Absolute Zero
directed by Robert Lee
(Marvista, 2005)

What a sad and depressing world this would be without low-budget disaster B-movies like Absolute Zero to entertain us. Where else, I ask you, are you going to find men and women donning space suits in order to traverse a frozen ledge outside an office building in a suddenly sub-arctic Miami? Or delight in patently fake news stories about fishermen suddenly raking in crate after crate of completely frozen crabs from the ocean? This isn't a very good movie, if you want to get all technical about it, but it's just the kind of cheesy science fiction thriller I live for.

The possibility of a magnetic pole shift is something you're likely to hear more and more as we approach December 21, 2012 (the end of the Mayan calendar). The science of the matter is complex and exceedingly iffy, what with polar wander, geomagnetic reversal and whatnot, and the cataclysmic pole shift hypothesis is just that -- a hypothesis. One thing we can be sure of is this: if such a cataclysmic pole shift ever does take place, things will play out much, much differently than the way they do in this film. The science of Absolute Zero is almost absolute zero itself, as the proposition underlying this whole story is that a magnetic pole shift is a sudden event that will not only encase the tropical regions of the globe in ice of epic proportions within a matter of hours, but that the temperature corresponding with this spontaneous new ice age will actually reach absolute zero.

For those who aren't of a scientific bent, absolute zero is the rock-bottom temperature on the universal temperature scale. It goes without saying that no lifeform can survive under such extreme conditions; hypothetically, even molecular motion (kinetic energy) stops at this temperature. This film would apparently have us believe that absolute zero only hurts you if you touch it.

From the discovery of an ancient body and primitive cave drawings in a newly revealed cave deep in Antarctica to the sunny yet soon-to-be frozen beaches of Miami, Dr. David Koch (Jeff Fahey) serves as our guide into the frigid unknown. While his corporate boss schemes to make untold riches saving the planet from a shift-induced new ice age over the next couple of centuries, Koch and his colleagues (a fellow scientist, that scientist's wife who -- unsurprisingly -- is Koch's true love he abandoned a decade ago, two grad students and a precocious 8-year-old girl) try to sound the warning that Florida is going to turn into a proverbial popsicle within hours. Nobody listens to them, of course -- not until it's too late, anyway -- and the rest of the story primarily focuses on their attempt to survive the unsurvivable.

All Koch's boss cares about is the money he can get the government to fork over for his project, and he has no qualms about holding back crucial scientific data in his pursuit of the almighty dollar.

If you're thinking that someone has actually made a natural disaster film that doesn't pin the blame on global warming, think again. It's true that a magnetic pole shift in and of itself has nothing to do with global warming, but this film's premise is that global warming has caused a change in the very geography of the earth, and it is that change which has led to the magnetic pole shift. Still, at least the film it doesn't beat you over the head with global warming alarmism every chance it gets, so that's definitely a plus.

In any event, I must say that Absolute Zero is a fairly ridiculous little disaster film -- and that is why I got such a kick out of watching it. Cheesy dialogue, less than spectacular special effects (I'm willing to bet there were a number of painters who could have retired on the money they made painting backdrops for this project), dull characters, a steady supply of dumb comic relief in the midst of catastrophe, a determined effort to never let actual science get in the way a good science fiction story -- these are faults only a bad movie junkie could love.

review by
Daniel Jolley

25 September 2010

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