Leaving the Multiplex Behind

Movie Review: ALIEN ARMAGEDDON (2011)

Posted by Jonathan Sullivan on December 6, 2011

Starring: Katharine McEwan, Don Scribner, Rochelle Vallese, Benjamin J. Cain Jr.

Written and Directed by: Neil Johnson

Distributed by: Phase 4 Films

Buy Alien Armageddon on DVD (or Blu-ray)

Rent Alien Armageddon on Amazon

Don’t judge Alien Armageddon by its cover; although it seems like a rip-off of both Cowboys and Aliens and Battle: L.A. it’s actually a work that feels completely of its own. Playing out like a trashy science fiction novel, writer/director Neil Johnson presents 90 minutes that is filled with interesting ideas, above average special effects, and more importantly decent acting. Unfortunately it goes a little overboard with both the information and the set up, slowing down the proceedings and it will most likely test the patience of any potential viewers. Those who stick with it though may be pleasantly surprised.

Johnson has used a race of aliens called the Nephilim as the main antagonists for almost all of his movies, but thankfully Alien Armageddon opens up with a voiceover in the opening credits that explains what has gone on for anyone just getting in on the story now. Here’s the jist: the Nephilim once enslaved humanity, but we rose up and fought back, pushing them off of the planet and freeing our species to mold the Earth the way we saw fit. Naturally the Nephilim finally return and start laying waste to humanity, eventually taking their planet back and enslaving us for reasons yet to be discovered. There’s also a whole Biblical connection to the story but I’ll let you find that out when you watch the movie.

After about a five minute montage of the Nephilim destroying all of the other cities in the world and making Los Angeles its home base (…for some reason), we get into the story which is essentially split into three parts. First we have our main character Jodie (Katharine McEwan) who is holed up with two other people underground. She is captured by the Nephilim and thrown into prison where she shares a cell with fellow inmates Markus (Benjamin J. Cain Jr.) and Sheen (William David Tulin). Jodie’s goal is simple: she wants to find her daughter who was in a small town called Little Rock (not that Little Rock, the California one) when the takeover happened. Unfortunately she needs to escape first.

Meanwhile, a man known only as Cowboy (Don Scribner) is out in the deserts of California defending himself from any potential Nephilim that want to imprison him. Before the attack he was in jail for murdering his son and a whole host other people, a most disturbing crime indeed. After some mishaps he ends up captured anyway. Then there’s the story of Franci (Rochelle Vallese) and Dr. Brenna (Julia Parker) who are working with the Nephilim to come up with some sort of…something. It gets revealed later. Eventually these three stories intersect, but it takes awhile. And to add to that load of plot development we’ve also got some brief scenes with Governor Brent (Duff Dugan, sweet real name), the former head of California who let the Nephilim take over. You know, for flavor.

Movies about alien invasion carry around the expectation of being action-packed, but Alien Armageddon takes a different more dialogue-heavy/storydriven path. That’s both good and bad. The overall storyline is engaging enough and packed with a ton of interesting ideas (many of which spoil the movie so sorry I won’t mention them). But the problem is that it simply takes too long to go anywhere. It’s 40 minutes before our main characters even interact with one another, and before then it’s mostly dialogue and slow build with brief action scenes to spice things up. Jodie’s prison stay is pretty monotonous after awhile: eat, vomit, try to find a way to escape, vomit again, eat again, discuss things with Markus and Sheen, Sheen makes a funny comment, vomit some more. It finds a rhythm but it’s not a rhythm that really moves things forward. Once Franci is thrown more into the mix, things pick up again for a little bit…and then slow down again and it builds to its next climactic moment.

While Alien Armageddon does drag its feet a lot more than it should, the acting itself is good enough to keep you watching. McEwan does a good job as the lead, and Scribner provides a hell of a Sam Elliot impression in his role as the mysterious Cowboy that is both badass and at times comical (he gets a bit Sling Blade-y with the way he talks here and there). Tulin’s role as Sheen is the best out of the bunch; he’s the closest to comic relief, but he also has an interesting story (and interesting fate) to him. Anyone who utters the line “choke me bro” gets a pass in my book. I may say that to my girlfriend next time we hang out. Alien Armageddon also on the whole looks really nice too, with above average CGI for a direct to DVD movie and some cool makeup/creature effects. The CGI does have moments of fakeness though, with the destruction of the cities looking particularly artificial. The Nephilim have an interesting design to them as well, but it’s only one actual design and you never see more than maybe five in the same shot (budget reasons I assume).

Alien Armageddon is another in a series of Johnson’s “Nephilim” stories, so it feels more like the beginning of something rather than its own movie (and ends in a way that screams “SEQUEL!”). Certain elements are thrown in that amount to nothing here but will probably pan out more as the story goes on, and it feels like the world itself is never fully explained (or why not everything ever is destroyed). But despite the slow pace and the lack of action, Alien Armageddon manages to be an entertaining and more importantly interesting watch with some cool ideas, good acting, and a certified cheesy badass in The Cowboy. The CGI and slow build may turn off some viewers, but if you’re a science fiction fan it’s definitely worth a shot; at the very least it’s ahead of the thoughtless empty shell dreck the studios have been passing off as sci-fi over the past few years.

Grade: C+

Buy Alien Armageddon on DVD (or Blu-ray)

Rent Alien Armageddon on Amazon


5 Responses to “Movie Review: ALIEN ARMAGEDDON (2011)”

  1. Joe said

    Reviewers like this should be sued for misleading advertising. This film is by FAR the worst Sci-Fi junk I’ve ever had the displeasure having spent money on to see. This film gives new meaning to the word ‘disappointment’ and if anyone out there want to initiate a class action lawsuit in the hopes of stopping junk like this getting dumped on the people of Earth, I’m in.

    • …So you only sort-of liked it? 😛

      No false advertising here sir, just an opinion. I’m aware of all the issues in the movie (and bring them up in the review) but as a whole it ended up working for me. I won’t apologize for that.

      And maybe you should stall on the class-action lawsuit; sometimes terrible movies end up being more fun than anticipated and I don’t want to lose that!

  2. This one is coming to Netflix in early January so I’m looking forward to giving it a try. Thanks for the review.

  3. swizzle said

    I just watched it: Cheap special effects that look like they were constructed with Adobe, horrible action, scenes that go from night to day in seconds, scenes that make no sense at all, a very slow plodding dialogue that makes you want to bang your head against the wall, etc.

    For example, the US military was destroyed and defeated, letting the aliens set up base in LA, but at the end of the movie you see hundreds of B2, stealth, f22, f35, drones and other jets flying into LA to finish off the alien menace. Where did all these jets come from and how come a sophisticated alien race, one that can travel across the galaxy, not find thousands of jet fighters sitting in the desert? Don’t bother to answer that because that is just one of dozens and dozens of plot holes that infest this horrid move. They say “we need to stay off the main roads to avoid patrols” while they drive down the interstate, suddenly its a dirt road, then its night, then its day again and they are back on the interstate all in a few seconds, lmao. WTF??

    Really, they escape from a high security prison by walking out of the electric fence for thier pen, its turned off when they are being fed, yes, it was that simple, and that was the SECOND time someone escaped by doing that. You’d think they would have fixed this problem the first time, lmao. They use a ‘secret’ escape tunnel that had a electronic panel to it that had to be pressed for the door to open, and its surrounded by neon lights to show you where it is. They go to little rock CA to find one of thier children, when they get there they search the area, find no one, figure the child is dead and drive away, as they are driving away the child and another woman emerge from a hiding space to observe the suv driving away, you see the image in the rear view mirror also, but the driver just ignores this and drives away, again, WTF?

    • To be fair I think she didn’t stop for the kid for a reason. I cant say what because it’s a spoiler haha.

      I kneeew I’d end up in the minority but I stand by it, credibility killing and all.

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