As part of my movie watching for TGGeeks I’ve decided to take a look at movies for the LGBTQ community that have probably flown under most people’s radar, and this time I’m going to examine the 2008 sci-fi/action thriller, Fall of Hyperion.
The space station Hyperion is in geosynchronous orbit around the Earth. Its mission is to study the atmosphere, but something else has shown up on their radar. Actually, it’s multiple somethings. Meteor clusters that make up the Leonitis Meteor Shower are on a path for Earth, and Hyperion is in its way. Meanwhile, Richard Kraft who is the head of the Department of Defense is upset with the US President because his budget is to be slashed and he feels that the country’s defenses are woefully inadequate. At the same time, a NASA scientist named Dr. John Brighton and his research assistant Ben Freeman arrive at a house in Northern California that’s part of a military base where the President is staying and John advises her (the President is a black woman) of the impending meteor strikes and how most of them will impact Earth. There is also another concern. Hyperion has been virtually destroyed and its remnants are going to hail all around the Los Angeles area, and within that wreckage is a thermal nuclear core that could threaten to release radioactive fallout on a scale that could render southern California uninhabitable for up to 1,000 years. At the same time, an overly enthusiastic TV news reporter named Ken Stone is upset that he’s covering “fluff” pieces. He’s busy interviewing a man named Russ whose pool was destroyed by a falling meteor. His producer Sam Hunter, who also happens to be his lover, informs him of multiple meteor impacts in the nearby town and they head off there. Meanwhile, a mother named Jenni has taken her two children, son Lucas, and daughter Sara, to watch the meteor shower. Everything is fine just watching the “shooting stars,” but when a meteor impacts close to them they pack it up and leave, but not before a meteor impact happens near their car and causes them to have an accident. Russ happens on to the scene in his truck and takes them to a hospital in a nearby town. While all of this is happening, John makes a horrifying discovery. Why wasn’t NASA able to detect the meteor cluster months earlier? Because someone broke into the NASA mainframe and tampered with their data. Now, on top of trying to save the lives of the people in the Los Angeles area, he needs to get to the bottom of this conspiracy and learn who signed the death sentence for the astronauts on board Hyperion as well as the citizens of southern California.
How is that for a synopsis? It’s long because this movie is a mess. It’s not just a hot mess. It’s a BAD mess. From the very beginning, this movie is trying to be too many things at the same time making it extremely unfocused. It’s not confusing. Each story thread is clear, but there is so much story in each thread that to contain them all in one movie ends up providing a disservice to each one of them. The story of the government conspiracy could be very interesting, especially in light of today’s reported corruption in government. Conspiracies of silence are not new and this one could have made for an exciting political thriller, but to place it against the sci-fi action as well as the human interest story allows for this to become one huge failure. The human interest element is also equally interesting especially in Ken’s emotional journey as he begins to realize the power and responsibility of the news media and the good it can do. There is also the exciting sci-fi disaster story about the meteor impacts. Each of these story threads deserves to have its own treatment, but instead, they are just mixed together creating a very incohesive movie.
For a movie that screams “direct-to-video,” it has a mixed cast. Most of these actors are at best of the “B” grade, but it does have one big surprise with actor Thomas Calabro (Melrose Place) as John Brighton. His acting credentials show that he can deliver a performance in a variety of genres. As it happens the character of John is pretty straight forward. He’s very no-nonsense, and because of the situation doesn’t show much else. The character is written rather two-dimensionally, but Calabro plays him just right. He’s extremely convincing as the driven NASA scientist, but his acting is subdued, giving the appropriate intensity the character would need under such a situation. As far as acting performances go, his was by far the best in this movie, and I’m not saying that purely as a means of comparison. He was quite good here. Sadly, pretty much everyone else in the cast was not able to reach up to the standard he set here. William Gregory Lee as reporter Ken Stone gave a performance that only felt forced. It didn’t matter if the scene had him frustrated over reporting a story or if it was about his same-sex relationship with his producer Sam. Even when he delivers an explosive exposé on the government coverup there is nothing believable about him. In the role of Sam, we had Jon Briddell who felt more natural in the role. Sadly, he ended up playing backup to everything that Ken was doing, resulting in a situation that did not give a good portrayal of what is supposed to be a same-sex relationship. The remaining cast members acted without any sense of conviction as if this were merely a paycheck for them. Even scenes that demanded some emotional outburst they ended up feeling “acted” instead of natural.
The science in this movie is non-existent, especially regarding the thermal nuclear core on board the Hyperion. The threat this movie paints suggests that if the wreckage containing the core were to explode that it would do so like a hydrogen bomb. It wouldn’t do that but it could serve as a cross between a dirty bomb and the provide the sort of fallout that was seen at Chernobyl. If such a scenario were to take place it could have devastating consequences. Unfortunately, the writer decided to exaggerate the scenario that promptly took me out of the movie-watching experience. With the poor use of science, coupled with the bad acting performances I could not help but chuckle throughout the movie.
Fall of Hyperion was written by John Cleland (this is his only feature-length movie) and Matthew Jason Walsh (who has written mostly LGBTQ indie horror) and directed by Rex Piano who has mostly television directing credits to his name. I could not help but compare it to the previously reviewed LGBTQ disaster flick Deadly Skies. Where that movie had a few threads that seemed to linger it did a better job at reigning in its story. Fall of Hyperion sadly has too many ideas competing against each other. With the family of Jenni, Lucas, and Sara being saved by Russ, to Ken and Sam having their “come to Jesus” moment and realizing the good the power of the media can do especially in trying to report on the conspiracy, to John uncovering the conspiracy perpetrated by Richard of the DOD, this movie tries to be too many things for too many people. It’s largely unfocused and when viewed feels like a daytime soap opera. Not all of the acting is bad, especially from Thomas Calabro, but the performances from Lee and Cynthia Gibb as Jenni felt forced. Instead of believing in their plight all I could do was laugh at them. Plot threads are abandoned and character arcs are left hanging by the time the credits roll. Lastly, with the characters of Sam and Ken who are supposed to represent “everyday gay heroes,” I do take some exception at seeing another movie where straight actors are asked to play gay roles. I might be more forgiving if this movie had been put out by a major studio, but this is largely an indie film and if the intent is to portray everyday gay men as heroes I find it rather irritating that it would do so by hiring straight actors to play those characters, and given that the performances ranged from poor to mediocre it almost feels that the message of the movie is disingenuous.
For its poorly written and executed story, along with mostly mediocre to poor acting, I can only give Fall of Hyperion 2 out of 5 Shooting Stars.
Fall of Hyperion can be viewed on Here TV.