CAT. 8 Blu-ray Review
As a fan of science fiction, I have hard feelings with the majority of work being represented by the SyFy network (and other, smaller ones). Every year it seems like there is another disaster movie, it’s the end of the world and lots of implausible and poorly explained phenomena happen on every corner. This year’s entry, failed mini-series CAT. 8 (short for Category 8 – apparently a system of organizing potential disaster scenarios), is no better, though something should be said for the American people for not watching this one and putting it out of its misery before it could got really bad. I mean, this is no SHARKNADO (thankfully), but it’s also just about awful enough to ruin your weekend.
Dr. Michael Ranger (Matthew Modine, most recently seen in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES) has been disgraced and discredited. His wife left him to be with another man, and he’s a politician to boot (there’s supposed to be something wrong with this fact – it’s clear we’re supposed to hate this man for ‘breaking up the family’ though it never gets explained well enough to make any sense). Ranger hasn’t been sitting on his laurels since whatever happened though – so when strange things start happening all over the world (satellites falling from the sky, plasma bursts from the sun causing massive earthquakes, etc.) he jumps to action and tries to figure out what’s happening before the world can be destroyed. Like many clichés presented in stories like this, the “big brother” government has decided to weaponize his work, a huge laser that looks like it could punch a hole through the sun (despite the vastness of space in between, or the fact that this machine is fairly small but produces a blast that looks like it’s about 1/5 the size of the sun.
Ranger decides to take matters into his own hands to try to save the world, and somehow he at least partially succeeds – though we will never know what other problems would have been introduced in subsequent episodes. But at every step is another conflict; another situation calling Ranger to escape from highly trained military personnel (because Physicists all learn how to fight and evade capture in school, right?). As he works through the day there is very little urgency until the last moments of episode 1, where CAT. 8 finally shows a little bit of ingenuity and promise. Along for the ride are TV veterans Maxim Roy (you might recognize her from 2009’s failed DEFYING GRAVITY), Canadian newcomers Kalinka Petrie & Spiro Malandrakis (Ranger’s daughter and her boyfriend), and a slew of others who just aren’t important enough to mention here.
The problem with CAT. 8 isn’t the filmmaking, which is competent if a bit inconsistent, or the special effects (which are slightly less competent but considerably better than I was expecting). The problem isn’t even the “acting” which, while bad, I would categorize as considerably above average for a completely unrealistic science fiction flick. No, these things would all make it a solid 5/10. But it’s not. And the reason for that is both more simple and more complex than the stream of consciousness narrative that runs through the heart of CAT. 8. No, the problems are primarily the complete lack of realism presented throughout the show. It’s not just the story that is implausible; it’s also the characters. While the acting is a big bag of OK, the casting was awful. Modine actually does a nice job in a few scenes though he just wasn’t meant to play a character like this.
There are layers to his performance but in the end he’s just far too good an actor for a story like this. He clearly knows the motivation for his character’s irrational distrust of all authority figures but all the eye rolling and angry stares in the world aren’t going to communicate that motivation to the audience. The other actors vary wildly in terms of talent, with only a few nice moments interspersed over the 3 hour commitment you get when you purchase or rent this Blu-ray. Most of these moments are Ms. Roy’s; she’s got some acting chops just waiting to be unleashed… she just needs to pick her projects a little bit more carefully.
It’s also hard anytime a mini-series like this is released on Blu-ray. Apparently they didn’t shoot any episodes beyond number 2. I’m thankful for this because I want to have nothing to do with this show as soon as possible, but I also have a little bit of a desire to know where they were taking the story… not a lot, mind you, just a little bit. Once you make the commitment to watch a show, you want to know where’s leading. The meandering storytelling gets a little bit of focus in the second episode, especially during the third act when we learn a little bit more about the situation that led to Ranger going off the grid but once again there isn’t enough time in the world to get the story across when it’s been written so poorly.
As a science fiction fan, I want to see a movie that is at least PLAUSIBLE, something I can look up afterward and say ‘wow, I had no idea that was possible’… CAT. 8 isn’t that movie, because even the most naive web search will yield information directly counter to the assertions made in this awful show. CAT. 8 is presented as part of the Doomsday Series of Blu-ray releases. I’m sure there is an audience for this show; after all SyFy and similar studios (like REELZ, who presented this one originally) are still in business, but I don’t know who in the world eats this stuff up. My suggestion is to stay away from it – far away, with extreme prejudice.
Video: (1080p Widescreen 1.85:1) CAT. 8 actually looks pretty decent on an HD television, with special effects that are surprisingly sound if you can actually immerse yourself in the experience and not question everything.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The audio for CAT. 8 is considerably less stellar, though it is presented and mixed fairly well. There are just some sound effects that pull you out of the film because they are so strangely used.
Cast & Crew Interviews Six interviews are included on the CAT. 8 Blu-ray. They cover a range of topics and are pretty interesting. This would be a great supplemental feature if there were any other speci AUEPEIW VWDl features on the disc. Since there aren’t, it feels disconnected and simply isn’t enough value. Included interviews: Matthew Modine (05:25), Maxim Roy (03:20), Kalinka Petrie (03:42), Spiro Malandrakis (02:04), Ted Whittall (03:09), and Nicolas Lepage (04:54).
CAT. 8 also features a sneak peek at a new film called DELETE.