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The Big Ten's disastrous weekend as a movie review

This is the worst superhero disaster movie ever. Be warned. This review includes spoilers.

The film's settings are beautiful, but the plot is just too grim.
The film's settings are beautiful, but the plot is just too grim.
Jamie Sabau

"B1G-ageddon" (released in theaters Sept. 6, 2014, and directed by Jim Delany) accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do. It presents a landscape so desolate by the denouement that you can't help but walk out filled with despair at the totality of the destruction.

But is it worth it to have all the fun sucked out of the experience?

The film is set in the American Midwest, where the writing's been on the wall for lonely academic Michigan for years now. The former great is aging, with crow's feet begetting gray hairs, gray hairs begetting love handles, love handles begetting wheezes. An ancient rival named Notre Dame is coming to town for a final showdown, meaning Michigan's last stand before shuffling off into irrelevance. But good heavens, the destruction Michigan is put through is excessive. We get it, bad things are happening, but the scene with the wood-chipper is hardly necessary.

Michigan State and Ohio State have to die too, and die they do, albeit valiantly and admirably. Viewers will be justified in letting tears fall as a rabid pack of turkeys grinds the life out of J.T. Barrett in his own lair, but what Dr. Mariota does to Sparty is not fit for impressionable eyes.

There is no avenue for escape. There is no hope. Effective storytelling at this point in the film. But too bleak.

It wouldn't be a disaster movie if it didn't lean on familiar, unrealistic tropes. The scene of Kirk Ferentz* furiously turning the key and screaming until the engine turns over at the exact last moment is so ham-fisted, Ferentz's fists might as well have been literal hams.

Purdue dies first, because the Purdue always dies first. Sigh. And since no movie about explosions would be complete without some blatant anti-intellectualism, Northwestern dies at the hands of Northern Illinois. It's okay if you let the nerds save the day just once, Hollywood.

The scene everyone will be talking about is Nebraska escaping the clutches of supposedly mighty villain McNeese State. It's an absurd piece of action, one that wouldn't even pass the smell test of plausibility if it were CGI. But to the director's credit, this was filmed in one take. There's a reason you've seen it in all the trailers; it's the entire thing's only great moment.


It's a technical marvel, but bad storytelling. It's hard to decipher why Nebraska and McNeese State are in the same area code, much less squaring off. Isn't this, y'know ... the Nebraska? To be honest, this crossover from the Texas-verse hasn't done much for the Nebraska character, which peaked all the way back in 1996's classic "The Fun Is Done."

We're coming away from this scene believing more in McNeese State. Delany's desire to blur the lines of the protagonist/antagonist dichotomy is appealing, but at some point viewers need a reason to want Nebraska to succeed.

I didn't care much for Illinois' fumbling love scene with Western Kentucky. Using the Hilltopper as a sex symbol is questionable at best. I'm no prude, but I don't think a protagonist in a movie rated only R should be using the word "Lunt" so callously.

Along with Nebraska and Illinois, Penn State leads the group of unsullied survivors that includes MinnesotaMaryland, and Rutgers — was George R.R. Martin behind the decision to kill off Wisconsin in the previous film, or what? — but none of these characters seems particularly accomplished. The "big bads" just haven't noticed them. And Penn State's purpose in this film is particularly ill-defined.

(A quick aside: only the most hardcore of Big Ten purists will notice the omission, but where is Indiana in this film? Sure, we're talking about a very minor character in Big Ten canon, but if we're rewarding fellow rinky-dinker Illinois with a victory, why ignore a live wire like Indiana? Inconsistent.)

Doesn't someone that you actually care about have to survive in these things? Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State are the ones facing actual adversity, and they are all erased in the process. What did Nebraska and Wisconsin actually accomplish?

It's like if Bane blew up Gotham Tower, but the final scene involved Batman saving the day by barely besting a particularly surly five-year-old in a fistfight.

Maybe it sets up the sequel? Maybe? Who would even want to watch it?

In fact, if there's one overriding theme in "B1G-ageddon," it's that the whole group isn't all that capable of anything special. It makes them relatable, I suppose, but at the end of the day you just end up wondering why you've spent an entire afternoon (and $5.50 on popcorn) watching the destruction of a bunch of guys who aren't even heroes to begin with.

Rating: 2 stars out of 5

*The post-credits teaser of the Iowa-Iowa State sequel is, to put it mildly, a letdown. This is what happens when you kill off everyone important.