Early Screener Review: Age of Tomorrow (2014)
When a global extinction-level asteroid heads directly toward Earth, the U.S. Military sends a team up to drill into the core, plant a bomb, and blow the asteroid to pieces before it can hit Earth. However, they soon discover it will not be that easy when the giant asteroid turns out to secretly be an alien mothership, about to launch an attack on Earth.
REVIEW: It's that time of year again, which is my favorite time of year - Hollywood starts releasing their mindless big budget summer popcorn blockbusters and right as habit would have it, The Asylum is right there and ready to go to release their mindless low budget summer popcorn mockbusters in their usual perfectly-timed fashion to coincide with whatever Hollywood monstrosity is coming out that week. In the case of this week, it's Asylum's Age of Tomorrow (or World of Tomorrow for some European markets), which is clearly meant to hilariously capitalize on the Tom Cruise-starring mega hit due out this weekend, Edge of Tomorrow. And like The Asylum usually does with most of their movies, they were pleasant and kind enough to send a screener copy of Age of Tomorrow my way for early review!
Now the first thing to note here is that, for some reason, the plot description for this movie that's posted everywhere, including on Asylum's own website, has NOTHING to do with this movie; No anthropologist characters to be found, no trips to Mexico, nothing to do with or even mentions any Sun Temple and Moon Temple, nothing about having to locate some mystic artifact hidden in one of the temples located directly under the mothership, nothing like any of that, at all. It does sound like a fun movie, and because of that I hope we get to see that movie someday, but it's certainly not this one.
Age of Tomorrow actually follows two entirely separate sub-plots, connected loosely together by the overall main plot of aliens invading. The first sub-plot follows the military, as personified by Robert Picardo, discovering the giant Asteroid and, very much like in Armageddon, they put together a team, which happens to include Kelly Hu's character, to go into space and land on it, drill down to the center, plant a bomb to explode the thing, and than get back off of it again. However, after landing on it and exploring the underground caverns Prometheus-style (complete with space suits that look like they could have come from that movie as well), they find out that this is actually an alien mothership disguised as an asteroid and no sooner does it launch hundreds of fighter drones down to Earth then our cast of roughneck characters here get teleported directly to the savage jungles of the alien homeworld, where they continue on with their out-of-this-world adventure, leading them to one of the alien city-sized workcamps, where they take abducted humans and use them as slaves, experiments, and all that jazz.
The other main sub-plot that takes place during all this is, in my opinion, the far less interesting one. Instead of exploring creepy underground asteroid caverns, or finding new unique-looking alien planets, or going toe-to-toe again vicious aliens, we have a divorced fireman and his co-workers trying to make their way through debris-covered Los Angeles after the aliens have launched their attack, so that he can find his teen daughter that is lost somewhere in the city and trying not to get abducted. That's pretty much it. Sure, there are some pretty exciting action scenes during this portion, and I was never bored per sey, it's just that I kept finding myself wishing these scenes would be over quickly so I could get back to the space explorers' side of the story, as I found that one far more interesting, both from a story stand point in addition to just a visual one. We've seen destroyed cities in Asylum movies before, we've seen fathers trying to make their way through said destroyed cities to find their lost daughters before, everything in this portion of the movie, while fun, we've seen multiple times before. But there's quite a few things in the other portion of the movie, even just on a visual special effects level, that we've never seen in an Asylum movie before - at least not any that I can recall.
Of course, it's no wonder that the special effects here are pretty top-notch when it comes to Asylum fare. As soon as I saw Joseph Lawson's name come up in the opening credits, I knew that at the very least, the movie was going to look amazing. Good 'ol Joe is the man responsible for pretty much every Asylum movie that I've praised the surprisingly high level effects in, movies like Battle of Los Angeles, Shark Week, Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies, the very recent Airplane vs Volcano, Nazis at the Center of the Earth, and Age of Dinosaurs just to name a few in his very long list. And those last two he also directed as well. When you see that guy's name attached to one of these, I guarantee that you will be seeing pretty much the highest level of special effects that you'll be getting from an Asylum movie, and this one was no different. From the deadly robotic floating orbs that invaded Earth, to the Queen Alien monstrosity, to the glowing shine filter added to the alien homeworld, to even the practical (yes, practical!) man-in-suit costumes for the alien solders, everything looked simply gorgeous here. The only thing I probably could have done without, and I have no idea if this was a director thing or a visual artist thing, but there was an annoyingly high level of lens flare in this movie. I'm ok with some, but there were times that there was so much lens flares going on, it was difficult to pick out anything else in the shot. Only a minor quibble, and something I won't hold against the movie this time, but it's not something I want to see repeated a whole lot in future productions.
Another area where this movie stood above the average Asylum production, was that the acting from most everyone was actually genuinely good. Sure, there were a few low moments here and there, but nothing groan worthy or to really roll your eyes at, and there was nobody that made me wish they would just stop talking and die already, like you can sometimes come across in fare such as this. Actually, if anything, most of the characters were fairly likeable which just made it all the more surprisingly when some of the get killed off that you weren't expecting. I'm not going to spoil anything by saying how many, who they are, or when it happens in the movie, but much like with Game of Thrones, it's best not to have any favorite characters in this movie because there is more than one surprise main character death waiting for you, and I actually really liked that turn of events. It sets this movie apart from the usual Asylum movies like this, and it really does add a level of suspense knowing that anyone can die at any time in this movie, no matter who they are.
Unfortunately the movie isn't quite perfect. Yes, I did enjoy it quite a lot, and it is most certinly one of the higher-end titles in Asylum's catalog (in a year filled with tons of other great higher-end titles from Asylum. Seriously, they are totally rockin' 2014 here), but there are a few things within this movie that did kind of bug me a bit. Putting aside the fact that I feel the movie could have been a lot stronger had it just focused on the sub-plot of the space explorers instead of dividing it's time with the fireman character still on Earth trying to find his daughter in the wreckage of the city, but we also never actually see the Earth really being invaded. Sure, there's a few scenes of the floating alien orbs causing destruction and killing some of our cast of characters, but it seemed like it went directly from those things showing up to "We're the last surviving humans on Earth and it's time to retaliate." Wait. What? When exactly did the other few billions of people get killed and/or abducted? Asylum loves showing scenes of global destruction from around the entire world, picking a few choice major cities and landmarks to show off getting destroyed, so I have no idea why they totally skipped out on that this time around, when this would have been the perfect movie for those scenes. It certainly would have helped pad things out a bit and not make it so jarring going just quickly to 'all humans are now suddenly gone', being delivered to us in an almost throw-away line of dialog.
In addition, there's a sequence near the end of the movie that Robert Picardo totally shines in, as he leads an army of a few dozen space fighters up to do battle with the mothership in space. That space battle scene overall is tons of fun and very much reminiscent of Star Wars, with quite a few cheer-worthy moments in it. However my issue with it comes from the fact that early in the movie they unveil the spaceship that the main team is to use to go up to the asteroid and it's the first spaceship of it's kind and everyone is wowed by it, and it's this big 'oohhh, ahhh' moment, but now all of a sudden they have an entire army of these ships? Dozens upon dozens of them? Where the hell did they all come from so quickly, especially if the entire human race is mostly killed off and abducted by this point? Don't get me wrong, the scene is a total blast and overall I loved it, but before I could just sit back and enjoy the cheese that it delivered, I was stuck thinking about these things.
Age of Tomorrow, overall, is certainly one of Asylum's higher-tier movies, in a year where they seem to be knocking higher-tier Asylum movies out like they're coming off an assembly line (Mega Shark vs Mecha Shark, Android Cop, Airplane vs Volcano, and now this one are easily all great, fun, times). Not quite perfect, as I do have a few small nagging issues that kind of built up over the course of the movie, but nothing that really took away from my enjoyment of it. Also included here are some really surprising twists and main character deaths that I was not expecting to find in this movie, plus some awesome man-in-suit alien costumes (which is a rarity in any situation these days, but especially in the B-Movie market), and of course the usual top level of B-Movie special effects that always seem to come accompanied by Joseph J. Lawson's name in the credits, and the end result is a movie that takes a little bit of Armageddon and Independence Day, a smidgeon of Prometheus and Predators, a brief taste of Star Wars, and a lot of care, love, and lens flares, put it all into a blender, and served to us in an hour and a half of good, fun, cheesy, low budget entertainment.
If, like me, you always look forward to the next mockbuster released by The Asylum, you'll be able to check out Age of Tomorrow (World of Tomorrow if you're in one of those countries where it's called that) for yourself when it comes out on DVD and BluRay this Tuesday, June 10th. Just don't be fooled by that weird plot synopsis that most sites seem to be posting for it, because that is totally, in no way, the plot of this movie, at all.