AE: Apocalypse Earth (2013)
Capt. Sam Crowe: “We protect each other, or we’re all gonna die alone.”
Since I’ve been talking about Batman so much on here I wanted to review real sci-fi. Even if it’s Syfy material. AE borrows all the clichés. Earth is destroyed and the refugees have to learn how to survive and get along with the natives while killing their cloaked pursuers, “The Chameleons”. So, it is quite literally Avatar, Predator and Star Trek. To its credit, I felt like it was at least trying to form its own narrative, using familiar settings, which is more than I can say for J.J. Abrahms.
There’s even a Neytiri rip-off (Except she’s green! Haha!) named Lea, who teaches the crew how to survive, and a Data rip-off named TIM (complete with the “synthetic skin” makeup) who struggles to understand human nature. Except he’s a horrible android actor who stutters occasionally, and can’t maintain flat affect. In addition, he keeps saying he’d be happy to do things, which gets annoying.
Oh dear, what else is there to say about this cheesefest? The group slowly encounters natives, and it turns out some humans were being kept by the Chameleons in zoos/laboratories. In one of the cheesiest “syfy” twists I have ever seen, when they reach the natives, it turns out Lea never learned to speak or write her native tongue. TIM mentions that many languages have similar structures, and perhaps he can synthesize a translation matrix. He becomes the interpreter, and the societies unite against the Chameleons!
The events are standard procedure: First the humans learn to survive, then struggle against death, and then build some communication. Captain Sam Crowe is no doubt an amalgam of Jayne from Firefly and Captain Kirk…he spews hopeful one-liners like Kirk (“We’re not going down without a fight!”) and has the same build and anti-hero persona of Jayne. Plus, the end scene with the attack on The Chameleons with bows and arrows is equal parts Avatar and The Original Series episode Friday’s Child! If you recall, Kirk defeats the Klingon occupiers with a bow and arrow, and help from the natives.
As bad as the effects and dialogue are, I gotta admit it’s still good to see good old syfy cheese with gunfights, and cheesy morals…even if it is recycled. Hollywood puts so much effort into spectacle these days, I think they forget sci-fi is a window into human social structure, and nature. Although this just mashed three movies together, it was good to see those themes come up again, but the movie never makes you connect with the characters. It never really could anyway, given that this is a cheesefest. And the CGI makes Lake Placid look good.
Overall, I love-hated the movie (if that makes sense!) It had bad acting, stock characters, horrible dialogue, and bad CGI! And yet…I feel there’s something comically noble in the way that it mixes sci-fi action-survival clichés with the questions of human society and nature And who doesn’t like a good syfy gunfight? It’s basically Captain Kirk and Data vs. The Predator!
Admittedly, this movie is getting a bad rating from me. Probably something on the level of E. But, I’d also put it in the so-bad-it’s-good category. The Star Trek fan in me loves the philosophical bits, however badly executed, the syfy fan in me loves the gunfights, and arrows, and action bits. It’s really the bad acting and CGI in-between that hurts. But, at least you can laugh at it! Cliché yes, schlock yes, schmaltzy and low-budget? Yes and yes. And yet, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t give it a watch on Netflix!