Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Cinema File #69: "Ferocious Planet (Aka The Other Side)" Review

Though I was vaguely aware of some of the movies within it, up until now, I hadn't heard of the Maneater series. Evidently (ie. according to Wikipedia), they are a series of films released to DVD and to the SyFy channel, known mostly for having some inexplicably well known actors like F Murray Abraham show up in them from time to time. They are dubbed natural horror movies because they often feature killer animals like Bengal Tigers, Sharks, Crocodiles, and so forth, but a quick perusal of the filmography shows exploits with the Jersey Devil, Gargoyles, Aliens, and a whole host of decidedly unnatural creatures. Today's film, Ferocious Planet, possibly one of the last in this series as they have not made any new ones in the past year, is set on a parallel Earth, which is about as far from nature as it can get. That is to say, its as far from our normal Earth environment as one can get. As a SyFy Channel Original movie, it fits right in to the bland, CGI mess of a canon.

The story follows the guy from Stargate Atlantis as a disgraced solider guarding a government facility during a demonstration of a device that can see into parallel realities, where naturally something goes wrong and the entire building, or at least a large section of it, is transported to a savage world dominated by giant bug dinosaur things. John Rhys Davies also shows up as a senator with the most unconvincing southern accent ever committed to film, just long enough to remind us all that Sliders was a thing, before being mauled by a giant monster. The premise could have been interesting, but it is very limited, the action taking place in one small wooded area with only two different monsters, one possibly the juvenile form of the other but killed off too quickly to confirm, and not much else to show for something as potentially expansive as an alien world. There is the brief hint of civilization off in the distance, but it is used for a cheesy tragic twist ending for a character I ultimately didn't care enough about in the first place.

Given that they were clearly not going to do anything with the setting, I can't help but think this movie would have been better served going in the other direction, with the portal opening into our world and releasing the monsters here to stalk through what would have been metropolitan Washington D.C. I know tree lines are cheaper and having a giant pincer bug thing climb on top of the Whitehouse might have been prohibitively expensive, but what we get is just so boring and devoid of any originality or ingenuity. Look at this amazing world, so unlike our own, with an extra moon, and...fucking trees. That's it. That's what this groundbreaking discovery of traveling to other worlds has netted us. Trees. And monsters.

Stargate guy is good as the affable jokey soldier, basically playing the same character he did on that show, as though re-assigned after almost crashing an alien city into San Francisco, but there's really next to nothing good about this movie. It's not outrageously terrible mind you, just middling to the end. There is one weird through line that makes me think Fox News might have kicked back a little money to the production. Two of the minor characters want to steal stuff and bring it back to become famous, and they explicitly mention wanting to go on Fox and Friends. No other shows are mentioned, just that one, and later, when one of them is about to be killed for stealing a monster egg, his last words, his final lament to the cosmos, is that all he wanted to do was meet Gretchen Carlson. It's really weird and would have taken me out of the movie if I was capable of being immersed into it.

I can't recommend this movie at all. If you happen to catch it on TV, or see it somewhere on DVD in a bargain bin, I wouldn't waste my time. I have been a defender of SyFy Channel movies in the past (not all of them), but this in not a diamond in the rough. This is just the rough.

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