Absolute Zero (2005)
R1 - America - Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Jari Kovalainen (18th October 2006).
The Film

The last “Ice Age” is said to have begun about two million years ago, finally ending 11,000 years ago. For many, it´s the stories about how animals such as mammoths became extinct, the large parts of the planet froze and got covered with deep ice, and life basically died from certain parts of the world. The truth is of course much more complicated, but the effects of the Ice Age are still with us (e.g. Antarctica and Greenland), and now the “global warming”-issues have caused some debates about whether there could be another Ice Age waiting for us - if we don´t change our habits of destroying the planet and the atmosphere. Well, from these scientific and historical aspects we move to the world of films, which are known for showing us the worst destructions or threats that our planet could face, and make the audience actually enjoy it. Often these catastrophe and disaster movies show something that perhaps could happen in some degree, but at the same time taking everything so over-the-top, that it comes across purely as entertainment. Entertainment with a glimpse of scientific fact perhaps - but still just popcorn stuff. Meteors, earthquakes, tornados, volcanoes, hurricanes, floods - you name it. People enjoy destruction.

“Absolute Zero (2005)” by director/co-producer Robert Lee is a TV-movie produced by “MarVista Entertainment”, which starts off from Antarctica. A scientific team there is witnessing sudden events, when the ice starts to break due to an earthquake, just like that. This quite awkward scene is like an introduction to the events that are about to come, and where the hot and sunny Miami, Florida is going to be the main location. After a brief visit there, we meet the climatologist David Koch (Jeff Fahey - from the “The Lawnmower Man (1992)”, “Wyatt Earp (1994)”, and the upcoming “Grind House (2007)”), who has been getting some early evidence that the north and south poles of Earth could actually shift, causing the “absolute zero” (the lowest temperature there can be; -273 Celsius/-459 Fahrenheit) and a very rapid climate change to our planet. In other words, an Ice Age could be again reality. This doesn´t scare his boss Dr. Veet (Bill Dow) (the “corporate villain” in the film), who is only interested to get more research money for his institute and doesn´t want to hear any “end of the world”-stories. Soon we´re back to Antarctica´s research station, where David arrives himself. There, the melting ice has uncovered the cave and it´s time to go and investigate it. This is actually the most interesting part of the story, since although the location (studio) and effects are not good by any means, you have a certain “mysterious feel” to it, and I have personally always enjoyed films that are at least partially taking place in the arctic regions of the world (“Ice Station Zebra (1968)” or “John Carpenter's The Thing (1982)” anyone?). That won´t last long, though, and after some “dramatic events” we´re back in dull Miami where David is gathering more evidence for his “polar shift”-theory by getting help from his old friend, University Professor Jeff Hudson (Michael Ryan) and his wife Bryn (Erika Eleniak - she appeared in “Baywatch” during 1989-1996 and “Under Siege (1992)”) - who´s of course also David´s old sweetheart (why does this always have to be the case?). Mix up two students; A.J. (Brittney Irvin) and Philip (Fred Ewanuick), and the little girl Sophie (Jessica Amlee) - the daughter of Bryn, and you have the group that´s trying to make the senators and greedy corporate executives listen to the voice of reason. Of course they won´t. Eventually the clock starts to tick, since it becomes evident that the poles are indeed shifting - in no less than 4 hours! The birds are moving away, a violent storm is hitting Miami, snow is falling, and icebergs can be found from the marina. News anchor is creating panic (and flees from the studio, saying “God Speed”!), and worse is yet to come: Absolute Zero.

“Absolute Zero” is an obviously low budget affair, probably influenced by “The Day After Tomorrow (2004)” and scientific articles that the screenwriter read before bedtime. It´s not a fully unwatchable film, but since the budget is low, actors lack charisma and the story is so strangely paced, it becomes quite forgettable in the end. With this type of film, you would at least hope for the good CGI-effects where e.g. Miami is frozen, but since there is no money, the effects look very naive and unprofessional, and very little is actually shown. Instead, you mainly have a very boring speculation deep in the office (near to that one plasma screen, where the time is running out), and a quite useless villain-aspect in a form of Dr. Veet. The film takes its last - and deep - dive when the main characters are planning to hole themselves in the “special chamber” found at the institute, and some tension is desperately trying to build before the clock reaches zero. Of course, based on the film it seems that only a handful of people are trying to make the grave situation better, and it´s needless to say that this doesn´t help make the story believable. This is one of the biggest problems with the low budget disaster-movies; you have the same few people solving the problem and e.g. no big “crowd scenes” where you could feel the panic as a viewer. The film offers some good moments here and there (mainly David´s trip to Antarctica), and Jeff Fahey is not a bad actor in the film - you even strangely get used to the mediocre effects, but in the end the film drags too much at almost every step of the way, showing many isolated events that don´t connect very well as a whole. Bad effects are not what is killing these type of films, it´s the weak and thin story developments and unspired direction. Weaker effects I can take, but not a weak story.

Video

The DVD offers a quite dull looking Anamorphic 1.78:1-transfer, which is probably how the film looked in the first place. The transfer is clean and the black levels fairly good, but it has some grain and occasional compression artefacts (the disc is “single layer”, so the bitrate could also be better), and some issues of softness. None of this is very serious, but the film looks “flat” throughout, never being very impressive. The disc is coded “R1”, and the film runs 86:17 minutes (NTSC). There are 15 chapters.

Audio

The film offers one audio track which is English Dolby Digital 5.1, and there are no subtitles. The track is a disappointment, since it´s basically “3.0 Mono” (if I can use such an expression) - meaning that you get the same track from all of the front channels, including the dialogue. You have some mild “artificial echo” on the rear channels, but no proper surround really, not even in the action-scenes (at least the dialogue is not coming from the rears). Since the track is what it is, probably choosing “Stereo” from your receiver is not a bad option at all, since I feel that some mistakes have been done during the audio mix on this DVD.

Extras

There are no real extras (only chapter-selection and a very basic menu), but 3 bonus trailers are included before the “Main menu” (they can be skipped); “Running with the Hitman AKA Zeyda and the Hitman (2004)”, “The Curse of King Tut's Tomb (2006)”, and “The Black Hole (2006)”.

Overall

A flawed “nature catastrophe”-film, which has the mistake of showing isolated events here and there throughout the film, and not really focusing on interesting aspects, nor showing any good CGI-effects. It can offer some fun on late night TV, but can be only recommended for the more serious disaster-buffs. For them, this could have a few moments. And Jeff Fahey from “The Lawnmower Man (1992)”.

For more info, please visit the homepage of Echo Bridge Home Entertainment.

The Film: Video: Audio: Extras: Overall:

 


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