Lionsgate // 2004 // 165 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 22nd, 2004
The day the earth would not stand still.
Earlier this year, NBC unleashed this mega-budget disaster miniseries. Now, all 165 minutes of earthquakin' action come roaring into your DVD player.
Things aren't hunky-dory with the old tectonic plates in southern California. As the movie opens, Seattle is getting bitch-slapped with a 7.9 magnitude earthquake. Buildings crumble, streets are thrown into upheaval, and debris is thrown around, but a kid on a bike is riding through it all. Pardon?
That's right. The opening action sequence involves some dumb-ass on a bike outrunning a gigantic earthquake. Watch as he flies over crushed cars! Gasp as he keeps ahead of a collapsing overpass! Guffaw as he sails over fissures! But none of it compares to the big finisher, when the Space Needle collapses, and bike-boy manages to just barely elude the collapsing structure! Woo-whee!
Meanwhile, at the Earthquake Tracking Center (or whatever it's called), the nation's top seismologists scramble to interpret the situation. Amidst the chatter, Dr. Samantha Hill (Kim Delaney, NYPD Blue) puts forth her bold theory: an underlying network of fault lines is poised to go ape-dirt and, through a chain reaction, produce the biggest earthquake ever.
Of course, Hill is the "rogue" scientist with the "crazy" ideas, so no one believes her. But after another mega-quake plays havoc with a CGI replica of the Golden Gate Bridge, the President (Beau Bridges, The Wizard) opens his ears to all possible ideas. Hill and her cronies are charged to work with Roy Nolan (Fred Ward, Tremors), the FEMA representative, to prevent "The Big One" from happening. To do this, they must lay a bunch of nuclear warheads in precise places to stabilize the fault lines or something.
Meanwhile, in parallel stories, a father (who looks remarkable like Bo Duke) and daughter must traverse the heart of the plate instability, some doctors make life and death decisions, and a few San Francisco politicians find love in the debris.
Eventually, all the players in this drama meet at an evacuation camp, which also happens to be near the epicenter of The Big One.
This is basically one really, really long, really, really bad disaster B-movie. So let's cut the crap, and take a look at what you can expect in this earthquake epic:
The number of stereotypes used for the characters. The sensitive President who needs to make the "tough call," and cries at the end. The fringe scientist that nobody would listen to until it was too late. The slimy close-minded, bureaucrats. The father and daughter that find their respect for each other through experiencing life-threatening situations.
The number of times I laughed at the dopey dialogue. My personal favorite was when the President is discussing controversial options with his cabinet, and says how he doesn't have the time "to cut through the red tape." Well, isn't that why you cut through it???
The score the movie gets for ripping off the filming style of Fox's 24 (hand-held shots, quick zooms, multiple panel shots) on a scale of 1 to 11.
The number of viewers who tuned in when it was aired, divided by 2 million.
The number of viewers who wish they had taken a nap instead, divided by 2 million.
The number of TV projects Kim Delaney probably has queued up in the next couple of weeks. This woman is the Brian Cox of television.
The number of brain cells whose firing is necessary to watch this movie.
The number of people who might be able to endure the first two hours of this movie before scanning ahead to the big earthquake at the end, which turns out to be seven minutes of people running around through dust while the camera shakes.
The film is presented in its full-screen format, which adds to its "TV movie" look. The transfer is pretty okay, actually, looking sharp and bright. Interestingly, the feature sports a 5.1 digital mix, though the disc case proclaims only a 2.0. The surrounds don't get too much action, but your subwoofer will work it during the earthquake sequences. Director John Lafia's commentary is the only bonus feature. He discloses all the movie-magic secrets behind the earthquake effects (read: the actors stand on airbags while some big guys with wooden sticks shake them).
For a TV movie, the special effects are tip-top. But only when compared to other TV movies.
Disaster movies were made for the big screen. This one was not, and it shows. And it's frickin' long.
Guilty of Hijacking Your Precious Time in the first degree.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 165 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Director's Commentary