Everyone at the first press screening of the new Syfy Films movie Atomica are trying to keep a positive attitude, with varying results. Yes, there is beer. Yes, the seats are comfortable. That said, if you’re not clipping your toenails and drafting texts to your most lecherous ex-boyfriend while a Syfy movie is playing, are you really watching it at all?
The nature of the event, however, forces one to really focus on the Syfy original for what it is: confusing, horny, and vaguely apocalyptic. Scrolling through a list of their recent releases, these labels could apply to any and all often, making Atomica a perfect case study.
All you need to know is that Atomica is about something like a nuclear winter, one that causes corrupt big business to take charge of the world’s energy supply. It’s sort of like Wall-E, except it has no fat guys and everyone is horny. The film stars Sarah Habel (Ms. Grundy on Riverdale) and Dominic Monaghan (Lost, Lord of the Rings). There were also several scenes featuring Tom Sizemore, who probably did not know he was in a movie, seeing as he is playing an acoustic guitar or getting shaved by an empty-eyed Dominic Monaghan in every scene he appears in. You can tell that Sizemore has been coerced into the role of Zek (which I think is either a typo or some steampunk nonsense) by the poster for the movie, which is Monaghan and Habel “with” Tom Sizemore. This, friends, is the telltale “with” — like I, Frankenstein with Bill Nighy or Gigli with Christopher Walken. It’s a one-word indicator that the actor following it is either completely unaware of what he or she is doing or has a lot of credit card debt.
What I’m saying is that Tom Sizemore has a lot of credit card debt.
Here are the other important things you need to know about Atomica:
Women aren’t supposed to be engineers! One of the more fun tropes associated with the “bad action movie with a female protagonist” subgenre is the constant reminder that the (white, male) filmmaker was brave enough to half-write a female character in the first place. Director Dagen Merrill, whose previous credits include Murder in the Dark and Broken Hill, accomplishes this by forcing Habel’s character, Abby, to play up her career woman vibe to the point where she appears to be mentally unstable. And of course, once she and Monaghan’s character, Robinson, connects, it’s a never-ending sequence of his being slack-jawed when Abby proves to be competent at the smallest thing. Instead of castrating him, Abby does what women do in bad movies when straight men are writing them and raises her eyebrow in a triumphant “guess I’m not so much of a moron now, huh?” gesture. Thank you for being an ally, Dagen!
It is blue. As in all action movies that lack a distinct time, place, or discernible plot, every frame of Atomica appears to have been sat on by the bare ass of a Blue Man Group cast member. The majority of the movie takes place inside the high-tech (which we know because the walls are computers!) power plant, where it appears that only Dominic Monaghan, Tom Sizemore, and their shared acoustic guitar work make the blue filter indicate not only that it is the future, but that the future is perhaps…a bit…sinister.
Everyone in the future is extremely hot. It’s an obvious one, but still warrants saying aloud — there is no world in which a nuclear safety inspector from the future would need to wear a skintight Catwoman suit to flirt with Dominic Monaghan. This reality, however, is what Habel’s character Abby is subjected to in Atomica, along with a terminal case of horny, parted lips. In every scene, the lips on the face part, and they are horny. Abby, as a character, is so horny that she is legally handicapped.
Dead family members are constantly invoked to move the plot forward. One of the only things we learn about Monaghan’s character, aside from the fact that he thinks the concept of women as engineers is wild, is that his family is dead. Just as every male video game protagonist in memory and Mad Max, Robinson’s outward broodiness is attributed to the fact that he’s lost people, man, and he’s seen things. Once Abby learns this, it’s referenced a number of times to stop Robinson from doing something violent or destructive, leading to her tearful plea at the movie’s climax: “Is this what Margot and Sammy would have wanted?” Robinson winces, for although he is an untethered misogynist bathed in blue, he has feelings, too.
There is a bizarre, kind of sexual and definitely violent personal grooming scene. Another commonality in bad action movies is a slow-paced scene lodged somewhere in the second act in which a character is in mortal danger at the hands of either the protagonist or the villain. It’s an exercise in tension-building, a break from constant gunfire or, in the case of Atomica, the rare opportunity to see esteemed actor Dominic Monaghan shave esteemed actor Tom Sizemore with a laser. Sizemore sits in a barber’s chair motionless as Monaghan shaves him, for a reason that is so irrelevant to the plot that I forget what it is entirely. After a moment, it gets quietly violent — Sizemore starts to say that Monaghan doesn’t need to shave so close to the throat, a suggestion he ignores before Abby bursts in the room and effectively ends the shaving scene with another bizarre plot point.
Why does this scene happen? We do not know for sure, but it is undoubtedly the horniest moment in an already horny movie.
This movie takes place on Christmas for some reason. This isn’t a trope but feels worth mentioning.
So let’s pour one out for Atomica, a movie that history will forget but fifteen uncomfortable, slightly drunk reporters locked in a dark room being forced to watch poor Tom Sizemore pay off a yacht he probably sunk in the ‘90s will remember. Yes, Atomica, we will remember.
Atomica is in theaters on March 17 and on VOD March 21.