It wasn’t overly apparent at the time, but 2005 is quickly becoming a year known for its primetime science fiction television. Don’t take my words for it- you could sit down and watch Lost, Surface, Invasion, Threshold, and The 4400 without having to endure a single rerun. SyFy, back then the SciFi Channel, understood that the world at large was suddenly celebrating what was supposed to be their niche and came out swinging with a miniseries created by and starring some serious heavy hitters.
Enter The Triangle, a 255-minute picture that reads like a Hollywood blockbuster rather than a made-for-television miniseries. Written by the powerhouse trifecta Bryan Singer (of the first two X-Men films, Superman Returns and the upcoming Battlestar Galactica film), Dean Devlin (Independence Day and Stargate), and living legend Rockne O'Bannon (Farscape and Alien Nation), the production crew was certainly taking no shorts. The cast, it would turn out, would be no less qualified to deliver the goods.
The story centers on billionaire shipping magnate Eric Benirall (played perfectly by Jurassic Park’s Sam Neill) who has a record of losing ships in the Bermuda Triangle. In addition to the resulting financial loss, he begins experiencing troubling hallucinations. Having enough with the mystery, he assembles a motley group of “experts” to provide a reasonable explanation for the mysteries haunting the Bermuda Triangle for centuries.
This team consists of tabloid reporter Howard Thomas (Eric Stoltz) a skeptic who only takes the assignment to help make his alimony payments; engineer and overeducated Emily Patterson (played by JAG’s Catherine Bell); Stan Lathem (Bruce Davison) a struggling psychic; thrill seeker and Hugh Jackman wannabe Bruce Geller (Michael Rodgers); and finally Greenpeace commando Meeno Paloma (Lou Diamond Phillips) who returns from a disastrous trip through the triangle only to discover that reality is not how he remembers it.
So where does The Triangle succeed amidst a swarm of science fiction competition? Surprisingly, in its pacing. While a majority of the shows mentioned above were structured as ongoing dramas, The Triangle finds itself neither stretched out across twenty-two episodes nor compressed to fit into the 2-hour timeslot of a motion picture. Instead, thanks to the miniseries format, it fits neatly between the two extremes with a runtime of roughly five-hours. In other words, while movies often feel rushed and series tend to stretch out endlessly, The Triangle manages to capture the best of both worlds in its structure and this shows in viewing through brisk pacing and well-developed characters.
The 2-disc DVD set breaks the production down into the first two chapters of the series on the first disc and the final chapter on the second. The second disc also includes a promotion spot originally aired on SyFy with interviews with the cast and crew and some light behind-the-scenes information. It also contains several Lions Gate trailers ranging in genre from horror to dedicated science fiction.
The plot itself is pretty darn spot-on as well, with links and references that tie the Bermuda Triangle phenomena back to Christopher Columbus’s famous trip across the ocean-blue on up to the Naval experiments of the 1940s (including the infamous Philadelphia Experiment).
The story works off the canvas created by shows like X-Files and Outer Limits in that the day to day tribulations of the lead characters is used as the catalyst to establish a much larger mystery. And while calling some of the inscrutabilities here spooky may be overdoing it, in truth the presentation of the phenomena requiring investigation is done surprisingly well. Sometimes in sci-fi less is more, and in this case, the filmmakers wisely combine slick visuals with just enough intrigue to let the viewer’s imagination take hold to fill in the blanks.
The picture is nearly flawless, in my opinion anyway, throughout the first two sections but only drops the ball a bit in the third and final chapter. The science is certainly plausible and the plot structure builds itself up into a nice appropriate fever pitch by the end, but the second half of the final segment is definitely the most “Hollywood” of the whole production. Some of the concluding explanations could have been ironed out a bit better and the actual finale itself leaves viewers not entirely sure if the overall experience was satisfying through and through. Perhaps the third part of the miniseries is the weakest simply because it is the only one of the segments that manages to hint toward the rush and tight scheduling that shooting on a television schedule implies.
In all, I found The Triangle to be an entirely enjoyable ride despite some slight shortcomings. The talent that contributed to this miniseries is evident throughout and a testament to the fact that amazing things are possible, even on a television budget, when enthusiastic individuals bring their enthusiasm to the table. And unlike many of the other hit science fiction television programs that saw the light of day in 2005, The Triangle ends conclusively; it’s tough to put a value on the closure one finds in following a show that wasn’t cancelled on an unresolved cliffhanger.
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