Director/Screenplay – Thunder Levin, Producer – David Michael Latt, Photography – Richard Vialet, Music – Chris Ridenhour, Visual Effects Supervisor – Emanuel Rosario, Makeup Effects/Creature Design/Production Design – Clint Zoccoli. Production Company – The Asylum.
Adrian Paul (Lieutenant Frank Baum), Bali Rodriguez (Lea), Richard Grieco (Captain Sam Crowe), Gary Hawks (TIM), Daniel Ross Mix (Colin), Jay Cardell (Sergeant Peebles), Michelle Jones (Hannah), Erika Hidalgo (Victoria), Jessica Russo (Cassie)
Earth is under attack by an alien invasion. Humanity flees in spaceships. Military commander Frank Baum wants to go back and fight but is overruled by the ship’s captain Sam Crowe who insists that the only option left is for humanity to find another planet to live. They all go into cryo-sleep but are abruptly woken as the ship makes a crashlanding on an Earth-like world. Frank, Sam and a handful of others emerge from the wreckage to immediately find themselves in the midst of combat as survivors from another ship are hunted by Chameleons, aliens that hide behind invisibility cloaks. Killing several of the Chameleons, Frank takes command. He befriends and later becomes lovers with Lea, a humanoid alien girl of this new world, and makes plans to unite her people together to bring down their Chameleon masters.
AE: Apocalypse Earth is one of the ‘mockbusters’ from The Asylum – films with sound-alike titles designed to copy other recent big-budget hits in the hope the people browsing videostore shelves do not look too closely at the title. Other mockbusters from The Asylum include their own cheap versions of War of the Worlds (2005), Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008), Sherlock Holmes (2009), 3 Musketeers (2011), Grimm’s Snow White (2012), Hansel & Gretel (2013), Jack the Giant Killer (2013) and Hercules Reborn (2014) when the respective big-screen versions came out, and other soundalike titles such as The Da Vinci Treasure (2006), Snakes on a Train (2006), AVH: Alien vs Hunter (2007), The Hitchhiker (2007), I Am Omega (2007), Transmorphers (2007), Allan Quatermain and the Temple of Skulls (2008), The Day the Earth Stopped (2008) 100 Million B.C. (2008), Sunday School Musical (2008), The 18 Year Old Virgin (2009), Battle of Los Angeles (2011), Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies (2012) and Age of the Hobbits (2012). AE: Apocalypse Earth was designed to come out the same time as M. Night Shyamalan’s After Earth (2013). This demonstrates the downfall of many of The Asylum’s mockbusters is that they are predicated on the assumption that the source work they are copying will be a success whereas Shyamalan’s film was a box-office flop that was ridiculed by audiences and critics (to the extent of ending up on some Worst of 2013 polls), although to the contrary, this author kind of liked it.
AE: Apocalypse Earth comes from Thunder Levin (apparently his real name). Levin has written several other Asylum films, including 200 M.P.H. (2011), Atlantic Rim (2013), Megalodon (2018) and most famously Sharknado (2013) and the first three sequels, as well as written-directed the non-Asylum Mutant Vampire Zombies from the ‘Hood (2008) and The Asylum’s American Battleship (2012) and Geo-Disaster (2017).
AE: Apocalypse Earth feels like one of the edited mash-ups of other films/videoclips that you get on YouTube – something that Thunder Levin has slung together by combining scenes and plot elements from every other film he has enjoyed. Less so than After Earth, the bulk of AE: Apocalypse Earth has been taken from Avatar (2009) – the planetary adventure in which we see the hero (Adrian Paul) go native, engage in a romance with a native girl with striped green camouflage skin and how together they inspire her people to an uprising against their oppressors. There are a bunch of scenes/elements from a great many other science-fiction films – the aliens hunting people from behind invisibility shields from Predator (1987); the crash of the ship from orbit just as people are coming out of hypersleep from Pitch Black (2000); the alien invasion in the opening scenes looks like a cheaper version of the one in Skyline (2010); while the android TIM and his contractionless delivery has been copied directly from Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-94).
Thunder Levin even borrows the basic set-up of the film [PLOT SPOILERS] from Planet of the Apes (1968) – the crashlanding on an alien planet, the survivors being hunted by alien overlords and especially the twist ending as to where they are, even right down to Mount Rushmore in lieu of the Statue of Liberty – and the results are groan worthy. One of the strangest of Thunder Levin’s borrowings is his constant references throughout to The Wizard of Oz (1939) – which should be fairly obvious when the film has a hero named Frank Baum. The android TIM is given to come out with lines like “You are right. I have no heart,” while Adrian Paul even gets to deliver “There’s no place like home” as the last line of the film.
Mostly, AE: Apocalypse Earth is cheap. The effects vary between a basic competence and a series of shabbily unconvincing giant bugs and lizards. Levin stages battle scenes but is trying to replicate Avatar‘s epic-sized action scenes with about only a dozen people running around the woods. Adrian Paul is an actor who projects focused intent and handsome solidity with everything he does, no matter how cheap the surroundings, and is okay in the lead. The second-billed Richard Grieco, a long way from his teen heartthrob days and looking as though the Hollywood party lifestyle had taken its toll, gives a performance in which he seems to be doing a minimal amount to actually participate in the film.