A group of refugees from Earth work to survive on a hostile alien planet.
If Predator, Star Trek TNG, Planet of the Apes, and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor had a love child abomination, it would be AE: Apocalypse Earth.
The movie opens with Earth under attack from a hostile alien force. It doesn’t look good for humanity, as several ships are attempting to leave and make interstellar journeys in the hopes of colonizing new worlds. Everyone else is left to their fate. Lt. Frank Baum (Adrian Paul, best known for the Highlander TV Series) and his squad are attempting to get a group of refuges to the safety of a starship. They get everyone on-board and the ship takes off, taking Baum and his squad for the ride. Baum gets very upset about this because he wants to go back to Earth to defend it. The captain (Richard Grieco) says this isn’t possible, and that Baum should just buckle down in cryo-sleep for the long ride to wherever. There is some discussion on how some of the passengers were chosen because of their critical skills, and others won a lottery. This all becomes moot when the Baum wakes up from cryo-sleep to find the ship is crash-landing on a green planet. Nearly all of the passengers and crew are killed. So all that talk about how people were selected was just wasted air time.
Baum wakes up to a chaotic scene in which passengers from the ship, albino humans, and nearly invisible cloaked beings (Predator style) are running all around the wreckage. The cloaked beings, called Chameleons, are killing humans and albinos alike, so Baum finds a completely functional and loaded machine gun in the wreckage and begins killing them. He gathers up a few survivors, including the injured Captain, and runs randomly into the jungle. Within the jungle they round up a few more survivors and eventually encounter a group of humans in orange jump suits who are not from their ship. These jumpsuit people were on another ship which had left Earth a month before, but they crash landed on this planet 2 years ago! How could this be? We’ll just hand wave special relativity and move forward. Turns out they have been prisoners of the Chameleons all this time living in a kind of zoo, and their captors have been trying to see if they can breed with the local Albino population. The ship crash landed on the zoo, and that subsequently freed some of the captives.
This group of now a dozen or so people now have a dilemma, what to do? Baum, the unofficial but also official leader, still wants to return to Earth (because… reasons!). The annoying short guy, who you feel like is going to get a lot of people killed because of his stupidity, says ‘why are you in charge’ to which the reply is ‘because I have the gun.’ I guess he isn’t happy with this answer, because he continues to ask this question and sow seeds of discontent with the survivors. There is also an android named TIM (aka Lt. Cmdr. DATA). They kill a lot of Chameleons, which carry these energy guns which on the surface seem pretty effective, until you remember Baum kills like 6 of them just with his knife. Only one guy ever thinks to pick up one of the alien guns, even though they are don’t have enough weapons to go around.
Eventually the party gets ambushed by giant scorpion things and a woman with camouflage skin shows up to help. Amazingly this woman speaks English, which she learned by overhearing the prisoners in the zoo. She also comes from an albino clan, which live in caves, but because she was different she was exiled to the surface. Online comments say she is the highlight of the movie on account of her bikini outfit, but I think the real gem here is her apparent super intelligence. Just by observing the prisoners in the zoo, she picks up broken English. When she gets to a point in a conversation where she can’t explain something and says so, someone will just supply an English word to her, without additional context or explanation, and she says ‘yes’ or nods her head that this word, which she had never heard before, is indeed the correct word for what she was trying to explain her point. It is amazing.
Now it is just a series of jungle fights, jungle runs, and sexy times in the river, and then the group finds an old human spacecraft. Everything is in perfect working order, except the power-cell, which should last 1000 years, is somehow dead. No worries (or even questions) about that though, because they can use the one from their crashed ship.
They don’t have the man power to get the power-cell, so they team up with camouflage girl’s old tribe. Turns out, they have crate-loads of human made guns in perfect working order in storage. So without any training or planning, everyone grabs a gun and heads off to get that power source. Did I say everyone? I meant, everyone except the two trained military soldiers grab guns. Those two guys get comically childish bows and arrows, which clearly do not work. I appreciate the movie keeping it real by showing how this absurd distribution of weapons results in nearly everyone getting killed during the assault.
Anyways, they finally get the power source and get back to the ship they found. The short idiot tries to leverage this so that they don’t have to flee the planet, but instead he dies as he lived, a traitor. They take off from the planet, easily dispatching a Chameleon spaceship and an orbital defense platform. By this time the group has been whittled down to Baum, camouflage girl, the captain, and TIM the now damaged android. But no worries, they can finally go back to their beloved Earth, which as far as they know, is still being ravaged by an alien race.
This all leads up to the big surprise reveal, it was Earth all along! Actually, no one was surprised. The telltale signs being, the other albino humans and the camouflage girl are obviously humans who have just adapted to the planet. The ship they found, while inexplicably in perfect working order despite many years in the jungle, was obviously human made (it had English signs on the door). This planet has lots of Earth plants and animals. The crash-landed humans were able to breed with the indigenous albinos. I could go on, but those are the only examples I remember.
TIM the android explains that he piloted the ship to several star systems, but didn’t any habitable worlds. With only 100 years of cryo-sleep available to the crew he ultimately decided to head back to Earth and see if things had improved since the aliens conquered it. Thanks to relativity, this was roughly 25,000 years after their initial departure. I guess whoever was piloting the other ship which had arrived at the planet 2 years previous had the same idea. Also, I guess the captain gave full executive decision making to TIM? Otherwise, that android is kind of a jerk. Anyways, the Chameleons have terraformed Earth to turn it into one giant jungle. Probably a downer for the few survivors trying to flee this hellish planet in order to get back to a war-torn Earth only to discover they were one and the same place.
One wonders how Earth lost the initial war, given the ease in which Baum is able to kill numerous Chameleons. Maybe he could have single-handedly won the war had he not been trapped on the colony ship. Fortunately, we will never know the truth.
The acting is very poor, with the line delivery being painful at times. A few of the special effects actually look decent, but then in the next scene are so comically bad you wonder how many different people worked on them.
And that, people, is AE: Apocalypse Earth, currently available on Netflix Instant.