The made for TV movie, or the mini-series, exists in a weird realm of not quite good but often not as horrific as you’d imagined. The hits for this style of storytelling are far fewer than the misses, so when I sat down to watch ABC’s summer attempt at a small screen blockbuster with Impact I prepared myself for the worst. Instead Impact simply ends up being an amalgamation of clichés from asteroid based Earth ending disaster flicks and a thick layer of cheese (think gruyere, all half melted and sticking to everything).
As the world gathers outside their homes to watch the greatest meteor shower in over 10,000 years Dr. Maddie Rhodes (Natasha Henstridge) notices that there’s a large anomaly the scientists missed amongst the meteors. A large meteor is on a collision course with Earth. But have no fear because the moon is there to intercept. OK, so now they’ve got us hooked a bit on a new concept to the asteroid hitting the Earth tale. But they couldn’t leave well enough alone, and to prove that this was at one point going to be a SyFy series, it is discovered that a brown dwarf (dead star) was a part of the shower and has imbedded itself in the moon. I’ll say no more as you have to see for yourself as this particular hurdle lends itself to some of the most hackneyed scenes of “how will we stop the end of the world” that have ever graced televisions.
Honestly I don’t want to spoil the main plot simply because it’s not worth talking about. There is another aspect to Impact, and it’s the human side of the world. See they titled it Impact because such a world altering event has an impact on how people react. So the gruff general who doesn’t trust to share secrets with the Chinese or Russians (despite the world being guaranteed to end in weeks) has to come to terms with the new world order. This is the same gruff general in Armageddon that wanted to throw nukes at the asteroid and we all yelled at him from our seats for being a moron. Ironically the scientists plan this time around is to…throw nukes at the moon. I’ve come to the conclusion that if the writers of these movies are even 10% right about their cynical take on our government officials’ ability to handle such a disaster then I say we don’t bother trying.
As the top scientists are gathered together by the President of the US, and other world leaders, we also get to watch how their families are affected by the events. Alex Kittner (David James Elliot) is a former colleague of Dr. Rhodes when they worked at NASA on a top secret project. Kittner’s wife died 8 months ago and he is now raising his two children along with their grandfather (James Cromwell). The old man won’t leave his “domain” because he doesn’t like people. We’re left to assume it has to do with the death of his daughter, but for all we know he’s always been this way. Of course Kittner’s old NASA project comes back into play, and the grandfather’s inability to leave his home is tested as he knows the kids should be with their father in Washington, D.C.
From the opening to the ending everything in Impact is predictable and boring. If you think the President is going to be a “hey shoot straight with me cuz I don’t understand your fancy gobbledy science talk” type guy…you’re right. If you think that someone is going to die…you’re right. If you think they’re going to make a joke about drilling into the moon…you’d have sworn they wouldn’t be that obvious, but you’re still right. People have been wondering if ABC made the right move by buying this out from under SyFy, but I think the better question is whether SyFy saw that this was neither an intentionally cheesy B-movie or on par with their normally thoughtful end of year mini series’ and let ABC have Impact. Either way Impact joins the rank and file of easily forgotten made for TV movies.
Starring:David James Elliot, Natasha Henstridge, Benjamin Sadler, Florentine Lahme, James Cromwell, Steven Culp
Premieres: Part 1 Sunday, June 21, 2009 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on ABC. Part 2 Sunday, June 28, 2009 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on ABC