The Triangle (2005)

Rating:

USA/UK. 2005.

Crew

Director – Craig R. Baxley, Teleplay – Rockne S. O’Bannon, Story – Dean Devlin, Rockne S. O’Bannon & Bryan Singer, Producers – Volker Engel, Kelly Van Horn & Marc Weigert, Photography – David Connell, Music – Joseph Lo Duca, Visual Effects – Uncharted Territory (Supervisors – Volker Engel & Marc Weigert), Special Effects Supervisor – Roly Jansen, Production Design – Tom Hannam. Production Company – Electric Entertainment/Bad Hat Harry Productions/British Broadcasting Corporation/Uncharted Territory

Cast

Eric Stoltz (Howard Thomas), Bruce Davison (Stan Lathem), Catherine Bell (Emily Patterson), Michael Rodgers (Bruce Geller), Lou Diamond Phillips (Meeno Paloma), Sam Neill (Eric Benerall), John Sloan (Aron Ackerman), Charles Martin Smith (Captain Jay), Barrie Ingham (Secretary Doug Weist), Marius Weyers (Karl Sheedy), Lisa Brenner (Helen Paloma), Adrienne Pearce (Laura Farrell), Shannon Esra (Sally Thomas)


Plot

Four people – Howard Thomas, a journalist specialising in reports of The Bermuda Triangle; Stan Lathem, a renowned psychic; Australian meteorologist Bruce Geller; and marine engineer Emily Patterson – are brought together in Florida by shipping magnate Eric Benerall. Benerall is upset after another of his ships has disappeared in The Bermuda Triangle. He offers the four of them five million dollars each if they can come up with a conclusive explanation for the mystery of the Triangle. At the same time, Greenpeace activist Meeno Paloma is the only survivor from a ship that disappeared in the area. He returns home to find himself in a reality he doesn’t recognise where he and his wife have another child he has never even seen before. During their investigation, the four discover a sunken commercial airliner and rescue a girl who was trapped in a compartment when the plane went down and has become a woman in her sixties in a matter of hours. Their investigation is then shut down by the US Navy. After searching the area in a rented submarine, Bruce becomes certain that massive magnetic currents are originating from the area and causing space-time distortions. As they push past the official cover-up, they discover evidence that a Navy experiment may have created a fissure in time that is causing ships from all across history to become displaced. Now, the Navy are planning to reverse the fissure but Bruce becomes certain that their efforts will have disastrous consequences.


There is a line-up of names on the credits of The Triangle that lead you to expect something amazing. First of all, it comes prominently ‘presented’ by Bryan Singer and Dean Devlin. Singer is the director most prominently associated with the X-Men film franchise, having directed X-Men (2000), X2 (2003) and X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), as well as Superman Returns (2006). Dean Devlin is the co-writer behind some of Roland Emmerich’s biggest successes of the 1990s, having written every Emmerich film from Universal Soldier (1992) through Godzilla (1998). (See below for either’s other credits).

Furthermore, the tv mini-series is directed by Craig R. Baxley, a former stuntman turned director who has had some modest success with films and in particular a handful of Stephen King-based tv mini-series including Storm of the Century (1999), Rose Red (2002), The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer (2003) and Kingdom Hospital (2004). It is also written by Rockne S. O’Bannon who has a long career in television as a scriptwriter on films like Alien Nation (1988), as well as writer on and creator/producer of various genre tv series such as The Twilight Zone (1985-7), seaQuest DSV (1993-6), Farscape (1999-2003) and Constantine (2014-5). (See below for either’s credits)

The Bermuda Triangle is an area that supposedly covers around a million square mile area that has its vertices at Miami, Puerto Rico and Bermuda. The term first originated in a newspaper article in 1950, which speculated about the large number of ships and aircraft that have disappeared in the area. The idea was soon taken up by fringe science theorists who have offered all manner of explanations for the disappearances that have included everything from UFOs, timewarps and aliens to technology leftover from Atlantis and more natural explanations like weather and human error (including the one used here at one point of hydrates rising from the seabed). However, the idea of the Bermuda Triangle disappears under sceptical examination. For one, nobody is certain of the exact area, which has often been expanded anywhere between a half and 1.5 million square miles by differing authors in order to include incidents within its area. Sceptics, the US Coast Guard and marine experts have conducted examinations – showing that some of the claims made of ships that vanished in mysterious circumstances have been wildly distorted – and have demonstrated that statistically no more vessels sink or disappear in the Triangle that would be uncommon for any other number passing through any similar area in the world. This does not appear to have stopped the popularity of the myth.

I am not a big fan of fringe science, however the idea of so many genre names assembled on a big event mini-series gave me cause to hope otherwise. The Triangle – not to be confused with Christopher Smith’s excellent timeloop film Triangle (2009) or the earlier Bermuda Triangle tv movie also titled The Triangle (2001) – sets out to offer a comprehensive answer. Tackling the Bermuda Triangle and especially the fringe science myth that has surrounded it, is a challengingly big idea. The four central characters and their mission are well introduced (although, as someone who has worked professionally as a journalist, I had a problem with the conception of Eric Stoltz’s character who improbably makes a living solely by writing stories about the Bermuda Triangle. I would like to see any journalist try that in the real world). For a time, I was being constantly intrigued by the oddities the script tosses up – the group diving on a sunken airliner and finding a young girl survived in a compartment who in a matter of hours ages into an old woman still with the mind of a child. Or where Lou Diamond Phillips becomes the sole survivor of a vanished Greenpeace expedition and returns home to a slightly different timeline where he now has an entire other child that he never knew before and where Catherine Bell finds she is living with a mother she has never known who in the other timeline abandoned her at birth. The mini-series makes much play out of alternate timelines – at one point, the heroes seem to have momentarily slipped into an alternate history where the US is now ruled by a Nazi government.

All of this is pumped up by the requisite number of conspiracies and government cover-ups. The only surprise when it comes to the end revelation [PLOT SPOILERS] is the lack of explanations that involve UFOs or aliens, as is extremely common in most fringe science explanations. Amusingly, the eventual explanation draws on another great piece of fringe science – the Philadelphia Experiment, in particular the version that was told in the film The Philadelphia Experiment (1984), that US Navy invisibility experiments opened up a hole in time that is gradually expanding and drawing in everything around it. Still it does give an intriguing pseudo-explanation for the so-called phenomenon – even if in reality the Philadelphia Experiment supposedly occurred 800 miles north of the Bermuda Triangle. (The one thing that the end explanation never offered was why Sam Neill and others keep seeing a phantom version of his dead brother in the mirror). The third episode reaches an unusual conclusion where Eric Stoltz travels back in time and races to stop the series of events from occurring. The finale has them eliminating the Bermuda Triangle altogether and settling into a timeline where none of this existed (although my suspicions would be that the timeline would be far more severely disrupted than it is if so many ships that disappeared throughout history never did). The show works with a reasonable degree of excitement, even if some of the visual effects are on the weak and obviously CGI-generated side.

Bryan Singer has also directed the genre films Apt Pupil (1998), X-Men (2000), X2 (2003), Superman Returns (2006), Jack the Giant Slayer (2013), X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) and X-Men: Apocalypse (2016). Singer has also executive produced the horror anthology Trick ‘R Treat (2008), X: First Class (2011), the horror films My Eleventh (2014) and The Taking (2014), and the tv series Legion (2017– ).

Dean Devlin originally appeared as an actor in Roland Emmerich’s Moon 44 (1990) and wrote the Emmerich films Universal Soldier (1992), Stargate (1994), Independence Day (1996) and Godzilla (1998). After parting from Emmerich, Devlin disappeared off the radar apart from producing the odd thing such as Eight Legged Freaks (2002), Cellular (2004), The Librarian tv movies and subsequent tv series The Librarians (2014– ), and the tv series Leverage (2008-12). He subsequently directed and wrote the disaster film Geostorm (2017).

Craig R. Baxley’s other films include:- the action film Dark Angel/I Come in Peace (1990) with Dolph Lundgren against an intergalactic drug dealer; the incomprehensible Deep Red (1994) about the search for a child carrying an alien virus; the psycho-thriller Under Pressure (1997) with Charlie Sheen as a fireman who snaps and starts terrorising his neighbours; and the Christian Anti-Christ film Left Behind: World at War (2005). Baxley has made a host of Stephen King tv mini-series’ including Storm of the Century (1999), Rose Red (2002), The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer (2003) and Kingdom Hospital (2004). Baxley has also made a variety of genre tv movies including the superhero film Chameleon II: Death Match (1999), The Glow (2002) about a conspiracy of immortals and the amazing The Lost Room (2006) about a quest for everyday objects with mysterious powers.

Screenwriter Rockne S. O’Bannon began writing for tv series such as The Twilight Zone (1985-9) and Amazing Stories (1985-7). O’Bannon made his feature debut with the script for Alien Nation (1988) and went onto direct the fine psychic thriller Fear (1990), as well as created/produced the tv series seaQuest DSV (1993-6), Farscape (1998-2003), Cult (2013) and Defiance (2013-5) and produced V (2009-11) and Constantine (2014-5). O’Bannon has also directed and written the tv movie Deadly Invasion: The Killer Bee Nightmare (1995), written the alien invasion mini-series Invasion (1997), written and produced the Peter Benchley mini-series Creature (1998), and written the tv movie Fatal Error (1999), which has the absurd premise of a computer virus that becomes a biological virus.



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