1996 gave us Twister; in 2004, we got The Day After Tomorrow; then came 2009 and Ice Twisters; and this all finally culminated in 2011 with Brinicle: Finger of Death. Suffice it to say that, apparently, columns of deadly, swirling ice flying through the air at Mach I-hate-you-all are not entirely unexplored in cinema.
Ice Twisters examines, through a gritty, completely realistic no-holds-barred lens, what truly happens when science runs rampant over the landscape (hint: tornadoes of frozen air form. Or something like that). Joanne (Camille Sullivan, Intelligence; Best in Show) and her research partner Damon (Alex Zahara, 2012; The 13th Warrior), along with their assistants, are experimenting with drones that can create clouds and then seed those clouds with silver iodide, causing rain, when strange and deadly weather starts forming and dissipating randomly in the area. One of these storms happens to appear right over the store where Charlie (Mark Moses, Desperate Housewives; Platoon) is having a book signing. Coincidentally, Charlie is also the former teacher and research mentor for Joanne, and when she and Damon show up at the scene of the freak storm, Charlie realizes one of their experiments went wrong and strong-arms them into letting him help find a solution. Meanwhile, Eric (Kaj-Erik Eriksen, Disaster Zone: Volcano in New York; The Commish) and Ashley (Luisa D’Oliveira, 50/50; The Break-Up Artist), two journalism students on their way to interview Charlie for a class project, film footage of the freak storms to use instead.
Top left – Joanne; top right – Damon and Joanne; middle left – Charlie; middle right – Eric; bottom – Ashley
The first thing that should be said about this movie is that the CGI did not stand out as obviously bad. Given the prevalence of scenes with CGI tornadoes, the fact that the CGI did not stand out as strikingly awful is absolutely worthy of mention. I can’t say that they were the best computerized storms I’ve seen, but definitely a step up from much of the schlock found in SyFy Originals. Along these lines, the acting in this movie was solid, definitely higher caliber than usually found. The writing was unremarkable, but accomplished its job of telling the story. This movie managed to avoid the deadly combination found in many SyFy films of sub-par writing paired with poor acting, a mix that always results in painful movies and pained viewers; and for that, it stood out, though it should also be said that there were a couple of spots where I feel as though the writers backed off from good opportunities, weakening the final product. So, for example, while I thought the buildup in the first two-thirds or three-quarters of the movie was well done, it seemed to me that the climax was too passive and stale, detracting somewhat from the quality that had come before.
Not terrible CGI! I’m speechless!
None of this, of course, should suggest that this movie was flawless, or as flawless as a SyFy Original can be, because while it overall did better with many of the usual pitfalls in these movies, it actually suffered, at least to my mind, on the cliché front.
For a start, yet again, and again, and again, they bring up the idea of science versus common sense. As mentioned above, Charlie used to be a researcher, but he left the world of “science fact for science fiction”, as Damon puts it, because he believed that the work being done by scientists was being corrupted and co-opted by shady government types. (Coincidentally, the work being done by Joanne and Damon gets co-opted by a shady government type.) So first there’s the conspiracy cliché, the idea that the government wants to take research that’s ostensibly beneficial and turn it into a weapon; and there’s the scientists have done enough harm and should just stop now cliché, often formulated as it is here, with the hero of the movie having once been a researcher, but who is now out of the field because he or she was disgusted by the ethical and moral laxity of the funding sources or of their fellow researchers. Then, after some apocalyptic or near-apocalyptic event, they get dragged back in, all the while carrying themselves with an I-warned-you smugness.
“I KNEW this would happen!”
But all of this posits a science devoid of ethics or morals. Not only do most scientists themselves have morals, but many also vocally advocate those morals to their peers. Ethically or morally ambiguous research gets performed, of course; and to a certain extent, such work must be done in order to advance certain fields (stem cell research comes to mind as an example). But often, once hints of such work being done reach the field at large, ethical debates pretty quickly begin, and by and large, scientists hold each other in check. Moreover, given the wider spectrum of people involved, projects with government funding tend to be even less controversial (again, look at the cuts to stem cell research funding imposed in the early 2000s). Now, obviously, there absolutely is morally questionable research being performed under the auspices of government funding. But in all of those cases, I would be shocked if fewer than ten people were knowledgeable of what was happening. Bottom line, the idea that one aggressive mid-level bureaucrat can provide substantial funding to unethical scientific research without being found out over a period of several years strains credulity. And along comes Charlie, constantly reminding Joanne and Damon that that’s exactly the reason he got out of research, so that he wouldn’t produce results to be misused.
“It’s alright. Ten years ago, all this would have been MY fault, not yours.”
The other main cliché that permeated the movie was the idea that the hero always knows exactly what to do. When the random storms begin forming, the research team who had invested three years of work are at a loss to explain the cause; Charlie, on the other hand, looks at the information for all of five or ten minutes, after being out of the field for an unknown amount of time, and realizes exactly what’s happening. Not only that, but once he’s deduced what’s causing the storms, he soon devises a plan to stop them. No matter the challenges they face in the movie, Charlie always seems able to propose a solution seemingly effortlessly.
Except for this guy. He’s just figurative toast
So what, exactly, does happen in this movie?
The basic plot goes something like this – Joanne and her team test out a set of drones designed to create clouds, and then seed those clouds with silver iodide to make them rain. The next thing anyone knows, the temperature in a nearby town drops precipitously and a tornado comes out of nowhere, kills some people, destroys some stuff, and then vanishes. This happens a few more times before Joanne, Damon and Charlie return to the research field station and being analyzing the data. Charlie quickly explains that the only cause that makes any sense is the idea of “vertical weather”, as he puts it, wherein the upper layers of the atmosphere are getting sucked down into lower ones because the drones are drawing moisture to make the clouds. He realizes that the storms are forming in the upper atmosphere and then dropping through the layers to ground level, which explains the temperature drops. Further, the only way to stop the storms is to open up a hole in the ozone layer so that a satellite with solar panels can harness the Sun’s energy and fire a laser into this hole to heat the upper atmosphere so the storms cease to self-perpetuate.
Seems to me like a lot of sharks were jumped just in that paragraph, but let’s take a closer look and see what we find.
First, some basic atmospheric tidbits. Earth’s atmosphere comprises many different layers, with distinct boundaries between each, though the depth of each layer can vary with the location or time of day. The boundaries between layers more or less prevent two adjacent layers from mixing much. Also, a quick look at the formation of tornadoes – basically, the idea is that colder, denser air ends up above warmer, less dense air, and as the two try to change places, they swirl around each other, creating the tornado. (Yes, I know that that’s a pretty awful description, but it will do for purposes of the discussion here, and if you’re interested in more technical or fleshed-out descriptions, that Wikipedia article is a good place to begin.)
So let’s say, hypothetically, some crazy scientist launches drones into the top of the troposphere (the layer we all know and love and live in), just below the tropopause, where they begin to condense liquid nitrogen out of the air (how, I have no idea, given how cold that stuff is), causing water vapor to condense into clouds, creating a relatively intense, localized dry area in the atmosphere. According to Charlie, then, more moisture is drawn down from the upper atmosphere both to help make the clouds and to equalize the disparity. Here’s the thing, though – there’s not a whole lot of moisture above the tropopause (noctilucent clouds notwithstanding), so drawing it in shouldn’t really do much at all as far as upsetting balance goes. Interestingly, despite the general tendency for the tropopause to act as a barrier between the troposphere and the stratosphere, there are occasions when thunderstorms cross the tropopause; so not only does this barrier mark the end, more or less, of what will be useful for creating weather, but it also isn’t even impenetrable, if a storm is determined enough. Suffice it to say, my hunch is that, if an artificially dry area were created in the upper troposphere, not much would happen. Certainly, it is doubtful that moisture from the upper atmosphere would be sucked down, given how little of such moisture there is in the first place.
However, supposing that, for some reason, downdrafts of air from the upper atmosphere were to start dropping all over the place, it does seem to me that ice twisters would not be that unlikely a phenomenon. After all, until the stratosphere, average temperature of the air decreases as altitude increases – just climb a mountain, and you’ll get it. (Interestingly, in the stratosphere, as altitude increases, so does temperature.) Of course, given pressure differences at the different altitudes, cold air can stay happy and content above warm air, until a pressure front comes along and tears everything apart (otherwise known as “weather”). But regardless, the temperature in the upper atmosphere is much colder, on average, than the temperature closer to the surface of the earth. Thus, if, for some reason, cold air from there were to fall, as it sank, it would sink faster and faster as it became denser with pressure. This would also heat it up, but probably not quickly enough to make a big difference before it came crashing down on us. And if that air came from high enough up, say, the upper mesosphere, it could pretty easily freeze everything nearby pretty quickly, being as cold as 148°F below zero. I’m from Wisconsin, and even I would call that cold. So while the idea of the events leading to ice twister formation seem fairly ridiculous to me, theoretically, I guess they could form ignoring all the reasons they wouldn’t.
“I know I left my logic around here somewhere…”
What about their solution to the problem, shooting a space laser through an ozone hole (isn’t it remarkable how many problems Hollywood believes can be solved with space lasers?)? It’s hard to really talk about this, given the unknowns involved (mass of air, area of laser, intensity of laser, etc.); but I would guess that, while it might, theoretically, work, it would take a lot longer than the few seconds they show in the movie. Moreover, there’s no reason given at all as to why heating the atmosphere locally should work, though I suppose the idea is that, by heating the air, the down flow should stop as the air becomes even less dense that it was. But I’m not really sure, and my guess is that shooting a laser into the upper atmosphere to stop a self-perpetuating series of frigid killer storms would essentially prove useless.
To plug a hole with a laser, first create a hole… with a laser!
The solution to all our problems
Bottom line here, I would say that the basic premise is pretty ridiculous, though some of the consequences are plausible.
So that’s that. If you’re really into winter-themed disaster movies, I’d recommend The Day After Tomorrow before Ice Twisters; Day did it first, and Day did it better. But if you’re really into SyFy-themed disaster movies, you could certainly do worse.
And no one noticed the new star that was formed. The end
And finally, Shark Week is here! To celebrate, Jumping Sharks will be running one review per day (give or take), covering all of your favorite shark-centered monsterpieces. I’m talking Dinoshark; Sharks in Venice; and the infamous Sharktopus, among others. It’s gonna be a good week, so stay tuned!
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).
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!
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.