Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ferocious Planet

"Don't poke the aliens." -Ferocious Planet-

Well, SyFy strikes again with a film from the Maneater series dubbed, with subtle nuance, Ferocious Planet [2011]. Okay, not really. SyFy's reputation precedes it as far as cheesy, science fiction adventure outings go. The channel releases crap at a record pace. Morlocks [2011], starring David Hewlett and Robert Picardo, was really no exception and I had hoped it might be. My previous coverage of A Dog's Breakfast alluded to that aforementioned SyFy production.

To give you an idea of what you are up against with SyFy, here are just a few of the titles in circulation: Carny, Croc, Eye Of The Beast, Grizzly Rage, Hellhounds, High Plains Invaders, The Hive, Hybrid, Maneater, Rise Of The Gargoyles, Sand Serpents, Sea Beast, Shark Swarm, Swamp Devil, Vipers, Wyvern and the list goes on. There's not much left to the imagination with that list. I certainly can't comment on them. There's not enough time in my life to waste determining how good or bad these films truly are. Generally speaking, I would prefer to regret giving up my time to such garbage perhaps once or twice a year. That quota is now full, first with Morlocks and now with Ferocious Planet.

It saddens me too, because I love the cast of Stargate Atlantis and it's heartbreaking to see actors like David Hewlett and Joe Flanigan getting their paychecks from this painfully predictable drivel. Granted, they add a touch of quality to the proceedings, but there's no chance they can save them.

My recent endeavor to investigate the world of Stargate Atlantis led me to other works featuring actors from the series including the outings of Joe Flanigan.

Ferocious Planet stars none other than actor Joe Flanigan, formerly Major John Sheppard on Stargate Atlantis. I gave it a look. Flanigan essentially plays the Sheppard character for SyFy's low budget thriller.

The mood and look of the film was largely successful no doubt thanks to director Billy O'Brien and his creative team. Ferocious Planet was filmed on location in Ireland. Filming anywhere outside of Vancouver or your standard US urban hot spots always qualifies as an unexpected pleasure. Still, the largely forest-soaked setting begs the question why it wasn't filmed in Vancouver anyway. Granted, nothing like a vacation for the actors in a place as lovely as Ireland where you can be certain to get a great fix on fish and chips plus some whiskey.

The general science fiction concept in Ferocious Planet is largely implausible and utterly ridiculous, but the cast and mood of the story's sense of adventure sells it pulling you into the a tale of politicians, scientists and military personnel transported to a parallel universe. Most of all, the idea is to transport us largely into a world of wonder and adventure. But low budgets don't really deliver a whole lot of wonder when its wall to wall trees again.

The best looking CGI still you'll get. One politician's body is severed in half by an unidentified alien lifeform and Flanigan shines with his ability to deliver lines like "I guess he won't be running for re-election." When the terrible special effects finally show up, they are typically atrocious for Ferocious, but Flanigan really elevates the poor material with lines like "Definitely gonna' need a bigger boat." The homage to Jaws is lost on one of the younger, dumber comrades clearly not versed in the best of cinema.

Guns are good on Ferocious Planet. Meanwhile, the world's smartest scientist isn't sure what the creature is but is sure of one thing, "It's pissed!" Clearly you can be smart and have a sense of humor. Actually, can smart scientists be down to Earth and beautiful?

Answers to obvious questions like breathable atmosphere are bandied about in an effort to establish credibility.

The kinds of story problems that surround the tale include how a single level room, separated from the rest of its building, and transported to an apparently prehistoric dimension still manages to have electrical power. In fact, where is the power grid on the planet. Okay, I'll assume it's a generator and it made it through to the alternate dimension.

Still, the silly ideas and general goofiness is somehow overshadowed by Flanigan's charm and the director's ability to generate palpable thrills and a real sense of credible excitement despite the the whole affair being as dumb as a T-Rex.

Flanigan plays Commander Sam Synn and now that they have arrived in this other place he'll do some recon after giving orders to two of the politicians he affectionately refers to as "Beavis and Butthead." I'll give you three guesses as to the fate of those two knuckleheads.

Following the creature attack, everyone goes back outside. Logic goes out the window for adventure and excitement, but what else is one to do in a parallel dimension? Be careful this is a ferocious planet. Okay, it's a generally quiet planet with an occasionally ferocious creature on patrol.

One of the politicians takes pictures excited by their findings. She says no one will believe it. Yet, she takes pictures of trees. It's safe to say your political friends have seen a few trees. You may want a shot of that creature when it comes back. Trees they can believe.

Ferocious Planet 2: It Finally Gets Really Ferocious. Two scientists work feverishly to return the group back to their own dimension in the hopes of escaping giant mushrooms, quick sand pits and generally certain death. They manage to utilize the mystery energy that powers their severed facility.

There are some fine character moments thanks to the cast. Despite the death of the senator, this former employee exhibits very little heart. That's politics. This is an amusing exchange.

So much for partnerships and was that Beavis or Butthead?

As the military patrol the area I kept wondering how they intended to battle a T-Rex-like beast with their pistols. Amidst the general silliness there are moments when the survivors run back to their government bunker that reminded me of the cast of Land Of The Lost running back to their makeshift cave home. It has that kind of imagination and simplicity of excitement in play.

It's a bit like looking at the sky in Land of The Lost. So there's one in every bunch. As the team prepares to depart one woman wants to stay and learn more. Yes, let's stay in the haunted house. You know the kind of woman, like Paul Reiser's character in James Cameron's Aliens who towed the party line for the corporate stooges bio-weapon's division, while the remainder of his team was hacked to bits by razor-teethed xenomorphs. Well, we know the fates of those people too.

This is a good scene that speaks to the humor and general feel of the picture.

The "pointdexter" fellow apparently wants to go on Fox & Friends to meet Gretchen Carlson. Given Hollywood's general affection for the conservative network you can imagine how things go. His demise was inevitable the moment he uttered Fox & Friends.

Ferocious Planet, despite a good lead, simply cannot elevate it beyond its ephemeral Saturday night intentions. Firefly's Adam Baldwin and Morena Baccarin couldn't rescue Sands Of Oblivion [2007]. Michael Shanks couldn't do it for the Lost Treasure Of The Grand Canyon [2008]. David Hewlett couldn't pull it off for Morlocks [2011].

As expected, Joe Flanigan simply isn't given the script to do it here on Ferocious Planet try as he might. It has good pacing and some good humor, but a terribly weak ending with no real point. Its only real intent is to cast its actors into a forest to survive the bad, man-eating CGI of those horrendous SyFy effects. For those who would enjoy a romp of action helmed by Joe Flanigan, I caution that this is still a SyFy original and it doesn't come close to the writing talent found in an engaging episode of Stargate Atlantis. Its entertainment level is minimal if unsatisfactory. I'd love to recommend Ferocious Planet, but alas this is an entirely skip-worthy affair. Strangely enough, you could do worse with a SyFy channel movie, but that doesn't necessarily make it good. Given its budget, you could rank this somewhere between the Peter Hyams' Ray Bradbury adaptation A Sound Of Thunder [2005] and the worst of SyFy. If you've seen A Sound Of Thunder that's not saying much.

Joe Flanigan Television & Films: Sisters [Season Six; 1995]/ Murphy Brown [Season 10; 1 Ep; 1997]/ Dawson's Creek [Season Two; 2 Ep; 1998]/ Cupid [4 Ep; 1998]/ The Other Sister [1999]/ Providence [Season One; 1999]/ Profiler [Season Four; 2000]/ First Monday [13 Ep; 2002]/ Farewell to Harry [2002]/ Judging Amy [Season Four; Ep 1; 2002]/ Tru Calling [Season One; 1 Ep; 2003]/ Thoughtcrimes [2003]/ CSI: Miami [Season Two; 1 Ep; 2004]/ Stargate Atlantis [2004-2009; 100 Ep]/ Stargate SG-1 [2006; 1 Ep]/ Warehouse 13 [Season One; 1 Ep; 2009]/ Ferocious Planet [2011]/ Good Day For It [2011]/ Fringe [Season Four; 1 Ep; 2011]/ Six Bullets [2012].

Yikes! Now that my friends is a ferocious planet! Who is in charge of the SyFy original films division anyway? SyFy really should try some latex or rubber suits.

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