Sunday, August 10, 2008

No thrill in Ark

The story of Noah’s Ark is one of those stories that just never seem to die. Even the entertainment industry has taken its turn on making movies about Noah’s Ark. Unlike those movies, Monster Ark sets up the premise that after Noah saved two of each kind animal, God had one more job for him to do—lock up the ‘darkness’ that aims to eat away at the soul of mankind.

Interested yet?

If you’re thinking that Monster Ark (I felt the original title of Genesis Code works better) is some deep look into the mystery of the fabled Ark, look elsewhere. This movie isn’t that type of movie.

Monster Ark is about a team of archeologists who find the lost scroll from the Book of Genesis. The scroll gives a detailed account of Noah’s second mission for god.

The lovely archeologist, Ava, played by Xena’s Renee O’Connor channels a character from her own television series in this film. O’Connor herself gives the role some life. But the dialogue she is seemingly given is flat. Her fans might expect her to jump out at any moment and reveal she’s a descendent of Gabrielle (her character from the show).

Tim DeKay plays, Nick, her ex-husband who fits the typical archeologist stereotype of the must-find-the-treasure-at-any-costs perfectly. He lacks a belief in god. This serves as a basis of many of Ava and Nick’s arguments that pop up throughout the movie.

Rounding out the team of archeologists are graduate students Russell (Bill Parks) and Joanna (Amanda Crew). Russell is your typical geek student and Joanna is the true archeologist of the two.

The cast of characters also includes a platoon of US Army soldiers that wouldn’t last two minutes in the real Iraq if they behaved and acted like the way they did in the movie. The soldiers reminded me of a bunch of John Wayne-wanna-be-soldiers. The Major Gentry, played by Tommy Lister (who ironically is in a movie about Noah’s Ark—an animated film), gives the movie some of its humor with his shoot everything up attitude.

Of course, an evil secret can’t be kept without a secret order of men who are destined to protect it. (Sounds like The Mummy’s Maji!) The foot soldier, Belus (Carlos Leon), completes this déjà vu of a Maji because he looks, dresses and acts almost like Ardeth Bay (Oded Fehr) from The Mummy.

I can’t forget about the monster. One of the things I kept thinking to myself when watching this film was that the monster reminded me of Graegus, Ares’ dog from the Hercules episode “Unchained Heart.”

Over the course of the next two hours, the audience is greeted to some stale dialogue and the plot that seems to have been ripped from nearly every popular archeology movie over the last thirty years. This includes direct rips from the Indiana Jones movies with hidden chambers, booby-trapped chambers and the cute little staff in the hole to reveal the shadow that leads to the location trick.

Been there, done that. Really old. Find something new.

Aside from the channeling of Indiana Jones and The Mummy, the movie doesn’t have a whole lot to offer in terms of plot. The plot of itself brings out a stereotypical archeologist who wants that big find to put him on the map—he wants to accomplish what no other has before him—find the last of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The monster of darkness scenario didn’t seem to install a sense of fear that the world was going to end. It just ran around slashing Al Qaeda operatives and innocent villagers up. The story never quite got there of telling the viewers that because this evil was unleashed, the world was doomed.

Ava and Nick are believable enough. However, it seems to me like I’ve seen this relationship before—ah yes, Twister. In the movie Twister, Jo and Bill are divorced weather scientists. Jo (Helen Hunt) is the gung-ho scientist who flies into in a situation while Bill (Bill Paxton) is the more reserved, more cautious type. They fought too—not about religion—but the principle is the same. It’s quite obvious that the two still loved each other. Same thing with Ava and Nick they loved each other and if there was a sequel, they’d probably be married again.

All of the characters fitted into their assigned roles: the devil-may-care archeologist, the “I’m in it for the science” archeologist, the bumbling archeology student and the archeology student who wants to learn more, the gung-ho soldiers who run around screaming for most of the movie, and the secret order of protectors who can’t protect their secret.

Dialogue seems to be the next key of the movie’s failure. It was a flat in a lot of places. O’Connor’s character had more lines than her previous Sci-Fi flick (Alien Apocalypse), but her lines often came across as flat and unmoving. The same with the rest of the characters—their dialogue didn’t quite hit the mark. With the soldiers running around screaming and the major (aka Big Dude) yelling incomprehensibly at his soldiers—it’s hard to find anything worthwhile.

Monster Ark fits nicely into Sci-Fi’s Saturday night show of cheesy monster flicks. It’s neither here nor there. I can’t say it’s one of their better ones. It’s definitely better than Alien Apocalypse, which just plain sucked. If Sci-Fi Channel were to make a serious movie about anything—I’d be shocked.

When it comes right down to it, I didn’t find Monster Ark any more entertaining than say any other ordinary Saturday night monster flick they put out. The monster wasn’t scary and the premise didn’t seem install a sense of fear into the viewer. I’ll give this movie a solid C.

Renee’s performance was good (given the material she had to deliver), but I kept thinking a descendent of Gabrielle throughout the film—and that’s not a good thing.

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