It’s possible the most interesting thing about Meltdown: Days of Destruction is the origins behind it. Upon its impending release on DVD, press releases have been saying the movie is based on a story John Carpenter wrote in the 1970’s. There’s also various sources listing a different project with director Ate De Jong (Drop Dead Fred) attached as well as Dolph Lundgren in the lead role. But if you ask screenwriter Rick Drew he’ll tell you differently as his various postings to the forums at IMDB (Internet Movie Database) say he wasn’t aware of the long-defunct Carpenter script (which was supposed to be about terrorists taking over a nuclear power plant) and that this project was written from ‘scratch’. It’s quite a mix-up, and obviously one distributor MPI are using to their advantage, and it offers insight into the, often messy, world of filmmaking.
If this feels and looks “TV Movie”, that’s probably because it is one. With an estimated budget of two million, Meltdown is a cheaply made, Canadian shot sci-fi/action flick that stars “never was” Casper Van Dien (who’s career is total B-movie apart from his lead role in Paul Verhoeven’s fun 1997 flick, Starship Troopers) as cop Tom Brackett. He’s a good cop, and manages to get into a shootout while staking out some criminal activity at a warehouse. At the same time, a group of scientists are attempting to divert a meteor that is headed towards Earth using an experimental weapon. While managing to split the meteor into three separate parts, things don’t quite work out as planned as the Earth is thrown out of orbit and pushed closer towards the sun.
This spells trouble for humankind as the temperature begins to rise, which leads to mass chaos as people begin to loot, scramble for cover, and try to gather as much water as they can. In fact, things get so bad that firemen walk off the job (in the middle of putting out a blazing building) when their water runs out and the police force has disbanded. In the middle of all this is Tom, his girlfriend news reporter Carly (Stefanie Von Pfetten), her brother (and one of the guys responsible for it) Nathan (Vincent Gale), Tom’s ex-girlfriend and doctor Bonnie (Venus Terzo), as well as Bonnie’s teenage daughter and her delinquent boyfriend.
They have to group together in order to head North to the airport where one of Nathan’s friends is due to meet them with an airplane so they can head towards the Arctic and get away from the blazing heat. But along the way they have to deal with various problems – including the fact a group of sunburnt thugs led by a former cop have kidnapped Nathan in order to plan their own getaway.
Despite being a low-rent “end of the world” flick with mediocre action sequences and a bunch of logic holes, Meltdown isn’t quite as bad as you’d expect. The premise in Drew’s script may be fairly “old hat”, but it’s still an okay set-up – it’s just too bad that everything plays out in such a cheap way it fails to work that well. It also doesn’t help that he’s chosen to fill his screenplay with many dull speeches lamenting on the disintegration of human nature (and such rank dialogue as when Van Dien mutters, “they lured them here and kill them for their... stuff”).
On top of that there’s many dumb things the story doesn’t address. Such as why the authorities seem to give up too easily, why everyone seems to be so desperate for water-based drinks when there’s plenty of grocery markets around, and why nobody really seems to be in much of a rush to save Nathan from his captors (which is not helped by the fact the movie doesn’t seem to care either only addressing the sub-plot in the last fifteen minutes or so). Also, Tom and his traveling companions are either not very bright or have absolutely no survival instincts when they come across a fountain and don’t even take a minute to fill up any empty bottles – a fact, I suppose, could be argued by saying, “well there’s a shoot-out/ambush not long after they find it”.
Van Dien is a bland hero at best and has a hard time showing much in the way of emotion, but the rest of the cast actually does fairly well with Pfetten and Terzo quite solid in their roles. And apart from some pretty weak CGI effects on the meteor, the sunburn and corpse make-up actually isn’t that bad.
It’s nothing special and it’s pretty silly (the whole ‘exploding car’ scene proves that tenfold) but at least Meltdown manages to stay watchable. It probably could’ve used more action and a lot less scenes of the characters wandering about and blabbering away, but for a low scale made-for-TV flick it’s bearable. (Chris Hartley, 2/16/07)
Directed By: J.P. Howell.
Written By: Rick Drew.
Starring: Casper Van Dien, Vincent Gale, Stefanie Von Pfetten, Venus Terzo.
MTI - February 27, 2007
Picture Ratio: Full Frame.
Picture Quality: Despite looking a bit soft at times, the transfer here is generally solid with no real noticeable grain or dirt to speak of. It's a low-budget movie, and it looks it, but at least it doesn't look like crap on DVD.
Extras: My screener copy only contained the trailer and that's exactly all you're going to get if you buy it at the store.
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