The Asylum is one of my favorite low budget production companies. I had really high hopes for their line up of movies this year, especially after watching Age of Dinosaurs which I felt was their all-time best movie to date and can't gush about it enough. But then 100 Degrees Below Zero came around and I have to be honest in saying I really really did not care for that one much, and even though I had been anticipating AE: Apocalypse Earth quite a bit, that one too fell a bit short of expectations.
Which brings me to Atlantic Rim, Asylum's upcoming mockbuster of Guillermo Del Toro's upcoming CGI slugfest Pacific Rim (admittedly, I believe Asylum is changing the name of their Atlantic Rim to Attack From Beneath, to avoid the usual legal troubles they find themselves in these days with their mockbusters). This was another one I've been highly anticipating, based off just the amazing trailer alone, and the one Asylum movie in the last few months I feel could potentially be just as good as Age of Dinosaurs.
With this one, well, you can pretty much guess what the plot is just based off what movie it's mockbusting - giant monsters appear from under the ocean and the U.S. Military employs some giant robots piloted by trained solders to combat them as they come out of the ocean and start attacking cities. Now, what struck me almost right off the bat as a nice change of pace from the usual Asylum fare, was that this one had a rather large ensemble cast. Normally if we get four or five main main characters in one of these things, that's a good day, but in this one we have quite a few: Most notably we have the well-known rapper Treach playing as one of the Mech pilots. Alongside him we also have David Chokachi (from tons of SyFy Channel Original Movies and other Asylum flicks) as the leader of the Mech pilots and kind of a loose cannon, always getting himself in trouble with his superiors and kind of doing whatever he wants. He actually sort of reminded me a bit of a mix between Bug Hall from Arachnoquake and Robert Downey Jr. in his Iron Man role (for multiple reasons, one of which I'm sure anyone who has seen The Avengers will be able to pick up on during the climatic fight). Jackie Moore, who was also in another Asylum flick, the found footage horror movie 100 Ghost Street: The Return of Richard Speck, plays his girlfriend that's also in the military alongside him and is the third of the Mech piloting trio. Her role, and the way she portrayed it, actually reminded me quite a bit of Katee Sackhoff from Battlestar Galactica - only thing missing was a scene of her smoking a cigar and beating up a superior officer, hahaha. All three of these people also had excellent on-screen chemistry with one another and you never doubt even once that these three are all best buds with one another.
Other then the Mech pilots themselves, there is also the always-entertaining Graham Green ( Jacob's father in the Twilight movies and one of John McClane's fellow cop co-workers in Die Hard with a Vengeance) and in this movie he plays the role of the leading Admiral in charge of everything and was, simply put, a total joy to watch. While everyone did excellent with their roles and the acting from everyone was pretty much above-average for what you would expect from an Asylum movie, it was Graham Green that had most of the best lines; it was always hilarious seeing him chew out his subordinates and having them have to reply simply with 'Yes sir'. Hell, every other line from his mouth was hilarious, especially with his total straight-faced delivery, and he owned every scene he was in, chewing the scenery and spitting it back out like it was stale tobacco. Sharing some of the screen time with him was also Nicole Alexandra Shipley (from Asylum's semi-recent 12/12/12) as one of the main computer techs that works in direct relation with the Mech pilots, and Nicole Dickson in her first acting role playing the part of a NASA scientist that works with the Admiral on the new Mech project (Actually, its called Project Armada in the movie, but for the sake of the review I'll just be referring to it as the Mech project). She was probably the weakest in the movie in terms of acting, but she was surprisingly still not too bad considering it was her first role ever. That about covers it for the main characters - like I said, a much larger cast then usual, plus there are also still quite a few smaller roles throughout, such as one played by regular Asylum director (including of this movie) Jared Cohn as a fighter jet pilot that leads a squadron of jets against the giant monster during one of the earlier action scenes when the monster first makes its appearance while it crawls out of the ocean and proceeds to wreck havoc on a city.
And wreck havoc it does! Quite a bit! Actually, between monster attacks on various cities, occasional mechanical issues with the giant Mechs, and of course the action-packed Mech vs Monster fights, there is pretty much almost always something good going on, action-wise, and when we do get a few minutes of downtime it's wisely used to help establish the characters with some good characterization moments, and then it's never too long before we're thrusted back into some awesome action stuff again. As a matter of fact, I was quite surprised with just how realistic some of the characterization and character-specific beats were such as one scene where, after first finding out about and fighting a monster, David Chokachi's character, when face to face with his friends again, excitably relayed what happened during the fight just like a little boy would when talking about the newest episode of whatever show he and his friends are into. Personally, For Little Jeffrey back in the day, that would have probably been either Gargoyles or Power Rangers.
And speaking of Power Rangers, another thing I loved about this movie is that for a couple scenes after the main Mech trio fought off a giant monster, they get out of their giant robot suits and go through areas of the partially destroyed city to help those trapped or injured in the rubble caused by their fight, and the character played by Treach goes off to help the Red Cross out with fixing up people badly injured and all the other stuff they then have to deal with... which is something the Power Rangers never once did, that I can recall. With them, they fought off a monster and then always left right away to celebrate, thus leaving the city officials on their own to deal with half their city being destroyed (and on a regular basis, at that) - for shame, Power Rangers, for shame!
Actually, I mention Power Rangers in this review quite a bit because I was reminded of the show pretty often throughout the movie. Hell, each Mech had lights on the outside of them, as well as interior lighting in the cockpits, that were all a certain specific color to each Mech; One was Red-themed, one was Blue-themed, and the third was Green-themed, and to add on top of that each one had its own unique Mech-specific power weapon! With those color designations, combined with special power weapons, matched up with giant monster-fighting robots, I was actually expecting some Power Rangers references at some point, and I have to say I was a a bit sad that we didn't get one. Also, this movie would have been the perfect opportunity for Asylum to bring on an old Power Rangers alum into their ranks, like perhaps Jason David Frank (Tommy from the Mighty Morphin' days). Seriously, how friggin' awesome would it have been to see Jason David Frank, the original Green Ranger, piloting the green-themed Mech in this movie?
But I digress. Kind of went off on a side-tangent there, hahaha. Back to the character stuff: It was nice to get a military leader in one of these movies that's not just all gung-ho about nuking the enemy creature in question and is actually against such a plan. So many times movies like this end with the military guy in charge essentially saying 'screw it' and dropping a nuke on the creature as an easy out, but not here, my friends, not at all! He's not only 100% against such a plan, but he actually has to put in a good effort to make sure that sort of thing doesn't happen. As a matter of fact, all the characterization in this movie was more attention to that then Asylum normally gives in their movies and it was all much appreciated. For instance, there was also a little love triangle subplot added in between the three Mech pilots. Seems not only are two of them dating, but the girl had actually cheated on him while drunk a few weeks back, with the other one. It was an interesting subplot that added a bit of tension between the characters for a while, however it ultimately ended up being a bit pointless since it doesn't ever really get resolved at all. They're in the middle of dealing with it when they get the alert that New York City is being attacked by the Mother of all Monsters essentially, and they have to leave to go partake in the big climatic battle, and the movie never returns to that subplot anymore after that. Would have been nice to get some form of conclusion to that, but oh well. Just a minor nitpick.
There's actually a couple of other nitpicks I have with this, that I may as well get out of the way now. The first of which is that I would have liked to see a scene or two of the Mech pilots learning to drive and control their giant undersea Mechs. There is a point later in the movie where their Mechs get an upgrade to their hardware and there is a quick re-training scene of them having to learn how to use this new technology, and I suppose by the point we meet everyone at the beginning of the movie they're already familiar with how to pilot and control these things (after all, the movie can only be so long so they can't really waste time with stuff like that), but it still would have been nice to see, but it's far from a deal breaker. As I said, it's only a minor personal nitpick.
The next issue though is slightly bigger then a nitpick, though again not quite a deal breaker. In the second half of the movie, when the much-larger second monster makes itself known and begins its assault on New York City, we only ever see that one monster yet all the characters keep referring to it as 'them'. Anytime anyone talks about that monster, they keep talking about it as if there are way more then just that one, yet we never once see any of the others, so I'm unsure if there were supposed to be tons of other battles happening across the city but just all off-screen, or if it was some kind of dialog error, or what the deal was but it made the last 20 minutes or so a bit confusing as to what was going on with the monster and if there were more or not.
Over all though, since I liked this one quite a bit, I don't really want to end my review off on a downer negative note, so I'll bring things back around to the positive side in mentioning the excellent CGI effects work here. Seriously, this movie had astounding CGI and way above-average for what we've come to expect from Asylum. Be it the wonderfully-designed killer monsters or the giant Mechs themselves, or especially the city-destroying CGI brawls between the two, everything in this movie in terms of the special effects looked excellent and everyone at Asylum should pat themselves on the back for a great job well done!
Atlantic Rim (Sorry, I mean Attack From Beneath) would make a great summer double-bill with Age of Dinosaurs, as both movies encompass the best that Asylum has to offer and both have truly insanely chaotic, awesome, and fun third acts. I know Asylum doesn't really do sequels anymore, but out of all of their movies that deserve one, this is the one I want to see a sequel to most. In addition, I find most of their best movies are their mockbusters, so its sad that they seem to be doing them a lot less and less as time goes on. I wouldn't be surprised if in the next two years they stop doing these ones all together. I mean, I can't blame them seeing as how its just leading to legal issues after legal issues these days, but its still sad to see them declining, so it's all the more important that if, like me, you're a fan of these low budget knock off flicks, then you get out there and support these mockbuster titles.