Ba'al: The Storm God (2008)
Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Jeremy London, Lexa Doig, Stefanie von Pfetten, Scott Hylands
Directed by Paul Ziller
Back in June the Sci-Fi Channel was scheduled to premiere an original movie entitled NYC: Tornado Terror. Days before its premiere a real-life tornado struck a Boy Scout camp in Iowa killing several kids. The Sci-Fi Channel pulled the film claiming they did so out of respect for the week's tragedy. Now, on the very day Hurricane Ike ransacked parts of Texas, the Sci-Fi Channel did not pull their premiere of Ba'al: The Storm God, in which all of mankind is threatened by a super-sized storm of supernatural proportions.
Then again, given how little storm-related destruction there is in Ba'al: The Storm God, odds are they figured there's no way anyone could possibly question the timing. When I watch a movie about a demon storm I expect to see some seriously unholy amounts of mass destruction. All I got were very brief, unconvincingly computer generated scenes of Big Ben and the Golden Gate Bridge getting annihilated and a couple violent downbursts. Given the apocalyptic nature of this hellstorm, there's very little that's apocalyptic depicted on the screen. Not having the budget to show us much of Ba'al's destructive meteorological superpowers and downplaying that Ba'al is a sentient god in the form of an ever-growing mega hurricane stifles what starts out as a potentially unique supernatural disaster flick. As far as hellstorms go, Ba'al: The Storm God doesn't have anything on Hurricane Katrina.
In lieu of epic cataclysm we get endless exposition. Ba'al: The Storm God quickly devolves into an excessively talky film, one of those movies where most of the dialogue is composed of explanations, hypothesizing, and plenty of technical jargon. I guess if you can’t afford to show - tell. The amount of pseudo-scientific/archaeological chatter trying to make sense of it all is wholly unnecessary given the plot is basically a bunch of hooey to begin with. Setting aside the notion of an evil ancient god in the form of a giant hurricane, the script wants you to believe that Sumerians had a hand in writing the Dead Sea Scrolls even though the two existed thousands of years apart. Come on now.
According to myth, the Sumerian storm god Ba'al used his powers over the weather to rule man until Ba'al's god father banished him by dematerializing his powers into four amulets that each represents a different element – sort of like the rings Captain Planet gave to his Planeteers except with dire consequences. Sumerian priests then buried each amulet somewhere the exact opposite of the element it represents. For example, the fire amulet was buried under a body of water.
Old Dr. Stanford seeks these amulets because he's dying of cancer and figures the power of Ba'al will cure his fatal disease or maybe even make him into a god himself. After stealing a Dead Sea Scroll the Sumerians designed as a map revealing the amulet's various global locations, the dying doc brings in an ancient language translator and a fellow archaeologist he mentored (London, who really is becoming a Sci-Fi Channel movie regular these days) to assist him. The two begrudgingly join him on his quest to find the amulets unaware of Dr. Stanford's nefarious intentions and seemingly oblivious to the reality of their situation even after unearthing the first amulet brought about a raging storm that nearly killed them. Just witnessing one of these amulets shooting a giant beam of light into the sky should have been sufficient proof that this quest for the remaining Ba'al amulets was not a good idea. It's not until the glowing red-eyed face of Ba'al in the clouds vomits forth a fire tornado do the two of them realize what a mistake they’ve made.
Meanwhile, the Federal Severe Storm Command takes notice of a high altitude super cell that seemingly came out of nowhere. Fortunately, rogue meteorologist Dr. Pena (Jason X's Lexa Doig) is already on the case with her wild theory about it being an unprecedented high voltage super storm powered by the earth's magnetic belt. The feds scoff and give her the boot from their premises. Then they realize she's right and invite her back. As the storm grows in intensity and similar storms multiply around the globe, Dr. Pena deduces what's about to happen is akin to Earth developing it's own planet-encompassing super storm similar to that of the planet Jupiter's big red spot. Her theory as to how they can possibly prevent this threat to all life as we know it is...
NUKE THE STORM!
Good ol' nuclear weapons ... They're nature's band-aid, you know?
And when another meteorologist warns a nuclear detonation that high in the stratosphere could potentially set-off the Van Allen belt causing a chain reaction that would be "like setting off all the world's nukes at once," Dr. Pena responds, "Only if we're not careful." Thank you, Sarah Palin.
You have the archeologists dealing with the Ba'al problem from a supernatural standpoint while everyone at the military weather center take a more scientific approach; lots of translating and staring ominously at monitors. The two sides converge for a very dopey and ultimately unsatisfying finale to an already dopey and unsatisfying film.
As much as I've grown to hate remakes, I came away from this film wishing someone would remake it and soon with the sort of big budget it requires and a script that doesn't try to overexplain itself at every turn.
2 1/2 out of 5
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