Like a geologist or seismologist or Kim Delaneyologist, when analyzing an event as horrifying as NBC’s 10.5: Apocalypse, one must search for the initial fault line. Yet everything about the sequel to 2004’s mediocre ratings smash 10.5 is so lousy, it’s difficult to pick just one failure. The miniseries opens with yet more earthquakes, eruptions, landslides, and floods — and the discovery of a pattern: that pattern being that the slap-dash special effects are much less gripping than the stunning number of close-ups you’ll suffer for the next four hours. (The left nostril of returning star Delaney is forever burned in my brain. Thanks, Apocalypse!) Delaney soon identifies the earthshaking problem within the writings of her eccentric scientist dad, Dr. Earl Hill (Frank Langella), who is basically an earthquake whisperer. Dr. Hill’s Accelerated Plate Movement Theory (catchy, huh?) holds that the United States is breaking apart down the middle, or, as Delaney explains over approximately 10.5 thousand scenes: ”ancient seaway…60 million years ago…geography of North America…blah, blah, blah.”
Within this setup, actors move through scenes of terror and administration with admirable woodenness, as if hoping their stiff delivery might prevent the film’s surrounding drek from toppling over onto them. Beau Bridges, reprising his role as President Hollister, seems to have struck an apocalyptic SAG deal for most of the cast: At least two-thirds of any acting must be done with a cell phone. Never have so many people yelled such uncompelling information into handheld devices!
Even less pleasant are the scenes in which people actually try to act. Hollister’s Red Cross-ing teenage First Daughter (Tamara Hope) is such an image of exaggerated naïveté that her interactions with handsome Dr. Garcia (24’s Carlos Bernard) feel like the prelude to a sexual-abuse role-playing video. Then there’s ex-Superman Dean Cain and Oliver ”brother of Kate” Hudson (The Mountain) as battling, rule-bending siblings who are part of a superspecial, top-secret disaster team: They’re firefighters for FEMA. Yes, that’s right, FEMA is a prime hero of this saga, which indicates just how brainless Apocalypse is. Not to mention insensitive — it’s too soon after Katrina for repeated shots of the Hoover Dam giving way.
Of course, this all would be slightly more engaging if the special effects weren’t at the Science Fair Honorable Mention level and the series didn’t crib from every disaster movie ever — special shame goes to its copycatting of The Poseidon Adventure, complete with Langella leading survivors out of a buried Vegas hotel with the words ”The only way out of here, man, is up.” Then again, it may be unfair to call this series a rip-off: Ultimately, Apocalypse is its very own unmitigated disaster.