Studio: Arc Entertainment
Director: Diego Velasco
Writer: Miles Chapman
Producer: Matthew F. Weinberg, Anthony Leo
Stars: Missy Peregrym, Kick Gurry, Manny Montana, Tonya Lee Williams, Sonja Smits, Olivier Martinez
An FBI agent goes rogue when an international cyberterrorist frames her in a plot to destroy the world’s computer systems.
By the time the 21st century was entering its second decade, somewhere around 2011-2012, digital distribution channels had changed the landscape of episodic television and content delivery. Netflix was resurrecting old TV series (“Arrested Development”) and developing new ones (“House of Cards”). Other entertainment providers were just as busy scrambling for new ways of reaching a consumer base no longer confined to traditional viewing habits. This was a new age of binge watching with smartphones, laptops, and TiVo on one’s own time, instead of on a schedule dictated by broadcast networks.
In 2012, “CSI” franchise mastermind Anthony E. Zuiker threw his own hat into the ring of experimentation with these digital formats. Zuiker partnered with Yahoo and with antivirus software maker Norton to create the nine-part webseries “Cybergeddon” as a first foray into pairing entertainment with these ever-evolving technological platforms.
Why is this relevant? Because “Cybergeddon” looks like the webseries it was and not like the feature film it has been repackaged as. And the Norton product placement is so prevalent as a key component in the story that “Cybergeddon” can at times feel like a commercial for Symantec.
Neither of these is a distraction, but that little bit of information gets over the first hump of wondering why the film has a low-budget look. Knowing that it was originally presented as nine 10-minute episodes also explains the serialized feel and cliffhanger moments that arrive every nine minutes.
“Cybergeddon” kind of demands having that foreknowledge in order to have fun with its premise anyway, as the characters and setup are pulled from the potboiler of 1990’s thriller clichés. Take it as anything more serious than popcorn entertainment originally intended for small doses on a computer screen, and you are doomed for disappointment.
When FBI agent Chloe Jocelyn is framed for a wide-scale cyberattack, her superiors are all too quick to presume that the overwhelming amount of evidence pointing back at her confirms Chloe’s guilt. Chloe is forced to take down fellow agents and escape an interrogation room with all the stealth action style of Jason Bourne as she strikes out on her own to uncover the true plot designed to compromise the world’s computer networks. She recruits a reformed hacker and her ex-boyfriend at the agency to help clear her name and to take down a ruthless cyberterrorist once and for all.
Like any movie about computer crime, “Cybergeddon” has the problem that much of its action takes place inside fiber optics and Ethernet cables. Data uploading and downloading does not make for the most riveting of onscreen actions, so the graphics resort to the usual animated depictions of kilobytes zipping across computer networks visualized in colorful forms.
It is also the kind of computer crime story that features a lot of fast-talking phrases about tripping firewalls, running buffer overflows, and something about a “worm that’s talking to a phantom zombie network.” Strangely, the only layman-esque character that a computer jargon neophyte can relate to doesn’t become part of Chloe’s team until late in the picture. Average Joes with little to no idea of what anyone is talking about regarding plot details are likely to be lost, bored, or both.
Every character in “Cybergeddon” has been seen before, although the actors do their best to be game for material that has a chuckle-worthy sense of sensationalism. “Cybergeddon” preaches a “Danger Will Robinson” message about the perils of downloading free apps and clicking unsolicited browser links that is relatively timely in a perpetually connected society, even if it does have a Chicken Little vibe to its theme.
Two people who deserve particular mention for keeping “Cybergeddon” moving at a fast clip despite a story focused on keyboard clicking are cinematographer Samy Inayeh and editor Jordan Krug. The movie employs quick cuts of nearly dizzying proportions, an “NYPD Blue” handheld style, and Jack Bauer split-screens to give even the most mundane scenes a heightened sense of imperative action. As overemphatic as it is, anything less would only highlight the slow moments of typing and file transferring.
“Cybergeddon” can almost be viewed as a masterwork in distraction. The first ten minutes alone runs through scenes in Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Prague, and the Ukraine. Of course, nearly all of them are interior locations likely shot on the same soundstage, but at least it puts up the appearance of being much bigger than its webseries origins would suggest.
“Cybergeddon” is chock full of stereotypical setpieces. The wise-cracking helpful hacker is a predictable amalgamation of middle-aged hippie, old school surfer, and coffee-slinging hacky sack player with untied shoes and a Hawaiian shirt. Entire banking networks can be conveniently taken down with a one-click email virus. And the crammed-in visual information and dialogue, only half of which has anything to do with anything, makes for a lot of noisy bark with not so much bite.
At the same time, “Cybergeddon” is the type of mid-tier thriller that can be entertaining if the mood is right and so are the expectations. The best way to think of it is not as a reformatted webseries meant to compete on a Jack Ryan level, but as an extended episode of one of those broadcast TV cop and crime shows rerunning on late night cable. “Cybergeddon” does not have a whole lot of originality or believability, but it does have a fair dose of fast-moving flair for a less demanding audience.
Review Score: 60