Last week, NASA announced that in 2012 the Earth narrowly avoided being hit by the largest solar coronal mass ejection recorded since before electric power grids and telecommunication satellites were a thing. Fortunately or unfortunately, along with the rest of civilization, the solar crisis duology Cat. 8 (available on DVD and Netflix streaming) was also spared.
We've watched this masterpiece of disaster-movie brilliance, and here's why it should totally be part of your next drunken evening of yelling at your television. Spoilers ahead...
In part one, the awesomely-named Maxim Roy plays Dr. Jane Whitlow, head of an advanced research project intended to ease global warming by manipulating the Earth's magnetic field to control the weather. As a bonus, the same system can be used to manipulate the sun's magnetic field to emit coronal mass ejections which can be captured and converted into clean energy. What could possibly go wrong? Fire 'er up, Doc.
In a stunning turn of events that no one could have possibly predicted without an advanced degree in chaos theory, the system malfunctions as soon as it's activated, causing a series of chain-reaction explosions on the surface of the sun which consequently produce a coronal mass ejection large enough to destroy human civilization. Inconceivable!
Meanwhile back on Earth, Dr. Michael Ranger (Matthew Modine) is taking a break from his usual routine of monitoring the sun, stealing satellite TV and updating his IMDB page, by accompanying his schoolteacher daughter and her class on a field trip to a science museum. Just as Dr. Ranger is about to begin what would have in no doubt been a riveting monologue on the merits of a career in the sciences, tremors and magnetic storms from the coronal mass ejection hit, sending everyone into a flurry of mild concern. Yes, the solar flare causes earthquakes. Stick with me here.
With his daughter and her fiance in tow, Dr. Ranger races against the clock, and those red-tape-loving stuffed shirt bureaucrats back in Washington, on a mission to save life on Earth by, say it with me, un-blowing-up the sun. Un-blowing it up real good. What a guy.
Yadda yadda yadda..one chance in a million desperate longshot plan...yadda yadda yadda bad guy inexplicably invested in the sun staying blown up for some reason...yadda yadda...the sun is un-blown up...but for how long?...aaaaand...we're...not quite out.
In part two, things go from bad to worse when we discover that, while the sun is indeed good and un-blown up, the coronal ejection has somehow stopped the core of the Earth from spinning, causing it to overheat. Because spinning cools the Earth's core down. Or something. Whatever the problem is, the plan to fix it with nuclear weapons inexplicably fails.
Global temperatures rise dozens of degrees in a matter of days, volcanoes start erupting everywhere, geysers shoot up willy nilly, cats and dogs move in together, mass hysteria ensues. Fortunately for mankind, Dr. Ranger just happens to have an Earth core re-activating device stored in his barn...and it's still under warranty. All he needs to do is invert the polarities, realign the reactor output to the core's resonant frequency and cross link the mass field generator to the...oh, forget it.
Cat. 8 is the reason Rifftrax was invented. The production values are decent enough, but the dialogue is terrible, the plot is nonsensical and the performances are so stilted and rife with awkward pauses that it seems as if the actors fall into a fugue state whenever they hear the word "action."
This is the kind of movie that makes you appreciate the cinematic genius of films like Armageddon and The Core. These films at least had some sort of notion of things being at stake for the characters. Their sense of urgency is proportional to the problems they're facing, even if their plans are as ridiculous as the pretend science on which they're based. In Cat. 8, destroying humanity seems to be little more than an poor career choice.
In the end, Cat. 8 is a film that aspires to be Michael Crichton, but falls short of Michael Bay.