Earths Final Hours
For a long time I have hypothesized that cinematic aficionados that cut their teeth of the schlocky flicks of the fifties, reinforced with the usual cheap and quickly prepared movies common to grind houses and drive-ins, have increased tolerance for many of the B movies that are prevalent especially with modern horror and Sci-Fi films. The proof of this theory can be found in the original flicks that the SyFy network usual fill their Saturday night programming slots. After years of watching the parade of creature features and crazed serial killers running amok the faire presented in this category was fairly simple to accept. Recently I came across an ideal test case to examine my supposition; ‘Earth’s Final Hours’. Like so many of these flicks the premise is outlandishly simplistic. The physics blithely spouted in explaining the etiology of the disaster present and ultimately the last minute resolution. The details of this aspect of the flick will be dealt with shortly. All that a movie of this sort is required to do is give the audience a couple of hours of entertainment. Although the techniques employed to present the special effects no matter how short of contemporary standards they might fall. What required at least a modicum of ability in model making and stop action photography and some expert use of film editing have been replaced by easy to obtain and use computers and associated software. A flood that once required forced perspective and a tank of water can now be achieved with a few mouse clicks.
For dedicated viewers of the Science Channel, people who know what they are doing at CERN of fans of Dr. Michio Kaku please take a sizeable dose of a tranquilizer before watching this movie. I fully appreciate just how ridiculous the pseudo-science contained here is, it doesn’t mean you can’t such off the higher reasoning centers of your mind and sit back fir some light fun. With that disclaimer stated let’s get on to the movie, FBI agent John Streich (Robert Knepper) and Agent Massey (Alex Zahara), are investigating reports of a man setting up an array of strange devices out in the nearby fields. While examining the high tech equipment an agent is struck by something shooting down from the sky. Death is instantaneous as evident by the see through baseball size hole running through his body. A movie like this typically makes a play for the attention of the audience by placing a gruesome death within the first few minutes. Scientific facts are not the only aspect played too loosely. Agency procedure is shredded Streich brings his errant teenage son, Andy (Cameron Bright) along. The meager excuse has to do with some trouble as a master class hacker the young is in and necessary to provide the introduction of the Deus ex machine required for the dénouement.
The scientist in question, Gardiner Millar and his pretty, minimum wage assistant, have been setting up the devices to monitor the effects of a cosmic event featuring a neutron star. Pieces of exceptionally dense material have been propelled to earth and in some cases, such as the fragment that hit the lamentable federal agent, proceeded clear through the earth exiting somewhere in the outback of Australia. Okay, science geeks, calm down, the most flagrant disregard for accepted facts is yet to come. Of course the scientist is a maverick whose theories are rejected by the mainstream scientific community. You should pause at this juncture to allow the irony of that statement to sink in considering the context already established here, the disaster movie format imposes certain requirements. One is to set up at least two couples that work the problem. The first is Andy and his girlfriend, Michelle Fulton (Julia Maxwell) representing the unorthodox approach with establishment held up by a science agent of sorts, Chloe Edwards (Julia Benson) and her assistant Ally (Jennifer Shirley). Benson, also credited by her maiden name of Anderson, is the requisite cast member from an accepted science fiction vehicle, in this instance ‘SGU Stargate Universe’. Streich’s immediate boss, Special Agent Lockman (Micahel Kopsa), is in cahoots with the director, Arnette (Roark Critchlow) are involved in some high level cover up. This involves the classified work of research scientist Dr. Rothman (Bruce Davidson), who invented a global shield but was committed to a covert government mental institution when he opposed plans to weaponize his technology. This places the fat of the world in the hands of a juvenile delinquent hacker, a disgraced researcher and another scientist with an n ample figure proving once again a beautiful woman can also have a brilliant mind.
Oh yes, the cause fir all the concern and most outlandish misuse of science in a film where this plot device abounds. The incredibly dense material from outer space has emitted a radiation and altered the earth’s rotation slowing it down, unless this can be halted and reversed the earth is doomed in a very short time. The explanation vacillates between the drag imparted by the destruction of the Van Allen radiation belt that surrounds the planet and the increased magnetic attraction of the fragments that is a billion times that of the planet Jupiter. One thing that might help is to try to look at the movie in terms where the science fiction is approached as a type of McGuffin, more important within the context of the story than to the audience. If viewed in this fashion the focus of the story is diverted from the lengthy string of technobabble to a more solid foundation of a government conspiracy movie. The elements necessary to achieve this are all present in proper measure. The military swaying the government and perverting pure academic research and the corruption of applications beneficial to humanity into weapons of mass destruction is a venerable theme that not only still retains its impact but in view of some of science’s explorations of the fundamental basis of reality the prospects are very real indeed. The film does work in this sense and makes for a reasonable popcorn conspiracy flick.