Syfy got its money’s worth — and more — in the first three seasons of Battlestar Galactica. But that show was a huge, Peabody Award–winning anomaly; the network’s standard m.o. is spending as close to zero as possible on its productions, and there’s nothing more dollar store than Syfy’s original movies.
Atomica‘s slapdash script is a hasty aggregation of screenwriting and science fiction clichés, barely feature-length and possibly written over a single weekend. The scenes are as heavily padded as a Nebraska Furniture Mart sectional, mostly by Dominic Monaghan talking. The tracts of conversational real estate he occupies are vast, his janitor character spinning out long, uninteresting yarns delivered without edits, rehearsal, or basic respect for other people’s schedules.
Nuclear engineer Abby (Sarah Habel) — whose “radiation suit” is, hilariously, a motorcycle racing helmet — is dispatched to a nuclear power facility in the desert that has become mysteriously inoperative. Its skeleton-crew staff consists of the janitor and a reclusive nuclear scientist played by Tom Sizemore.
Of the two name-brand leads, only Monaghan, as the future HVAC technician or whatever, has significant screen time; Sizemore doesn’t show up until mid-film, and then — seriously — delivers the majority of his performance from the comfort of a cozy bed. Plot point, or Sizemore contract demand? That question is more interesting than the film’s limp mysteries: Where did the rest of the crew go? Why is the plant offline? Why is Monaghan such a creep-o? The bizarre story deltas include moments like Abby catching him watching her shower, but immediately engaging him in shoptalk and coffee in the next scene. In the futuristic year 2025, the human resources department has no power over harassment.
Directed by Dagen Merrill
Opens March 17, Cinema Village
Available on demand
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 15, 2017