By: Aleks Chan
An attempt to make sense of ABC’s “thrilling limited series” IMPACT (debuts Sunday at 9 p.m. est and concludes the following Sunday) would be to court serious depression. Running three hours over two nights, it’s so impressively horrible that there just isn’t enough room here to detail all of its failures.
Like many an Apocalypse Cometh TV movies, it opens calmly: people around the world gather in their backyards to witness a meteor shower seen only every 10,000 years. Among these meteors is a brown dwarf, or dead star, which unceremoniously crashes into the moon, sending debris our way and the moon off its natural orbit. It is later discovered by Dr. Maddie Rhodes (ELI STONE’s exceptionally wooden Natasha Hentrsidge) that the moon is set to crash into the earth – and wipe us all out – in 39 days.
She recruits former colleagues – college professor Alex Kittner (JAG’s David James Elliott) and German scientist Roland Emerson (Benjamin Sadler) – to join her global think tank to try to prevent a collision. With a blessing from the president, played willfully incompetent by DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES’ Stephen Culp, the team works up a cockamamie plan that involves staring very intensely into computer screens and painfully melodramatic exchanges between characters.
There are a lot of shots of computer simulations – of graphs, charts, and diagrams, all of which manage to be more dazzling than the special effects and acting combined. The scientists are so steeped in scientific jargon that the actors share the same blank expression, one that reads: I haven’t the faintest idea what I just said. And apparently, space sounds a lot like the Jurassic Park soundtrack. At multiple points in the movie the moon gets close enough that some areas experience momentary weightlessness – the novelty eradicated by the fact that digital flight is still so goofy looking.
Disaster flicks like this are supposed to be illogical enough that you know not to take them seriously, but unlike Armageddon – from which IMPACT draws heavily – it really doesn’t seem to care at all to make these characters worth cheering for, much worry about.
They’re either dumb or motivated by a self-interest that borders on encroaching cynicism: David James Elliott’s widower Alex is reluctant to join Dr. Rhodes in Washington because he’s worried that his kids aren’t ready since his wife’s death. How she convinces him is disheartening: “You’ll be written in the same context as Newton or Einstein!” How about: “The moon is going to crash into the earth”?
And my favorite: while being briefed on the status of the moon, Director of Homeland Security Renee Ferguson (The 4400’s Samantha Ferris) confesses, “I can’t even answer the questions on ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A 5th GRADER?” Really? Then how are you the director of Homeland Security?
A side plot involving James Cromwell as a curmudgeonly grandpa who’s a whiz with a cane and Alex’s offensively precocious kids does not help, especially with this winning piece of dialogue: “Jake said a meteor killed all the dinosaurs, and that if I don’t clean his room, an even bigger one is gonna hit us.” If only. Grade: D-
Part I of IMPACT airs Sunday June 21 at 9PM on ABC, and concludes the following Sunday June 29