Anchor Bay // 2005 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // October 27th, 2005
The terror has awakened!
Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers) stars in this Sci-fi Originals feature chronicling the adventures of some good-looking people and their showdown with low-quality special effects.
Matt Fletcher (Van Dien) is a hotshot young archaeologist with a five o'clock shadow and a short temper. He's been hired by a wealthy industrialist (Robert Wagner, Austin Powers) to scope out some land for potential artifacts before ground is broken for a mega-million dollar new resort. Helping Fletcher is the beautiful and strong-willed Angela (Kristen Miller), another consultant brought in to monitor the dig.
The two piss each other off at first, before developing a mutual affinity, as dictated in the Handbook of Generic Romantic On-Screen Entanglements ("It is necessary for the male and female lead to agitate one another, before they recognize how good-looking the other is, and, upon survival of natural disaster/alien invasion/terrorist assault/blimp collision, become physically amorous." -- excerpted from Chapter 6: "Competition-Turned-Consummation").
Little do they know that the dig site is situated on the ancient burial ground of a giant, a leftover from Old Testament days when it was said that "giants" had walked the earth. The offspring of an exiled angel and a woman, the giant has been preserved through dark arts and CGI, prophetically revealed to arise if its tomb is disturbed.
With mummies on the loose as well as a bunch of pudgy bald guys who are supposed to be followers of some cult or the other, Fletcher and company must thwart the evil intentions of Ammon, the aforementioned former angel, and save the world from the wrath...of the fallen ones!
This is new. The Fallen Ones builds an entire film and mythology to go with it around a fragment of a verse found in Genesis 6:4 -- "There were giants in the earth those days" (King James Version). It's a bizarre verse, and one that has spawned much discussion and outlandish theorizing.
Writer/director/producer/editor Kevin VanHook has taken those few words and run with them. How giants and angels turned into mummies is beyond me, but the genetic makeup of The Fallen Ones is definitely that of a Sci-Fi Channel production.
The most glaring deficiency of this film is the uneven visual effects work. At some points, the gags are convincing, particularly the scenes with the giant mummy and his face-off with an attack chopper. But then you get laughable shots of the pre-mummy giant not making eye contact with the other actors because of the goofy computer insertion work or, more egregiously, a flood featuring hokey CGI water.
It's a tough spot for a film like this. The Fallen Ones, by the nature of its story, relies heavily on visual effects, but because of the nature of its budget, the film is limited in its opportunities -- and as such suffers.
Because, when you get down to it, The Fallen Ones looks and feels like it's a made-for-TV film. It's unfair, but when you're dealing with a sci-fi adventure flick, that's a pedigree that handicaps the outing from the get-go.
The story itself is boilerplate wannabe Indiana Jones/creature feature fare. Van Dien, one of the most recognizable of the third-tier stars who had a brush with something greater, contributes his good looks and scruff to the proceedings, but not much else. Truth is, there's not much for him to do -- his is the typical, uninteresting hero role. Probably the most memorable character is that of Rabbi Schmidt, played by Mr. Cunningham himself, Tom Bosley. He's good for some comic relief, though I couldn't help but think of Judd Hirsch's similar kvetching in Independence Day.
The Fallen Ones takes its time building the story, spotting the pacing with various outbursts of expository mythological claptrap and some historical and scientific factoids. We don't really get to see our first mummy until the final third, but to VanHook's credit, he subsequently turns up the burner on the action.
Much of the mayhem is choppily choreographed and obviously orchestrated to avoid as much extra special effects work as possible, but it moves along at a decent clip, and there are some fun moments (the big smackdown with the giant mummy for example, which, unfortunately, ends ridiculously with Van Dien tossing a lit dynamite stick fifty feet in the air into the mummy's mouth).
So what we have here is essentially a handful of fun ideas and creature designs, swamped by cheesy effects work and snafus common with B-movies.
As a disc, Anchor Bay has served up a tasty release. The film receives a slick 1.77:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer; too slick, in fact, as it brings the CGI flaws front and center. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is effective.
Lots of extras here. VanHook, producer Karen Bailey, and cinematographer Matt Steinauer deliver the commentary track, "Giants in the Earth" is a nice 30-minute making-of documentary, "Creating Aramis the Mummy" is a brief look at the make-up process, an animatic feature spotlights the evolution of the visual effects process, and a storyboard and still gallery round out the batch. The screenplay is accessible through DVD-ROM.
The Fallen Ones lacks the mojo to spring itself from the dustbin of made-for-TV films. There are some decent moments, and the cast seems to be enjoying themselves, but the end result failed to move me. Or groove me.
Back to the tomb with you.
Review content copyright © 2005 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Director/Producer/Cinematographer Commentary
* "Giants in the Earth: The Making of The Fallen Ones"
* "Creating Aramis the Mummy"
* Visual Effects Anamatics
* Still Gallery
* Storyboard Gallery
* Screenplay (DVD-ROM)