way of obedience. The Steward warns the passengers at the beginning of the voyage not to engage in certain behaviors (breaching closed doors, entering the Captain’s quarters, smoking); as the passengers ignore his warnings, they get killed and claimed by the various spirits they release during their transgressions. However, the passengers which heed all of the warnings of the Steward are offered a chance at redemption before the ship is pulled into Hell completely (hence the interpretation of the ship as Purgatory instead of Limbo or Hell). This reinforces the teachings of many popular religions that, by living virtuous lives (as defined by society), individuals can redeem themselves from mistakes made in the past, so long as they no longer break rules.

But to be honest, I have to say that analyzing this movie in this fashion, while easy and relatively obvious, also gives it way too much credence and import. At the end of the day (and I don’t say this often), this movie is just bad.

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Meteor Storm – “The fury no one saw coming…”

After the aborted attempt to watch a disaster movie with Heatstroke, I figured I’d actually deliver, this time with Meteor Storm. And oh boy, was this movie a disaster…

Tom Young (Michael Trucco, Battlestar Galactica; Pensacola: Wings of Gold) is a retired air force colonel working as the director for the San Francisco branch of the Disaster Management Agency. His estranged wife Dr. Michelle Young (Kari Matchett, Covert Affairs; Power Play) is an astrophysicist working on unspecified research. The movie opens with the city set to watch a unique meteor shower event caused by the breakup of a comet named Leder-Bay. Naturally, things don’t go as planned, and San Francisco ends up being bombarded by a series of four meteor storms over the course of the day.

Left – Tom; right – Lena and Michelle

Before I go too far into this article, I want to bring up a cliché that wearies me – that of the characters in a movie of this nature having the exactly perfect professions for the given scenario. In this case, Tom is a former missile launch specialist (the military comes up with a plan to use missiles to prevent the destruction of Earth – more on that later); Michelle is an astrophysicist with the know-how and background to understand and interpret the properties of the meteorites; and Michelle’s sister, Laura (Emily Holmes, The Wicker Man; Snakes on a Plane), is a nurse. So here we have a family that is essentially perfectly suited to dealing with the approaching apocalypse. Now, I understand that at least one of the main characters must be in the center of the action in a movie like this; otherwise there would be no movie. And I even understand why they might be married to someone else who has a complementary skill set to help in the disaster. But my bounds of understanding start to be strained when the brothers or sisters of the hero also have perfect jobs to aid in a disaster. There’s always some sister who’s a nurse, or some uncle who knew that this day would come and was preparing for it for fifteen years, or some ex-military father who’s the only one in the world with the skills necessary to save the planet, along with their son/daughter/mother/brother/sister/father etc. It gets rather ridiculous rather quickly.

Along the same lines, there are two different scenes where Tom saves someone from a vehicle mere seconds before the vehicle explodes. I realize that a writer wants to build tension, but it just isn’t believable to have multiple last-second rescues by the same person; at least, not to me.

We get it. You’re a hero. Enough already.

So, on to the critique. This movie was an interesting juxtaposition of decent work with terrible work, and it stretched across all aspects of the film. There were some scenes with pretty well-done CGI, including a number of scenes with realistic-looking meteorites crashing down among a crowd of people. Then there were other scenes that were either hokey CGI, such as when they launch a rocket with some of the worst fire effects I’ve seen coming out the end, or were clearly done in front of a green screen with little if any attempt to blend it in with the rest. Overall, the dialogue was the worst, with several sequences containing attempts at “witty” banter that came across as forced and stilted and completely unnatural. But the other interesting contrast was in the acting. Trucco and Matchett are fairly decent actors; there’s plenty of their respective works I’ve seen where I enjoyed their performances. And while they did a solid job in this movie, I couldn’t help but feel that they were being dragged down by everyone else in the movie, who ran the gamut from acceptable-if-bland to how’d-you-get-this-role. And unfortunately, these differences were pretty stark throughout.

Left – decent CGI; right – sad CGI rubble pile

I touched above on one of the clichés in this movie, but there were plenty more. For instance, our lead actors are in the classic situation of being estranged at the beginning of the movie only to find they have to work together to save the world, resulting in them reuniting by the end of the film. This arc is all too common in movies of this nature. Another disaster movie trope continued in this work is the storyline of parents being separated from children, as, throughout most of the movie, Tom is out looking for his and Michelle’s children, regardless of how often he finds them and brings them back to the base of operations for the saviors. Then there are a couple of newscasters who drive around the city not only being stupid, but also being heartless (for another example of this, see Sharktopus). Finally, there’s my own personal pet peeve of every single machine with a gas tank exploding in a giant fireball; though, to be fair, in the instances in this movie, the machines were already on fire when they exploded, which does seem more realistic.

Obligatory idiot newscasters

There are others, of course, such as the children running off to rescue their friend only to become trapped and in need of rescuing themselves, or the age-old atheist scientist trope; but there’s a lot of science I want to discuss instead, so I’ll move on to that.

Like I mentioned above, San Francisco becomes the target of four separate meteor storms. Normally, this would raise issues because too many disaster movies seem to have laser-guided phenomena (earthquakes following people perfectly, tornadoes seeming to go out of their way to destroy as much as possible, etc.); however, this movie actually proposes an explanation for the precision with which the meteorites strike the city (incidentally, the early predictions for the targets of the meteor storms are all major cities – Denver, Kansas City, and Washington, DC, though the meteorites get drawn out of those paths and instead converge on San Francisco). See, apparently, the meteorites contain quantities of element 120, dubbed unbinilium, which, according to the film, exerts an electrostatic-like force on itself. In other words, it is drawn to itself. Given that this element cannot currently be studied extensively enough to determine actual properties, an inherent self-attraction is plausible, which helps explain why only San Francisco is targeted, and why any major city is hit at all, given the extremely low probability of any one area being hit by meteorites (more info here).

Science

Now you may ask how these unbinilium-rich meteors could be drawn to San Francisco in the first place; after all, for them to be drawn there, there would need to be a fairly large amount already present. Well, it turns out that the San Francisco Bay was struck by a meteorite (according to the movie) rich in element 120, and that the rubble from the comet happened to pass close enough to be drawn in. Of course, this raises a number of other interesting questions, starting with the origins of San Francisco Bay. According to Wikipedia, the Bay was not formed by meteorites or asteroids, effectively negating the premise of this movie. Additionally, I find it incredulous that this element, which gives off a unique radiation signature and interferes with electronic guidance systems (such as GPS) could remain undetected for the entire history of humanity. Basically, I can’t imagine that large quantities of this element could have remained hidden given how much the movie claims it messes with electronics. Furthermore, for the comet rubble to contain unbinilium, the comet itself would need to contain certain amounts of that element, and they never explain why the comet wasn’t drawn in by the Bay.

There’s a moment in the movie when one of the meteorites crashes through the road part of Golden Gate Bridge, causing the whole middle span to collapse into the Bay. But surely the bridge is sturdier than that, right? Well, it turns out not so much. In fact, it seems that a large enough earthquake, centered close enough to the bridge, would bring it down pretty effectively and quickly. So while the odds of a meteorite striking the bridge are very small, were it to happen and punch a large hole in the bridge, the resulting forces (both from impact and from loss of structural integrity) could pretty easily bring down the rest of it.

Not so tough after a meteorite impact, are ya?!

For those of you paying attention, I mentioned the end of the world several times in this article, but so far, nothing I’ve written about sounds terribly world-ending. But don’t worry, I’m getting to that.

It turns out that the comet had passed through our friendly neighborhood asteroid belt on its last orbit; and for some reason, it was broken into four different parts (which then, on the following orbit, were drawn in to San Francisco); however, the comet, during its destruction, also knocked an asteroid onto a collision course with Earth, and it is this asteroid that threatened to destroy all life. (Interestingly, the asteroid was named Apophis, the name of an asteroid in real life that was potentially going to crash into the Earth in 2029.) Naturally, the military advocates destroying the asteroid with nuclear missiles. While this seems like a wise choice, Michelle cautions against it, saying that there is no evidence missiles would do any significant damage to an asteroid. As it happens, she’s not wrong, though there is some amount of disagreement. See, it turns out that many objects we call asteroids are potentially floating piles of rock and debris, held together by their collective combined gravity. Shooting a missile into such a debris field could temporarily destroy the object, but then the object could reassemble, given enough time. Or, if it were destroyed, the resulting fragments could still break through the atmosphere and potentially cause more destruction than the original object would have. But there’s hope for mankind, thanks to a number of different asteroid deflection plans (including this one, some of these ideas, and stuff talked about here). Our hero in the movie suggests one of these plans, advocating a large nuclear detonation near to the asteroid in order to force it to change trajectory. Of course, this also raised to me the issue of potential nuclear fallout from a detonation in space, but apparently, as long as the blast occurred above the magnetosphere, little if any harmful radiation would be pulled back to Earth.

Things to be avoided…

So there you have it – a movie full of jarring clashes in quality, plausible hypothetical science, and arguably correct theoretical science. Overall, not a terrible film, though not one of the better ones, either. Until next time, keep an eye to the sky and an eye out for sharks!

Heatstroke – “Welcome to Hell on Earth”

I figured I’d follow up my review of Mammoth, a standard creature feature, with a good old-fashioned disaster movie. After all, what else could Heatstroke be about, right? As it turns out, here’s a plot that both SETI enthusiasts and right-wing conservatives can get behind – aliens have secretly invaded Earth and are intentionally accelerating global warming to make the planet more hospitable for their eventual colonization. Honestly, I can’t believe I didn’t see that coming; it’s just so obvious!

Capt. Steve O’Bannon (D.B. Sweeney, The Darwin Awards, Strange Luck) heads up a team of researchers tracking a unique radiation signature. At the beginning of the movie, he crash-lands an ultralight airplane (seriously, follow that link – they look like so much fun to fly!) into the middle of a photo shoot run by Caroline (Danica McKellar, Young Justice, The Wonder Years), a model trying to make it as a photographer. After two of her models get killed by an alien, she joins up with Steve and his team to help destroy an alien structure that was set up to emit radiation to destroy the ozone layer. Also, there’s plenty of blood, a bit of alien possession, and even a guy spitting up an over-sized caterpillar/larva thing. Good times all around.

Top left – Capt. Steve O’Bannon; top right – Mental Blanakoff and Caroline; bottom – why you should always chew your food

It’s difficult for me to decide where I even want to begin this critique. The CGI was some of the worst I’ve seen in a long time, the plot overall made little if any sense, and throughout the movie I kept wishing the cast could find it in themselves to act just a little bit harder. So I guess I’ll start with an objective observation we can all agree on – hammocks rule. They’re just awesomely amazing.

Proof

Like I said, the effects in this movie were pretty terrible. There were some shots of the aliens that looked decent, including an actual physical model they made that, if it hadn’t looked like it were a rubber suit one could buy at a costume shop, would have been decent. Then there were other fairly mediocre CGI shots where the aliens looked a bit too bright against the background, but still moved somewhat realistically and weren’t completely terrible. Then there was the beach scene. Oh dear, was it horrible. One of the aliens surprises two models and Romeo Romero (Zac Heileson, Heatstroke), one of Steve’s team members, while they’re swimming in the ocean. They get separated, and the alien runs after one of the models as she runs down the beach trying to get away from it. Except it doesn’t really run after her so much as kind of… floaty-hop after her? She’s clearly running in front of a green screen, and it almost looks like the alien is on a string that someone’s pulling up and down in front of the screen, but also as part of the screen image, and… you know what? Just take a look for yourself. It’s terrible. And just… wow. Plus, that gives a pretty good look at the aliens, which I can only describe as being a cross between a velociraptor (like from Jurassic Park) and the Predator, or one of those vampires from that one Blade movie. You know the one.

Left – among the better CGI in the movie; right – among the mediocre/bad CGI in the movie

Before I look into the sciencey bits (which I know you’re all dying to read about), there is one other part that deserves special recognition – at the end, Steve and what’s left of his team attempt to blow up the radiation emitter and, apparently, put an end to global warming. He encounters Waters (Chris Cleveland, Dry Run, The Prestige), who was possessed by one of the aliens earlier in the movie. They engage in an epic fight scene lasting a good five or seven minutes and consisting entirely of the exact same footage, repeated at least three times from different angles, separated by shots of a CGI cruise missile on its way to destroy the emitter (and presumably the terrible acting). It was one of the laziest things I have ever seen in these movies; and it was glorious.

Left – best effect in the movie; right – hilariously bad CGI

As I mentioned above, the basic plot is that, in 1975, aliens caused a volcanic eruption on an island, resulting in average temperatures on that island to increase every year, along with the average size of the insects living there. See, apparently, the aliens are insectivores (with wicked-sharp claws, multiple-hinged jaws, and the ability to spit acid clouds, because why not?), and they saw that humans were going to destroy the world eventually anyways, so they decided to speed up the process and turn the planet into their own bug farm, killing most other life in the process. Which made me wonder what actually would (or, really, will) happen as the Earth gets warmer.

A clearly insectivorous species

Aside from some of the obvious (temperatures increasing, weather patterns changing, insect-borne diseases becoming more prevalent), there are some observations that are not what you might expect. For one thing, apparently the cloud layer is lowering, on average. But more interestingly, as relates to this movie, is the finding that ancestral horses (Sifrhippus sandrae, to be exact) were a lot smaller than modern horses and actually shrank as temperatures increased (the first link there is to a paper abstract (you can read the whole thing if you have a subscription to Science magazine); the last one is to a more reader-friendly summary of that study’s findings). If it is indeed the case that increased global temperatures could push mammals toward smaller body sizes, that could open up new ecological niches into which other creatures (such as insects) could spread. Basically, if mammals need fewer resources to survive (say, by becoming smaller), that means more resources are available for other organisms to use. This doesn’t automatically mean insects would become bigger – they could become more plentiful, or reptiles could dominate again, or who knows what; but what it does mean is that the possibility is there for insects to take over niches vacated by mammals as mammals get smaller. So while there is no guarantee that the aliens’ plan to grow insects by making the Earth hotter would work, there is some amount of tenuous possibility to it. And to me, that’s actually kind of neat. Though I could not find any evidence supporting the idea that heat alone could make insects larger. So there’s that, too.

I leave you with one more link, because it’s awesome. Enjoy!

Mammoth, aka Outbreak – “We hunted it into extinction… Now it’s hunting us”

Before I begin this review, I offer a bit of an apology. This entry is more than two months overdue, mainly because I recently moved and had to get settled in at the new place. So I’m sorry it’s taken so long for an update, and hopefully it won’t be this late again. Now, I believe we have some sharks to jump.

Mammoth tells the story of a small town in Louisiana with a big problem; specifically, the frozen mammoth at the local natural history museum becomes possessed by an alien entity and goes on a murderous rampage around town. (For those of you keeping score at home, this movie sets a record for sharks jumped, combining zombies, aliens, and mammoths all in one.) Dr. Frank Abernathy (Vincent Ventresca, The Invisible Man, Boston Common), curator of the museum and resident expert on all things mammoth, is recruited by agent Powers (Leila Arcieri, Son of the Beach, xXx), an agent working for a shadowy international alien-fighting organization, to help contain the mammoth before the government steps in and destroys the town. They’re joined by Simon Abernathy (Tom Skerritt, Picket Fences, Alien), Frank’s UFO-obsessed father, and Jack Abernathy (Summer Glau, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Firefly), Frank’s daughter. Along the way, things get destroyed, people die, and Frank and Jack reach a new understanding of and respect for each other.

Top left – Jack and Frank; top right – Squirrelly, Simon, and Jack; bottom left – Frank; bottom right – agent Powers

So, how does Mammoth stack up? The acting was above-average, a welcome respite from the normal state of Sci Fi Pictures productions. The CGI could have been better (as always), but it was respectable enough. Overall, it was a higher-quality production than expected, though still just a below-average movie.

“Wait for meeeee!”

One thing they did well was the tone. It was part modern-day monster havoc movie, part ’50s alien-invasion-movie homage – everything from the town to the way Simon was convinced UFOs existed had touches of a quaint small town stuck in the past, but with distinctly modern overtones (such as cell phones and rave parties in the woods. On a sidebar, what is up with rave parties in the woods? They always – always – end badly, with monsters running amok or everyone becoming zombies or something like that. You’d think people would learn…). All of this added up to a movie that didn’t quite take itself seriously, one that always was just a little tongue in cheek, an aspect of the movie I ended up enjoying; there’s little worse than a mediocre monster movie that takes itself completely seriously.

Example of a bad idea that will end badly.

However, the opening sequence in the movie not only bears mentioning, but also demonstrates just how over the top this movie is. It opens in the museum, with some boy scouts wandering into a restricted area wherein lies the mammoth, encased in a giant block of ice (because that’s how most examples of frozen mammoths exist in real life). Here they encounter the good doctor, who proceeds to shoo them out of the exhibit area before drilling a hole in the ice and extracting a small pellet from the mammoth (I should point out, too, that before he extracts the pellet, he sees an image on a screen of a miniature universe apparently contained within the pellet, though that part is neither clear nor ever mentioned again). Once the pellet is extracted, it sends out radio waves that knock him to the floor, whereupon the camera zooms out to show Earth, then other parts of the solar system, culminating in a flying saucer (à la The Day the Earth Stood Still) releasing a probe to find the source of the beacon. This all leads to the probe flying through an asteroid belt (presumably the one in our solar system) and the most illegible credit sequence I have seen in a long time. I’m not sure what font they chose, but written against the CGI asteroids, the words of the various production companies and such were almost impossible to make out. Fortunately, that segment of the opening credits was short, and the actors were all listed with normal font that was easily readable.

The most readable asteroid text in the opening credits.

Next, boy did this movie have clichés… For a start, Dr. Frank Abernathy is one of the most stereotypically absent-minded professor types movies have to offer. He can’t remember that he needs to be at his daughter’s driving test, he can’t remember where he put his keys, he gets distracted by just about everything and can’t remember what he was doing two minutes ago; he’s written (at least, for the first third or so of the movie) as a man whose only concern in life is his work, at the expense of everything else. This may be a raw nerve with just me, but as a scientist (by training if nothing else), I have to take offense. The majority of scientists I have met are nothing at all like that. Many are, in fact, the exact opposite, being very aware of what’s going on; but still we keep seeing the idea that anyone who’s good at being a researcher must suck at being a person. Hollywood, please go out and meet some actual scientists. Thank you.

“I don’t know, officers; I would have sworn I left my mammoth right here!”

Second cliché – Jack is sick of her father always forgetting events in her life, such as her driving test. I don’t have any sisters, and I never was a 16-year-old girl, so I can’t say how common it is for teenage daughters to not really understand or get along with their fathers. What I can say, based on my own experiences, is that the situation wherein a teenager begins a movie fighting with their parent or parents and ends the movie at a new level of understanding with their parent or parents is incredibly overdone. It would be refreshing, to say the least, if movie makers could find some new way to introduce drama and/or tension between characters, rather than resorting to this easy and beaten-to-death way out, especially because the development of their relationship takes away from the mammoth’s screen time.

Third cliché – Simon is convinced that aliens exist, despite being otherwise quite a down to earth man. As the movie goes on, he of course becomes vindicated, although he does manage to avoid gloating, which was appreciated, at least by me. Still, the idea of the old guy who everyone thinks is a bit unhinged but is in reality right about everything, even if he doesn’t know it, is pretty much used up at this point.

Fourth cliché – the deputies assisting the sheriff are complete morons. They don’t even really serve as comic relief, that role being more successfully filled by Simon. They’re just dumb. Fortunately, they don’t stick around through the whole movie.

Fifth cliché – agent Powers and her partner work for a shadowy, unknown international governmental organization that gets called in when the alien probe crashes into the museum and possesses the mammoth. They’re basically a rip-off of the Men in Black, and seem to come standard with a movie of this nature.

Cue classic Western showdown music.

Now, I have a few important questions. First of all, if you saw an until-recently frozen solid mammoth break free of its ice prison, and you were a 60- or 70-year-old security guard, would your first instinct be to draw your pistol, of all weapons, to try to kill it? Because I’d guess that my first instinct would be to run. I get that guns are powerful, but there are plenty of animals in the actual world that could more or less shrug off a pistol, and I suspect that an elephant would be one of them (they make “elephant guns” for a reason). Second of all, when there’s a large, unstoppable monster rampaging through a given area (downtown Tokyo, downtown New York City, a rave party in the woods), I understand the urge to run away from it, but why does everyone always run away from it? That is, why do people not run sideways from it, in order to get out of its path? If it hasn’t noticed you, or is ignoring you, it seems to me that the safest way to run would be away from where it’s going to be as well as away from where it is. But that’s just me, I suppose. Third of all, if there’s a beast running around that is known to shake the ground and walk with large rumbling steps, how on earth does that beast manage to sneak up on multiple people? Not only does the mammoth accomplish this feat, but it pulls it off at least twice during the movie, despite shaking the ground when it walks and making Jurassic-Park-esque booms with each step (there are several wonderful moments in this movie reminiscent of that masterpiece, of course), which begs the question, is everyone in this movie completely oblivious to what’s going on behind or to the side of them? I just don’t get it.

“He followed me home! Can I keep him? He’s really quiet, I promise!”

Now on to the sciencey bits.

Our two imbecilic deputies arrive at a scene with multiple dead bodies and find tracks from the mammoth that looked to me to be at least 4 inches deep, probably deeper. It’s unclear exactly how much the mammoth weighs, and those tracks were made in a corn field (soil that’s been planted tends to be looser and softer than other soils, and therefore deeper tracks are easier to make), but I find 4-inch-deep tracks to be unlikely; though, to be fair, the only real-life reference I could find doesn’t speak to the depth of tracks, only the length and width (the paper can be found here, and is a neat little study). So while possible, the tracks presented in the movie strike me as being exaggerated.

Also, the body of the mammoth was encased in ice for an indeterminate length of time, and the doctor remarks that it was frozen alive. However, there are clear signs of decomposition on the body. I understand the desire to make the mammoth as fearsome as possible, but I’m not sure how likely it is that decomposition would occur on a body encased in ice. As this study of Ötzi the Iceman points out, only limited decomposition was found in a body frozen in a glacier for 5,000 years. The body was, in fact, mummified by the dry conditions at that altitude. So there is some real-world evidence that a body frozen in ice should have little obvious decomposition, and instead be more desiccated and mummified than the mammoth in the film. In other words, it seems to me that it would have more likely been an alien-possessed mummy mammoth instead of an alien-possessed zombie mammoth; at least, based on science.

“Give us a kiss!”

So there you have it – Mammoth in all its glory. More reviews will be coming this week, and as always, try to stay ahead of the sharks.