Thursday, June 12, 2014

Mockbusted #22: Age Of Tomorrow

Ah yes, another year, another slate of Asylum mockbusters of popular and not so popular films. Though still riding high off of the surprise irony fueled success of last year’s Sharknado, the company’s bread and butter will always be riding the box office coattails of hit movies, and on that score, 2014 has not been kind. That is, I assume the process only works if the originals are hits, but after Robocop, Pompeii, and now Edge of Tomorrow, nobody thinks about the effect these big budget financial disappointments might have on the humble knock-off merchants of the world. As I lamented in my review, that last one is particularly demoralizing, and only made more so by the fact that it’s mockbuster Age of Tomorrow will likely be as ignored as its in-title-only predecessor, because its actually pretty good.

Now, when I say that, I need to apply some important caveats. I’m not saying that Age of Tomorrow is good in the same way that, say, Android Cop is good, that rare Asylum movie that but for its low budget might be mistaken for a mainstream theatrical release. I’m also not saying its good in the way most people think Asylum movies can only be good, as cheap B-movies to be appreciated ironically. And finally, I’m certainly not saying that it’s anywhere near as good as Edge of Tomorrow, which I still believe is one of the best action sci-fi movies in the last 15 years. No, Age of Tomorrow is good in that special way that Asylum movies are rarely given credit for, by defying the rules and conventions of filmmaking. This can be a double edged sword of course; if a cast and crew simply don’t know the rules, the result can often be unwatchable, but when they do know the rules and simply don’t give a fuck about them, indeed it can be glorious.

You know that clich├ęd badass male protagonist from 80’s and 90’s action movies, all beard stubble and ambiguous attitude problems? Well, this movie has two of them. It’s like Dead Heat, which looked at every other buddy cop movie and saw that they needed a cool guy and a straight laced guy, and then said fuck it, let’s just have two cool guys. The characters are virtually identical, and one gets the sense while watching it that the only reason it isn’t the same character in two places at once is because they couldn’t figure out how to wedge in cloning on top of all the other crap in the movie. So instead we get a crazy axe wielding fireman just trying to get his daughter back Con Air style, and a lone wolf with a tragic back story you just know you don’t need to care about. And then the always entertaining Robert Picardo comes in to reveal that Armageddon is upon us, and I don’t just mean the end of the world, but also literally the Michael Bay movie from 1998.

That’s the plot of the movie, at least for the first 20 minutes, with a rough and tumble crew of space jockeys flying up to an asteroid a fourth the size of our moon to plant a nuke, while a slightly more affable group of firefighters deals with the smaller meteors wreaking havoc planet-side. But then shit gets real when it turns out the asteroid isn’t an asteroid at all, but an alien space ship complete with a worm hole to another planet and a fleet of orbs equipped with weaponized teleporter beams to abduct the human population for some nefarious purpose. So we have a battle on two fronts, with astronauts on an alien world and regular joes on Earth, and much like the Asylum’s After Earth mockbuster A.E. Apocalypse Earth last year, it feels like two slightly awesome movies pushed together into one even more awesome movie, throwing anything and everything out at the audience to see what manages to stick, most of which does.

The action is solid and the special effects are decent to good at least by Asylum standards, and once the movie gets going, its pretty relentless as it builds upon itself with one awesome/silly moment after another. I counted at least two laser decapitations, and not just head explosions mind you, but full on head flying off severings, and the aliens, in civilian form, orb form, and CGI egg laying queen form are about as good as you can make them for the amount of money they probably had to create an entire planet full of monsters from scratch. Not to mention, the movie is brutally unsentimental when it comes to killing off characters and escalating the plight of those still alive. It doesn't just kill off characters you grow to like, it kills off characters you would think would have to survive for the movie to end right, but then that's a consideration of those rules, and this movie doesn't need them. The ending is almost sadistically dour, giving us a triumphant Star Wars-esque victory snatched away at the last minute, with a final shot practically cribbed straight from the series finale of Joss Whedon's Angel.

Naturally with a movie like this, the standard disclaimer applies: This is a low budget, straight to DVD/VOD schlockfest, so if you're the kind of person who doesn't get out of bed for less than $50 million, this isn't for you. Of course, this probably means you're the kind of person who can't watch a black and white movie or enjoy a classic 8 bit videogame, because technical advancement is the only thing important to your entertainment, which means you should probably just do the world a favor and fucking kill yourself. Yes, obviously Edge of Tomorrow is a better movie, but it also cost $170 million; it damn well better be good. Asylum movies are made for like $4 a piece, tops, and they don't have to be good, because they're sold by the misleading title and box art to people so stupid that they think a movie they have some vague notion of being currently in theaters is also available to rent or own. Age of Tomorrow didn't have to try, but it did anyway, and if the metric is bad ass fun, it passed with flying colors.

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