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STUDIO: Lions Gate
RUNNING TIME: 255 Minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES: Sci-Fi Inside: The Triangle featurette
Let’s take sci-fi concepts seen in The X-Files, Star Trek: TNG, Sphere, Species, and a bunch of other franchises, add a little Ghost Ship, toss in some random spooky shit and call it a three-sided polygon.
Eric Stoltz, Catherine “Pour me a glass of her bathwater and leave the bottle” Bell, Sam Neill, Michael E. Rodgers, John Sloan, Charles Martin Smith, Lou Diamond Phillips, Bruce Davison.
"Should I have a couple more hard hats for my…well you know…"
A strange encounter at sea occurs between Columbus, on his historic 1492 journey to decimate and subjugate and entire hemisphere of people, and what turns out to be a giant cargo ship out of time. The cargo ship is one of several that eccentric shipping magnate Eric Benirall has lost in the Bermuda Triangle and the only one to return – sans most of the crew. To find out what’s been happening to his ships, he hires four experts from various fields and promises them $5 million each if they bring him an answer. The experts are tabloid journalist Howard Thomas (Stoltz), sea researcher Emily Patterson (Bell), meteorologist Bruce Geller (Michael Rodgers) and psychic Stan Lathem (Bruce Davison). Aron Ackerman (John Sloan) serves as their liaison to Benirall. Their investigation is kickstarted when a passenger jet encounters a squadron of WWII fighter planes and goes down in the Triangle.
"Shit, those Independence Day fuckers are back…"
Using faked government IDs, the team gets out to the ocean crash site and discover two shocking things: the passenger jet looks like it’s been underwater for decades and the WWII fighters look like they’ve been down only a couple of hours; and the passengers on the jet have all mysteriously vanished save for an old woman who was a little girl when boarded the plane. The team’s next big step is renting a private, decommissioned Russian sub and going out to the heart of the Triange to investigate some unusual water readings. Once there, they see ships that have been missing for decades and strange occurrences of of fresh water in the middle of the ocean that were generated by a large electromagnetic disturbance. But their investigation of the area is cut short by mysterious government agents who take them to some facility and question them before eventually releasing them.
Bryan Singer was going to have a cameo, but he got in Eric Stoltz’ way during one of his Fly II episodes and well…
From there, the team disbands but they each begin to have their own separate unusual experiences, including seeing things, being in alternate realities, etc. Meanwhile, there is also a B-story going on with Greenpeace activist Meeno Paloma (Phillips), who was the only survivor of an at-sea intervention of a whaling boat’s pursuit of a gray whale right before the whaler and the Greenpeace raft were destroyed in another strange Triangle phenomenon. He has instances of subtly shifting realities which have him thinking that he’s losing his mind. In one instance, he has two kids, in another he only has one, in another his family is gone and his house is for sale. Add to the fact that he’s seeing his dead comrades and whalers coming back to haunt him and he’s not having the best time of things. The team regroups, along with Paloma, and continues to investigate the occurrences in the Triangle, which are definitely building toward a disaster. And it’s up to them to stop it in time.
"Nick’s Godzilla review got how many responses? Shit…"
I’m very split on The Triangle. There is quite a bit to like in terms of the concept and explanation of the whole Triangle phenomenon, but there’s also so much that’s derivative in the plot, which is bloated at 4 ½ hours (6 hours on TV) and a B-story with Phillips that’s more filler than anything else. The things that are derivative are many, mostly having to do with the oddities of the Triangle phenomena, which are varied. They initially discuss all of the old Triangle theories: thick seaweed, strong ocean currents, the depth of the area, wormholes, aliens, etc. What finally ends up being the cause of the whole thing is something that’s taken right out of Star Trek.
"Dude, that’s totally the last time I do a kegger in the Triangle…"
The cause of the Triangle phenomena turns out to be that the Navy has constructed a large device to counteract a tear in the fabric of space-time, which they attribute as a direct side effect of the Philadelphia Experiment – an experiment by the Navy to make a ship invisible – in 1943. The tear has been expanding subtly and affecting space and time in the Triangle ever since, making ships, planes and people disappear without a trace. In the 1970s the Navy came to the conclusion that the whole thing is going to boil over into what they call the Crux Event, which means that the tear will expand to encompass the entire planet and end everything. They predict the Crux Event to occur on a certain day and time and construct the device to repair the tear at that specific time. But it turns out that the device is the cause of the tear and has been affecting space time in reverse (yes, just like the spatial anomaly in the TNG finale). So it hasn’t been expanding as time goes forward, it’s started out big and rippled backward in time for the better part of sixty years. But it’s also affected eras way before that, which explains the opening with Columbus. The tear also affects realities and weather as any good all-purpose temporal anomaly should.
Unfortunately, Bruce Davison hadn’t quite gotten over that whole being turned into water thing…
Some of the isolated phenomena of the Triangle involve a time wave, which warps reality, shifting people in and out, and affecting histories (in one instance the Nazis are running America). This is very much like two episodes of two different shows: the Parallels episode of TNG where Worf keeps switching realities on his return from a tournament; and the Area 51, Mulder/Morris Fletcher body-swapping episode, Dreamland, of The X-Files (yes I am that big a geek). Of course, comparing the whole Triangle episode of X-Files is kind of beating a dead horse, so we’ll let that one go. In one pivotal instance, a time wave comes along and erases creation of the highway that connects the Florida Keys to the mainland while Thomas, Lathem and one of the creators of the Navy project are driving on it, dropping them in the drink. Of course other elements of The Triangle echo other sci-fi entities such as ships out of time (Ghost Ship, one of those lame David Copperfield specials and of course the Luke Perry vehicle, Triangle…duh). And there’s a pivotal moment when the team gets near the project as it’s firing up at the critical hour and Thomas gets sucked into it and relives the last few hours before the event and has to redo it, this time with some changes. You can take your pick as to what sci-fi show or movie that reminds you of (off the top of my head, Star Trek: Generations, Retroactive, TimeCop, etc.). And of course the entire notion of a team of four experts, including a psychic, are reminiscent of Species and Sphere (minus the psychic).
All of the derivation aside, The Triangle also sinks into cheap horror tactics at times, mostly with Phillips’ character as he sees the dead members of the whaling ship come back at him Fog-style and a Freddy Krueger instance where one of his dead Greenpeace crew makes a surprise appearance in his shower as it happens to be filling up with water. Also the character interactions and reactions to some of the events are fishy, like their “Hey, did anybody just notice that we were in a Nazi-controlled America?” “Yeah, that was weird…” rejoinders. But despite all of that, it shouldn’t be taken that this is a bad mini-series. But it’s a bit too long and the pork in the story is obvious. Plus Phillips’ character would have worked better if he could have been integrated into part of the team much earlier, and the cheap shots at horror were dropped. Plus it’s criminal to give Sam Neill as little face time as they did.
Filmmaking 101: When to go with a full shot instead of a closeup…
However, The Triangle does have a lot going for it. Producers Dean Devlin and Bryan Singer do take (admittedly their own sweet) time to let the story and the mystery develop. And enough attention is paid to characterization and giving the protagonists some depth and good background. In fact it’s a lot of their personal lives that drive the non-action oriented parts of the story with how the Triangle’s phenomena are affecting their lives, including making Bell’s long lost birth mother appear. And for good and bad, it’s Phillips’ character that gets the most of this treatment. The producers also didn’t skimp on the special effects and The Triangle sure as hell looks a lot better than some of the Sci-Fi Channel’s other original movies (cough DoomTrooper cough). The ending is rather cool also; and even though as much as I’ve thrown down the spoilers, I’ll leave that last bit untouched, although it does get right smack dab back into TimeCop territory.
"Mr. President, we’ve got something named Katrina brewing in the Atlantic."
"I’ll get to it right after this Iraq thing…"
The disc cover is of the lenticular variety, with a simple but effective piece of cover art conveying the mystery of the mini-series. The Triangle was shot in 1.78:1 and looks fine, and the Dolby doesn’t disappoint either. As for special features, there’s pretty much only one: the Sci-Fi Inside: The Triangle making-of, which is the Sci-Fi Channel’s series of behind-the-scenes of their original programming, which are usually good. This one runs at 21 minutes and is fairly satisfying. There’s also a bunch of trailers both of features and other Sci-Fi properties including The Ultimate Avengers movie and House of the Dead 2 (Jeez, did I actually mention that last one? Oh well, it is a restricted audience trailer…).