When '10.5: Apocalypse' premiered in 2006 on NBC, my local nightly news station invited a group of leading geologists to watch a special screening and report their reactions. The footage that followed showed a group of normally-stoic scientists laughing uproariously -- tears streaming by the gallon -- as the telefilm trotted out one unbelievable "fact-based" scene of earthquake disaster after another. Granted, an unashamed piece of entertainment hokum like '10.5: Apocalypse' is never going to claim to be a documentary, but couldn't it have tried to make its utter nonsense a bit more believable?
A sequel to 2004's surprise smash hit mini-series '10.5,' 'Apocalypse' begins literally right where the last one left. In case you missed the first flick, a massive quake, tipping a (wait for it) 10.5 on the Richter scale, has left the entire West Coast obliterated. Suddenly, there are volcanoes everywhere, spewing lava into the sky, legions of aftershocks, and general mass hysteria. More problematic, a propulsive fissure is creating a huge crack across the continent, threatening to split America in half from Los Angeles to Oklahoma City.
As a closet lover of all things Irwin Allen, I secretly wanted to embrace '10.5: Apocalypse' in all its cheesiness. The problem is, while there's nothing wrong with another 169 needless minutes of earthquake porn, the movie has been done on such a cheapie TV-movie budget that it fails to deliver the money shots. The "special effects" are poor, even by basic cable standards, with giggle-inducing CGI and just about every other shot employing a "cheat" reaction take to try and cover-up the fact that the flick's budget was $12. Even worse, the "drama" is boring, with the kind of drag-out-every-scene banality common in bad daytime soap operas. If you're not gonna give me the cool destruction scenes and hordes of screaming, dying people I want from a disaster flick, then at least go all 'Deep Impact' and deliver characters whose fates I care about.
'10.5: Apocalypse' supposedly boasts another "all-star cast." Too bad telefilms don't get movie posters, for this one would have a row of boxes on the bottom with the headshots of such mighty actors as Kim Delaney (returning from the first '10.5' as the only geologist in the world who isn't a total idiot), Goldie Hawn's son Oliver Hudson, a slumming Frank Langella, ex-Superman Dean Cain (where are your superpowers now, hot shot?), and Beau Bridges as the lamest-duck President since, well, George W. Bush. If Delaney at least tries to make this silliness slightly plausible, the rest completely phone it in -- I don't think I've ever seen Langella or Bridges look so embarrassed.
Perhaps I could have forgiven some of these flaws had '10.5: Apocalypse' not been so horribly directed. John Lafia is a TV veteran, so it's shocking how rushed and just plain annoying his choices are here. The guy is obsessed with constantly "rack-focusing" the camera, zooming in and out on everything -- I wanted to vomit after ten minutes. It's a blatant and transparent attempt to create "energy" during scenes that don't have any, and after 169 minutes of this "technique," I was seriously considering sending some of my upchuck in a bag to Mr. Lafia personally (care of the DGA).
Ultimately, '10.5: Apocalypse' is one of those so-bad-their-bad movies that doesn't even have the decency to be unintentionally funny. It's just inept, dull, and more than a bit insulting to the audience's intelligence. It's saying something when the greatest emotion a film elicits is relief for having finally made it to the end credits.
As part of Echo Bridge Entertainment's first wave of budget Blu-ray releases (mostly TV movies and barely-released theatrical fare), my expectations were about zero going into '10.5: Apocalypse.' Given the still-high costs of Blu-ray mastering and replication, just how good could a rushed title like this look? However, I was actually pleasantly surprised with this 1080i/MPEG-2 encode -- '10.5: Apocalypse' may not be your new demo disc, but Echo Bridge acquits themselves nicely here in the quality department.
For a recent TV movie, the source material is in good shape considering the material. There are no obvious flaws, and though grain can be wildly disparate (dark scenes in particular can evaporate into a mass of fuzziness),this is a fairly good-looking image otherwise. The film's photography is cut-rate and Blu-ray can do little to save the laughable CGI, but there is a fair amount of detail and depth. Blacks and contrast are well modulated, and colors are saturated but relatively clean. Unfortunately, there is a good deal of softness, and all the motion blur and motion artifacts don't help. Noise is also present. Still, all in all, this is a clean, perfectly respectable encode.
Echo Bridge offers only two audio options: PCM 2.0 Stereo (2.3mbps) and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (192kbps). The lack of a 5.1 configuration is a disappointment for a disaster flick like this (however cheesy), but at least the PCM track has a bit of life to it.
As it's only stereo, there are few sonic thrills to be had here. The best aspect of the PCM track is the decent fidelity, with at least a few rumblings of deep bass and fairly clear and expansive highs. Stereo separation is about what you'd expect from a TV flick, with some direction to the effects and score. Dialogue is perfectly listenable and well balanced in the mix, so there are no volume matching issues.
What?! There are no supplements whatsoever?! I will give Echo Bridge props, however, for at least providing on-the-fly menus instead of just a port of the static standard-DVD navigation.
'10.5: Apocalypse' is like a bad TV-movie version of a bad Irwin Allen disaster flick -- and that's not a compliment. I'm all for a stupid earthquake movie, but this one stretched even my patience. As one of Echo Bridge's inaugural budget-line Blu-ray releases, the disc quality here ain't so bad -- it's perfectly fine considering the quality of the content, and the price. I can't recommend this specific title, but if Echo Bridge is able to secure some better content in the future, they may have something here.