With oil prices on the rise and green energy a primary global concern, the work of Proteus, led by Dr. Karl Dameron (Steven Weber) and Dr. Sarah Reed (Christina Cox) and funded by billionaire Max Salinger (Treat Williams) is the focus of natural attention. The trio hope to harness dark energy to create an ecologically friendly, cost-effective power solution for the whole world. As the program gets closer to testing, Karl begins to have doubts about the safety of what he's helped design, but he runs up against Sarah's accusations that he's being too cautious, not to mention Salinger's attempts to broker a billion-dollar deal with the US government, which he'll stop at nothing to push through. Meanwhile, the threat of a local eco-terrorism group hangs overhead...which Karl's daughter Ruby (Jessica McLeod) has fallen in with.
"Eve of Destruction" is the second of Reelz Channel's five two-part, three-hour sci-fi miniseries movies to reach Blu-Ray, following "Ring of Fire." Similar to that film, this is pretty standard disaster-movie material, although "Eve of Destruction" ends up on the negative side of average, thanks to a few additional flaws that "Fire" managed to avoid. Both movies had a surprising environmentalist streak, with the previous film containing a bitter eco-activist, but this one jumps over to outright eco-terrorists, who end up crafting bombs to blow up Proteus property. I've got nothing against a pro-environmental message, but writer Richard Beattie muddles the details, invoking the old "playing God" chestnut without understanding it. The film lacks an explanation of why dark energy is inherently dangerous beyond showing the viewer that it doesn't work; without it, it's just scientists testing a theory. Considering that it doesn't work results in a film that automatically sides with the eco-terrorists, which is awkward given how aggressive they are. Beattie also throws in a reference to GMOs, perhaps just to make the movie feel current.
Beattie's screenplay also stumbles when it comes to character drama. One of the big scenes in the film is two female scientists sniping at each other about sleeping their way up the corporate ladder, which is lazy and plays to stereotypes in all of the worst ways. The script avoids moral complexity by lifting the true responsibility for the destruction off of Karl and Sarah's shoulders, giving that work to a more villainous character that the audience is free to dislike. Once the destruction happens, all of the villains remain cartoonishly oblivious to the effect of their actions even as similar disasters occur all over the world, killing untold billions of people. Aside from Ruby, the one character who exists in a gray area, David (Colin Lawrence) is not written with any verve or personality -- he's just The Guy Who Changes. There is also a thread about Karl's failure to be there for Ruby after the death of her mother, but the script ends up forcing Karl to remain absent at a crucial moment, which feels awkward, even if it is for the greater good.
Director Robert Lieberman is fine at delivering spectacle with clarity, but some of his decisions are strange and detract from the tension. One of the most baffling is his decision to reveal a bit of information right before the break between the two halves of the show that would create tension had he left it ambiguous. On Blu-Ray, I suppose the tension would only last for about a minute anyway, but it still seems weird to intentionally sabotage a moment of suspense. Later, when the chaos starts, he pulls out all the stops for a gigantic effects shot that shows the massive amounts of destruction caused by the experiment, but he doesn't show the destruction temporarily ending, which makes the characters' concern that it will "happen again" momentarily confusing. The fate of at least two key character is also left unresolved, in an oddly discomforting oversight.
There is one character who really, really works -- Ruslan (Aleks Paunovic), a Russian power line technician who opens the film in a short prologue in which he sees the effect of a Russian reactor causing the same destruction. When the film jumps ten years later to present day, he's moved to America and gotten his life back on track, but he's got an unhealthy wish to have what his co-worker has in terms of a family, and he's cruel to his current girlfriend (Jennifer Kitchen) as a result. It's a great "average guy in an extraordinary position" story that could've been the whole movie, with the scientists and corporations playing a secondary role, but as it is, it's the one lifeline in a mediocre movie that might make it worth watching.
Borders are classy. That's the lesson to be learned from Reelz Channel's Doomsday Series, which takes PhotoShop artwork that would be completely indistinguishable from a hundred other sci-fi covers on the walls of a Blockbuster or a Redbox screen and makes it stand out just a little with branding identifying it an installment of a larger enterprise. That may sound a little sarcastic, but I'm not kidding: it's simple, but very smart. The disc comes in a standard eco-friendly Amaray case with no insert inside of it. No slipcover on this one -- no idea if that's just my copy or if they ditched those after "Ring of Fire".
The Video and AUdio
Presented in 1.78:1 1080p AVC and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, this is another top-notch presentation by Vivendi and Reelz, free of the usual banding and noise that plagues modern, low-budget, high-def releases. Fine detail is absolutely impeccable, colors appear natural and accurate, and any compression artifacts or errors were too minor for me to notice. Some grain is present, but it appears to be from the source materials. The sound, while it has some budgetary drawbacks, is thunderous and dramatic, enveloping the viewer in the scientific disaster at the center of the film. Even when the effects let me down a touch, the mix impresses technically with its range and surround capability. There is one split-second moment where the source audio is a bit muffled, but it's over in a split-second. High marks, all around. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing are also included.
Just like the disc for "Ring of Fire", "Eve of Destruction" comes with a preview for the next in Reelz's Doomsday Series, "Cat. 8" (9:08, HD), starring Matthew Modine.
"Eve of Destruction" is merely mediocre, not bad, and it has the character of Ruslan, who deserves a better movie / miniseries than this one. It's not worth prioritizing, but if one considers this kind of material like the Blu-Ray version of an airport novel, it might be worth a rental if the major studio stuff is all checked out at the Redbox.
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