'Impact'

ABC mixes equal parts of scientific mumbo-jumbo with soapy family affairs.

Chalk it up to the networks’ realization that they need to offer at least some original summer fare, but disaster comes rocketing back to primetime in a pair of two-parters, ABC’s “Impact” and NBC’s upcoming “Meteor.” The Alphabet web gets there first with this “Armageddon”-esque scenario about a meteor strike sending the moon orbiting toward Earth, mixing equal parts of scientific mumbo-jumbo with soapy family affairs. Give ABC credit: Although this is mostly silliness, using the NBA Finals to launch a guy-oriented end-of-the-world epic certainly isn’t the worst idea the network has had lately.

Granted, increasingly jingoistic Republicans probably won’t warm to the “We’re all in this together” tone of this international co-production, in which scientists and the U.S. government unite to try to save the world from annihilation.

A widowed dad, Alex Kittner (David James Elliott) is one of the experts drafted by government liaison Maddie Rhodes (Natasha Henstridge) after the lunar impact, which triggers a weird array of electromagnetic and gravitational anomalies. How weird? Put it this way: Cars shoot into the air, and when Alex and Maddie have dinner, sparks literally fly.

Presumably thanks to the shared production auspices, the U.S. contingent isn’t alone. It’s joined by a German scientist (Benjamin Sadler) who diagnoses the crisis’ cause, which doesn’t earn him much latitude from his fiancee (Florentine Lahme), who seems to think this egghead is inflating the threat to screw up their wedding. Meanwhile, Alex ends up having to rely on his crusty shut-in of a father-in-law (James Cromwell) to supervise the professor’s annoying kids.

Michael Vickerman’s script draws artfully enough from past sources that it’s fairly easy to spackle in the lunar-landscape-sized holes in the story. Alas, papering over the preachy “one world” moments — as the brink of extermination brings out humanity’s best — proves somewhat more challenging.

Still, director Michael J. Rohl and his cast — including Steven Culp as a U.S. president dealt an even worse hand than Obama — tackle the increasingly preposterous gobbledygook with admirable conviction. With Michael Richard Plowman’s score working overtime, the suspense builds as to whether noble sacrifice will become necessary in order to save mankind. (Where’s Bruce Willis when you need him?) 

Until then, the movie proves weakest in creating relationships for the key characters, including Maddie’s ethically challenged struggling journalist (as if there’s another kind) ex-husband.

“Start thinking beyond what we believe is possible,” Alex counsels early on regarding the threat.

Actually, try not thinking at all, and you’ll be better prepared to sit back and be rocked by this shallow “Impact.”

Impact

ABC, Sun. June 21 and 28, 9 p.m.

Production

Filmed in Vancouver and Berlin by Tandem Communications, Jaffe/Braunstein Entertainment and Muse Entertainment. Executive producers, Jonas Bauer, Rola Bauer, Howard Braunstein, Greg Gugliotta, Tim Halkin, Michael Prupas; co-executive producer, Irene Litinsky; producer, Ted Bauman; director, Michael J. Rohl; writer, Michael Vickerman;

Crew

Camera, Gordon Verheul; production designer, Eric Fraser; editor, Lisa Jane Robison; music, Michael Richard Plowman; casting, Candice Elzinga, Cornelia Von Braun. RUNNING TIME: 4 HOURS

Cast

Alex Kittner - David James Elliott Dr. Maddie Rhodes - Natasha Henstridge Roland Emerson - Benjamin Sadler Martina Altmann - Florentine Lahme Lloyd - James Cromwell President Edward Taylor - Steven Culp
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