Free Natural Disaster Films: 01: Absolute Zero
Not having brought any DVDs with us to Japan, having only put a few on our external hard drive, and not being able to access services such as Netflix from outside of the U.S., I began searching for movies available free online. I found a few disaster films on YouTube that I wanted to share with y’all here. I’ve rated them based on Believability, Graphics, Story, and Acting. The latter three—Graphics, Story, and Acting—are judged simply:
** Below Average
**** Above Average
Believability is based both on the scientific principles presented in the film and on the activities of the actors within the movie. There may be times when scientists generally agree with the basic concept, but the details of how it is accomplished in the movie may make it unbelievable.
* Completely unbelievable
** Mostly unbelievable
*** Moderately believable
**** Mostly believable
***** Completely believable
I decided to start with the worst. I promise it gets better!
Absolute Zero (2006, Marvista Entertainment) *1.5
Warnings: Not Rated (but I would call it PG). Blood/Gore—there are two instances of slight blood and gore, not appropriate for young children. Language—none. Violence—none. Sexuality—none. Also not suitable for young children due to suspense.
Summary: This is essentially a lower-budget, crappy version of The Day After Tomorrow. The basic concept of both films is that increasing temperatures results in an ice age. In both films, some underappreciated climatologist (the main character) predicts in shocking detail exactly how global warming will cause catastrophic climate change, resulting in a new ice age. In the beginning, scientists in Antarctica record measurements and discoveries that give weight to the impending changes predicted by the underappreciated climatologist, partly due to some of their buddies falling down a huge crack that appears unpredictably in the ice. Later, back in the U.S., the underappreciated climatologist risks his life to save certain people and he and his group survive only because of his intelligence and/or knowledge of the climate. In The Day After Tomorrow, people evacuate south (in essence, the whole planet’s temperatures drastically decrease, so the equator is still the warmest location); in Absolute Zero, they flee north (in essence, the poles completely shift so the equator is the coldest). In the end, people who survived the cold are rescued by helicopter. The main differences between The Day After Tomorrow and Absolute Zero are that the story, acting, and graphics are decent in the former and completely suck in the latter. The Day After Tomorrow is also far more believable than Absolute Zero. Furthermore, The Day After Tomorrow came first by two years, so the incredible similarities lead me to call Absolute Zero a copycat of The Day After Tomorrow, not the reverse.
Believability: * I went back and forth between one star and two because the basic premise that human-caused global warming may result in severe climate change is accepted by, at most, a slight majority of climatologists. However, I finally settled on one star because of the manner in which they suggested it would occur. Basically, the magnetic north and south poles migrate to the middle latitude of the earth (known as cataclysmic pole shift hypothesis), which may or may not actually be possible; but if it is possible, it would happen over a much slower timescale than that depicted in the film (in fact, a 90° shift occurs in just a few days in the film but it’s believed to occur at a rate of 1° per million years at the most if it occurs at all). Because weather is partially controlled by the poles, the theory presented in the film is that the new north and south poles, now along the equator, would be frozen. However, the earth’s weather is not entirely controlled by the magnetic poles; it’s also controlled by the tilt of the earth’s axis, the moon, the sun, etc. Finally, there’s no explanation of how global warming itself caused the magnetic poles to shift. Furthermore, the climatologist predicts down to the second when Miami (the primary location of the film) will reach absolute zero temperatures. Seriously? To the second? Oh, yeah, also… absolute zero temperature is impossible to attain. In the beginning of the film, he escapes absolute zero temperatures in Antarctica by diving into a cave, and somehow the completely open and unblocked mouth of the cave stops absolute zero temperatures—that is, stops the air itself—from reaching him inside the cave. Uh… huh??? Later, in Miami, he escapes absolute zero temperatures by… running really fast. Except he doesn’t run really fast. So not only does he once again outrun the air itself, he even does it by pausing for dramatic effect to express sorrow over the death of a complete jerk. *sigh* The more I think about this movie, the more depressed I get. There’s more on the completely unbelievable scale, including the ability of grad students to determine the polarity of the earth 10,000 years ago based on a paint sample from a cave in Antarctica (why has no one else—particularly a well-funded PhD—done that before?), but I don’t have the time. These were just some of the worst.
Graphics: ** Initially, I was somewhat impressed with the graphics… and then the car sequence. First, a poorly rendered palm tree flies through the windshield and skewers a guy, then an even more poorly rendered funnel of absolute zero air comes down out of the sky and blows over the car with even more poorly rendered bursts of absolute zero clouds. But aside from the car sequence, the graphics were pretty good—in fact, minus the stupid car sequence, I would have given it four stars.
Story: * Aside from being a poor copycat of The Day After Tomorrow, the story sucks in many ways. The main character is unlikeable—in fact, only one or two characters are particularly likeable in my opinion. A newly widowed woman acts like her husband’s death is no big deal, then seems to remember she’s supposed to be sad about it and yells at someone, then goes right back to not caring. Similarly, a newly orphaned grade schooler’s only reaction is to pull a pouty face and comment, “I miss him.” Really? Two good guys die (too often in disaster films, all the good guys make it), but that’s about the only redeeming quality in the story. The story is painfully predictable. Furthermore, the villain is completely unrealistic. He also predicts the exact second at which Miami will reach absolute zero, but convinces the government that it won’t happen for another 200 years so that he can get money out of them. Seriously, it never occurred to him that such money, if he could cash it in the next few hours before Miami froze over, would do him no good in what is essentially a post-apocalyptic U.S.? I’m sorry, that’s absolutely unbelievable. Equally unbelievable is that, after commenting that the government probably won’t honor their contract when they look outside (at which point, absolute zero is about 1 minute away, so Miami is completely frozen over already), the villain ultimately dies because he’s trying to save the paper contracts that he dropped on the floor. Seriously? There were other unrealistic issues, such as the villain refusing to allow the scientists in Antarctica to move or leave with their very expensive equipment when the weather turned and they felt they and their equipment would be destroyed. Even if you’re so callous as not to care about your scientists, you’d surely not be stupid enough to risk your very expensive equipment!
Acting: ** There were about two or three good actors among those playing significant roles—the only reason this movie gets two stars here. Otherwise, most of the acting involved overacting or underacting. Again, the lack of apparent emotion in the widow and orphan following the death of their husband/father was especially shocking, and part of that is due to the writing, which the actors can’t control, but much of it is directly due to the acting. As I said before, the main character is not likeable, and again, that’s partly due to the writing and partly due to the acting. The villain is overly villainous, if that’s possible, and unbelievably stupid. And again, the car sequence… after being skewered through the chest, the victim repeatedly yells full-throated at his daughter to get out of the car, run for shelter, stay put, etc. I’m sorry, as an ER nurse, I think that if I had a tree trunk in my chest, I wouldn’t be yelling like a soccer coach. I think at most I’d be offering weak coughs, gurgles, and whispers.
Overall: Don’t waste your time. One of the worst movies I’ve ever seen, even worse than Spongebob Squarepants: The Movie. Coincidentally, there is no score for this movie on Rotten Tomatoes, but only 23% of viewers liked it. The average audience score is 2.6/5 (higher than I gave it). I decided to leave a review as well, so you might see it on the site if you look.