Impact, the ABC miniseries that premiered last night, made a couple of convincing cases: that a "brown dwarf" hitting the Moon could doom humanity. And that these self-centered, vapid, sniveling humans completely deserve obliteration. Spoilers ahead.
I have to say Impact's greatest achievement was making me appreciate The Core anew. Not that I need much help to do that, since The Core, starring Aaron Eckhart and Hilary Swank, deserves a high place of honor among right-thinking global-disaster movie fans everywhere. But Impact was basically like The Core, only much cheaper and much slower. People have been comparing it to Armageddon and Deep Impact, but The Core is really the greatest point of comparison, in my book. Weird global disasters, birds flying upside down, communities in ruins, people freaking out, and worse disasters on the way. So a group of flawed, messed up scientists has to make it right. The difference is, The Core is zippy and totally loony in its logic-avoidance, and it features Swank and Eckhart tunneling into the center of the Earth (seeing massive diamonds along the way) pretty early on. Impact, meanwhile, sort of drags along and weaves in tons of soap-operatic plots.
Okay, I'll stop rhapsodizing about The Core and actually talk about last night's steaming pile of brown matter... sorry, brown dwarf.
So Impact, famously, was supposed to be a Syfy Channel miniseries, but ABC outbid Syfy for the rights to air it. Based on part one, I'd say they should have had a bidding war to decide who was forced to run this thing. That said, the parts where CG asteroids hurtle through the sky and crash into the Earth and the Moon are pretty great, and I liked all the stuff where scientists stand around and talk seriously about how unprecedented this all is, and how the Moon is now in an elliptical orbit.
The parts that were tooth-pulling unbearable, though, were all of the long stretches where the miniseries tried to make us care about its characters, who just got more and more hateful the better we got to know them.
So in a nutshell, there's a huge meteor shower, and everybody around the world is watching in excitement. But unbeknownst to the watching masses, a brown dwarf is hiding in the meteor shower, and it has a huge mass and magnetic attraction. (But somehow it manages to avoid disturbing any of the other planets in the solar system, or otherwise announcing its presence.) The impact causes huge flaming asteroids to come rocketing down to Earth, smashing people. But then it gets worse — somehow the Moon gets into an elliptical orbit away from Earth and then towards it, and whenever it comes closer to Earth, there are freak gravity effects and electrical storms — see the totally awesome clip above — and everything goes hellzapoppin.
And at the end of all this horror, we discover that actually, the Moon's elliptical orbit is going to bring it closer and closer to Earth, faster and faster, until it finally crashes into us and obliterates the planet.
But as I said, by the time the spectre of global annihilation has reared its brown dwarfy head, we've already had two hours of wishing all of these people would die. Especially since this elite squad of science geeks is supposedly our only hope of avoiding total decimation, and all they ever do is sit around drinking wine, and whiskey and various other spirits, and talking about how science has been proved wrong lately. There are a hundred discussions that go roughly like this: "I used to believe in science, but in the past few days, science has totally been called into question." "But it's only by questioning science that we get science." "But what if science is wrong?" I found myself wanting to operate the remote control with my cranium, since ether fast-forwarding through this drek or giving myself brain damage would be an acceptable response to what I was seeing.
I brown-dwarf you not, there are two separate scenes where a very serious military person looks very seriously at the camera and says the same line: "You can't hide from gravity!!"
But meanwhile, every one of our hard-drinking, Newton-questioning science types has an incredibly annoying personal life. There's Natasha Henstridge's character, who for some reason was married to this totally douchey reporter with a soul patch, who keeps chasing her around wanting to get the inside scoop on the brown dwarf thing. David James Elliott plays Alex Kinter, an astrophysicist who's helping his two kids get through the death of their mom by calling them "Buddy" a lot, and by keeping them around their brain-damaged, agoraphobic grandpa (James Cromwell, utterly wasted in both senses of the word.) And then Roland the Euro-git (Benjamin Sadler) has a pregnant fiancee, who cares about flowers and wedding catering the exact same way he cares about science and saving the planet. Yee Jee Tso (from the Doctor Who TV movie) plays Jared, who has issues too, but we don't really find out what they are. I think they have something to do with Jesus.
Their Hallmark-channel storylines are utterly cloying and dull, and they drag the space-rocks action to a grinding halt, forcing us to pay attention to these whiny, narcissistic characters. Why won't grandpa go outside? Will little Sadie keep believing in the man in the moon? What about little Jake, will he keep hitting home runs in the face of armageddon? And will Martina understand that Roland the Euro-git has to put saving the planet from a lunar impact before planning their wedding? Blah blah blah, and who the fuck cares?
That said, I'll probably watch the second half this coming Sunday, just hoping against hope that all of these people get blasted out of space by the brown dwarf, leaving what's left of the planet totally pristine and lovely for some sympathetic aliens to come along and reclaim in a million years or so.
Anyway, it's a good thing this tripe got pummeled in the ratings, losing out to golf and 60 Minutes, so ABC will never try to beat the Syfy Channel at its own game again.