After The Impact
2.5 out of 5 stars
Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson
You’ll take away at least one important fact from the Discovery Channel’s “Super Comet: After The Impact”… When the big one hits, head for the nearest ocean. When the super comet strikes the earth, it’s gonna be hotter than hell in the summertime near ground zero, but it’ll be colder than George Bush’s heart nearly every place else, and brother, that’s mighty cold. So if you trek toward the ocean you just might survive, because large bodies of water will retain more heat.
Think of “Super Comet” as first you fry -- then you die -- for dummies. It tells a super story in an economical 80 minutes, but crashes because of its saddled with low budget special effects and actors who are more wooden than an Ethan Allen showroom. There are plenty of professors on board (who look bored) from prestigious universities -- experts in the weather, radiation, and disaster management. There are so many talking heads stating the obvious about a subject they really can’t predict they wind up sounding like B movie actors from a 50s sci-fi drive in movie:
Professor Wolf Dumbrowski (Louie’s brother?): “There’ll be no way out.”
Professor Jay Melosh: “Anything that’s unprotected is going to die within minutes of its first impact.”
More insights from Professor Dumbrowski: “The entire social order will be restructured. Those who can adapt and survive will make it to the top.”
Because the corresponding dramatization is limited, the viewer ultimately doubts the validity of the “professors” assembled in a control room to Lord over the disaster. Are they really experts in their so called fields or more bad actors? Dr. Robert Weiss (pronounced “vice” and whose as dramatic as a field of fouled Edelweiss), struggles to contain his glee as he explains that if a comet struck the earth, liquefying Mexico, it would cause tsunamis that would envelope New York and Europe. Dr. Vivi Vidja, a scientist from Sweden, sounds too much like Mrs. O’Wiggins from “The Carol Burnett Show” to be anything but unintentional comic relief. The most heinous casting error (with the exception of a pre-teen girl and a few dogs -- more on that soon), is Dr. Alan Harris, a German scientist with a distinct British accent. Doc Harris’ credibility takes a serious detour because he reacts to the camera as if it’s attempting to steal his soul. To make matters worse, hyper Harris has a very twitchy left eye, likely a by-product of his frayed nerves. When he states things he wants the viewer to believe, his left eye blinks like a forgetful senior citizen’s turn signal that’s been on for the last six miles. Yes, I’m really telling you the truth…wink, wink, wink, wink.
Give the writers high fives for coming up with the idea of turning the end of the world into an hour long mini-series. They probably took a look at the footage of hyper Harris and Mrs. O’Wiggins and realized they couldn’t just film a scientific forum without offering some nominal special effects and a few back stories as a distraction. So the end of the world is seen through eyes of four separate groups of survivors: The first pair, Dr Noah Boyle, a boy toy scientist, and his brainiac Asian-American associate, are at an observatory in Hawaii when the comet hits. Naturally, they fall in love as they make the arduous trek across the scorched and useless Hawaii terrain toward the sea. The second “set” of survivors is made up of the determined Fernando, who leaves California to be with his family in Mexico when he hears the comet is about to strike (he’ll meet his traveling companions shortly). Unbeknownst to him, his hometown is situated at ground zero. In Paris, the Vaton family, a husband, wife and daughter, leave their home for a shelter, convinced their inconvenience will only be temporary. In Cameroon, members of a pygmy tribe are oblivious that they’re about to experience the bone-chilling joys of snow and famine.
The viewer gets to follow each of the group’s efforts to reach their respective new bohemias. The Vatons leave the shelter because they’re compelled to – their daughter’s dog bolts, followed by their daughter. Personally, if a comet had just struck Earth, the ground was two hundred degrees, I was sandwiched in the corner of a damp, funky cellar and my four-legged manure machine just ran off, I’d retrieve my daughter and it’s bye bye Lassie, or in this case, Mademoiselle Lassie. The Vatons manage to procure an environmentally friendly car; an educated choice given the comet’s trail has shorted out the electrical systems of the other autos with computers chips. Daddy V. decides to investigate a building, telling his daughter to stay in the car and keep an eye on her slumbering mom. Before you can say, “Quel imbecile!” the girl follows daddy inside. Vandals make off with the car with mom still catching zzz’s in the back seat. Will the Vaton’s have a tearful family reunion? Well, first Monsieur Vaton and his dark cloud of a daughter must trek across hundreds of miles of what used to be pleasant farm land and now resembles the Edmonton Ice Festival. Along the way, daughter Vaton makes a fortuitous life-saving discovery, and Daddy V. shows some true pioneer grit. Rife with clichés, the Vaton’s story is still the best of the lot, because Daddy V. and Mademoiselle V. can at least act a little bit. When the storyline focuses on Dr. Boyle and his assistant, not only does their budding relationship strain credibility, the circumstances of their rescue are more fantastic than Paris Hilton winning an Oscar. I’ll give you a hint: a character thought to be a continent away reappears, and despite his resemblance to Oliver Hardy (any man would have a real problem navigating Hawaii’s rocky, devastated terrain, let alone someone on the Twinkie diet), this guy has not only survived unscathed, but seems to have had access to a shower and regular wardrobe changes. It’s his rescue plan that’ll make you snack your forehead harder than Moe ever hit Larry or Curly, and although you’ll have no problem figuring out the lovebird’s fate, it’s like any train wreck – ya gotta look.
As for Fernando, well, he was a fool to go home in the first place, an even bigger fool for not retreating back over the border, (especially when he sees everyone else evacuating faster than A.J. Foyt leaving his pit crew), and he’s an absolute idiota for stopping at an abandoned Army base. Hey, botarate, if the Army has deserted the area, what does that tell you? When the skies go bright orange, Fernando makes his only smart move, diving into an underground shelter. He makes another mistake freeing and befriending a trio of dogs. I’m no fan of the hairy slobbering sect (and that includes dogs too); freeing the pooches would have sufficed for me, but this poor hombre needs companionship. Fernando feeds them and uses them for sled dogs in his attempt to get home. Dehydrated, famished, he finally face dances in the crusty sand. When he wakes up – guess what? Man’s best friends have taken off on him. (That’s the reason why I was a cat owner.) Just how screwed is Fernando? He had to find a new pair of shoes because the first pair melted, he has no water, and he hasn’t quite figured out that the 125-foot crater that lies ahead once contained his hometown. Adios, Fernando. As for the plight of the pygmies in Cameroon, it’s a matter of let’s get inside this cave, wait it out and put some clothes on.
In the end, the four vignettes may represent four very different groups of people in perilous situations, but they all have a common bond – hope. Even as we leave wrong-way Fernando, there’s a miniscule possibility he won’t heat up hotter than a McDonald’s French fry in the 120 degree heat and he might yet find his family.
The plots involving our quartet of stalwart heroes may be as stale as the Vaton’s fromage, but some of the cut rate special effects are effectively blunt. Seeing New York City bathed in radioactive ash is nothing new to me – I worked in the rotten apple for seven years and breathed in enough noxious fumes to make my lungs look blacker than a Jolly Roger. But the humongous tidal wave and big freeze that hits the Big Apple are well represented, as is the burning meteor shower and subsequent Ice Age that envelopes France.
Although the subject matter is daunting, you don’t need a Ph. D. to understand what’s going on. In fact, the younger you are, the more you might enjoy “Super Comet: After the Impact.” If you’re a complete dumbrowski like me, you’ll appreciate Dr. Boyle’s assistant more than anything else. (If I’m going to be turned into a grease spot by the sun at least let me go out smiling.) “Super Comet” doesn’t leave much of an impact, but you’re bound to learn a few a few tricks (don’t run out into the streets during the flaming meteor storm, keep a very large sailboat handy) that could keep you from winding up like Fernando when the big one hits.