Atomica (2017)

March 14, 2017 - 12:12pm | Ryan Tutolo

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Dagen Merrill
Dominic Monaghan, Tom Sizemore, Sarah Habel

Personal and character driven are not really the words you would normally use to describe a movie put out by Syfy Films. But that’s the kind of film that is really at the heart of Atomica. Sure, it sounds like some superhero that got her power by being pushed into a vat of radioactive seaweed but the movie is way more insightful. It’s the future!! Sarah Habel plays a nuclear engineering technician tasked with investigating why one of the largest nuclear power sources in the world has lost communications with the company that owns it. Upon arriving she discovers not everything is as it seems when she comes across deranged janitor/operator Robinson (played excellently by Dominic Monaghan, who most will recognize even without his hobbit gear attached).

While inside, Abby (Habel) spends much of her time investigating all the issues with the plant and explaining how it all works to Robinson and the audience. There’s word of a mysterious Dr. Zek (Syfy staple Tom Sizemore) who has vanished from the facility and is running some strange experiments near the reactor’s core wheel, fans...things. Ok so maybe I wasn’t paying THAT much attention to Abby’s lecture sums up to, if things stop spinning...boom. But who’s the real threat? Is it the nutty Robinson, the mysterious Dr., or are there more sinister forces at work?

Ok onto the good stuff. This movie looks great for such a low budget. The opening futuristic settings and even most of the nuclear plant look amazing. A lot of it ends up being rust old tunnels and some boring office areas, but with some of the overall themes of the movie it really works. (We’ll get to the themes later). The costumes are simple but effective (though the helmet Abby needs to wear outside sometimes looks cheap), and overall this is one of the best looking movies produced by the Syfy films division.

The acting is done well with Monaghan being the standout. His manic behavior and questionable motivations add a lot of mystery to his character, though it’s not all revealed until the end of the movie. Sarah Habel does a great job as the inexperienced, nervous Abby, who’s always trying to put on a brave face and act confident in any situation. Though underneath her stone facade lies the vulnerable core that makes her a good person and possibly a hero. Tom Sizemore plays Tom Sizemore as an actor who scored another job in a low budget science fiction movie playing a scientist or something. He’s not really into this role and it’s probably because he’s barely in it. I feel like he shows up then before you can blink the credits are rolling.

Atomica also features a lot of complex topics bubbling just beneath the surface. The obvious one is the danger of nuclear power. Of course that’s just the surface level, underneath we get themes like the corporatization of society, the decline of a failing infrastructure, imminent domain, and even a sprinkling of good ol’ human euthanasia. None of the aforementioned topics are really shoved down the viewers’ throats but if you want to look for something a little deeper it’s there for you.

The real problems with this movie is the pacing. While the beginning is interesting as we’re learning about the characters and the world they’re in, after we get a tour of the facility, the movie sort of hits a dead stop until Dr. Zek shows up. Even then, it’s not exactly a boost of adrenaline, more like it upticks from a crawl to a slow walk. It’s not until the finale do we find out exactly what's going on, what role everyone plays, and the eventual outcome. With better editing or a few more intense scenes peppered in the middle, it could have been drastically improved.

Atomica is fantastic for a Syfy movie, which makes it ok for a regular movie. It has great set design, decent performances, and has a lot to say about modern topics. The movie is held back by its uneven pacing and a long stretch of the second act. If you’re a fan of cheap science fiction with a decent mystery then you’ll like it, otherwise there’s better stuff out there.

Author Information

Ryan Tutolo's picture
Ryan Tutolo is a horror movie lover and host of the UHM Podcast. Follow him on Twitter and let him know why his reviews suck!




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