August 10, 2013

Out next Tuesday is the next in the Doomsday Series of miniseries, CAT.8.

The title comes from the disaster level, as an official helpfully explains early on. A category 8 means “destruction of the planet”. (Category 7 is destruction of the human race.) In this case, an energy experiment with a sun-probing satellite has gone awry, creating solar flares and storms. First, they cause an earthquake (because the flare made the earth wobble on its axis, which made me wonder what the other side of the planet was experiencing, but we’re just concerned with the white English-speaking American folks). The continuing solar storms also take out electronics, including cell networks and a plane that “fell out of the sky”. Later, satellites start landing on world capitals (described, not shown, because this is a miniseries, not a feature film).

I found this installment more watchable than the previous two, possibly because I like Matthew Modine as Michael Ranger, a grumpy scientist. He has something against cops, but his daughter (Kalinka Petrie) is involved with a police academy trainee (Spiro Malandrakis), and the two learn from each other when they get arrested breaking into a military facility to get better satellite tracking data.

Spiro Malandrakis and Matthew Modine in CAT.8

Spiro Malandrakis and Matthew Modine in CAT.8

I didn’t recognize any of the rest of the cast, but most of the roles are generic — evil political guy trying to hide the situation from the public, the ex-wife, weasel political guy concerned only with himself (he’s married to the ex-wife), a grandfather, the former co-worker who took over the project when Ranger resigned in protest of the militarization and misuse of his science — and many of the settings are in closed rooms. The intent seems to be to have enough people you care about that you can follow the disaster through their reactions, instead of having to show the special effects.

It’s somewhat interesting that Ranger wanted these satellite experiments to stop global warming, but the government wanted to use them for “security purposes” (aka turning the program into a WMD). Not much is done with that premise, although people yell about it every so often; instead, the film focuses on whether Ranger will be listened to by those who think they know better or whether a few dedicated people can save the world in spite of bureaucratic opposition.

The scariest part of the miniseries is when the government officials and their families are told they’ll be sheltered in safe bunkers while most of the world’s population dies around them. Cars are dying, given the EMP effects of the solar flares, plus fiery meteors are landing. I found the portrayal of chaos in the streets suggestively disturbing.

Matthew Modine and Maxim Roy in CAT.8

Matthew Modine and Maxim Roy in CAT.8

At the halfway point, there’s a temporary reprieve before a new and even bigger threat is discovered, in order to drag you into part two, at which point, we get scenes of torture, just to change things up. There’s also a slow-motion earthquake, where people are able to run away from a collapsing building, and a fugitive breakout, which turns into scenes of how badly you’re treated if you’re wrongly accused of being a terrorist.

I did wonder about the way people were dealing with the global heat wave. I’ve lived in the south long enough to know that if heat is oppressive, you close the blinds, so the sun streaming in the windows doesn’t add to the problem. And maybe turn on a fan.

There are a couple of special features on the disc: Interviews with six of the cast members, including Modine and Roy, that run from two to five minutes each, plus a ten-minute sneak peek of the next in the series, Delete. That one looks like fun, since it features hackers (invading nuclear plants and risking meltdown!) and includes two of my geek favorites, Seth Green and Matt Frewer.

CAT.8 is recommended only for disaster movie fans; science fiction buffs will find the premise too annoying to enjoy the suspense. CAT.8 is also available on DVD. (The studio provided a review copy.)

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