“Deadly Skies” — A Queer Film Review
From reading reviews of “Deadly Skies” online, it’s clear that people watch this film because of A) Antonio Sabato Jr’s sexy butt or B) Rae Dawn Chong — and that’s about all. This Canadian made for TV film is just another B-grade disaster flick where armageddon is coming, the government ignores the scientists who discover the danger, and in the end the scientists save the day. But is it actually a Queer film? Let’s dig in and find out!
Synopsis of “Deadly Skies”
It’s Friday morning. Madison and Hockstetter, both scientists at N.E.A.T.S., are tracking an asteroid tracking close to Earth, except there’s an odd wobble they cannot figure out. After running through a handful of options, they realise that there’s another asteroid behind it — and that asteroid is projected to strike Earth in a catastrophic armageddon! Madison hurries over to Project Safe Skies, the official government division, but Dr. Covington initially won’t give her theory consideration. However after reviewing the data, he agrees to meet with Madison and General Dutton. They’re both still quite skeptical and use the fact that no other agency has discovered this second “hidden” asteroid as proof that it doesn’t exist. And when she asks them about the laser “big gun” the government has been working to create, they laugh at her and proclaim it’s all fiction. Dejected, Madison leaves. Yet it turns out that the military has actually been working to create a laser that can destroy incoming asteroids. Trouble is that it doesn’t work, and General Dutton does not people to know else they’d lose all the funding.
Madison decides to track down Richard Donovan, one of the military personal who reportedly worked on the project. When she pulls into the driveway though, she inadvertently interrupts Donovan having sex with his partner, Lt. Mark Lewis. Fearing that it’s someone from the base discovering their secret relationship, Mark hides while Donovan answers the door. Reluctantly, he listens to her theory of the hidden asteroid — but when she asks about the laser, he denies the project and asks Madison to leave — but be careful, as they are already following her movements. Back at N.E.A.T.S., they try to figure out how to convince people of the danger when a pizza guy suddenly delivers a pizza that wasn’t ordered. Turns out it’s Mark in disguise, delivering a message from Donovan. He believes them and wants to meet — but in secret. Bringing Hockstetter along to assist, the first thing Donovan confides is that any further action will be considered treason and to leave now if they wanted. No one leaves. Donovan admits to working on the reported laser and confirms that it doesn’t work — but only because Donovan sabotaged the laser because he General Dutton secretly wanted a portable version of the laser that can be used for the military. Donovan left the military in order to keep people safe, but Madison has convinced him that saving the world is more important than fearing how the laser could be used later.
Except General Dutton has been tracking not only Madison, but Donovan as well. And both have disappeared, worrying Dutton. Meanwhile, other space agencies have noticed the irregularity with the passing asteroid and Dr. Covington is worried that Madison’s theory is correct; but Dutton threatens him to keep quiet. Donovan and the gang plan out their break in to access the laser, but Madison starts to get cold feet when the operation becomes too “military”, too invasive. Donovan counters and explains that Dutton is pursing this disastrous weapon under the guise of patriotism, but there’s a grey area between good and evil. He then reveals he built in a contingency plan: he copied all of the project’s files and sets it up that if he does not enter a password each week, the entire folder gets sent directly to Congress. Meanwhile, the asteroid keeps getting closer and closer… Their plan is simple. The base is least secure on the weekend, so they will gain access during the change of the guards by delaying the relief bus.
The first step goes rather smoothly, Lt. Lewis and Hockstetter get past the gate and Lt. Lewis orders the outgoing bus to depart. But a guard catches Donovan and Madison nearby the relief bus; Donovan makes out with Madison as cover. But when recognised, the guard mentions he didn’t think Donovan liked women… but Madison shoots him with the tranquilliser dart. Donovan explains he’s gay, which Madison didn’t seem to catch at first, but it’s all good. They then drive onto the base, where Lt. Lewis puts the base on lockdown so no one else gets in. Except that triggers a phone call to General Dutton — he realises that they’re after the laser, and it works! What follows is the typical cat-and-mouse game of disaster films. While the gang gets the laser powered up and working, ready to destroy the asteroid, General Dutton and the relief crew break into the base to stop them. It doesn’t help when the guard Lt. Lewis knocked out wakes up, tranquillises him instead, and then lets the General onto the base. Just as the initial asteroid moves out of the way to reveal the hidden doomsday asteroid behind it, and right as they have enough power to fire the laser — the power is cut!
But Covington realises that there truly is a danger, and the General has doomed the entire Earth. But wait! Hockstetter questions whether they can get enough power to split the asteroid into pieces rather than just destroy it. Quickly, they get everything back up and running while the narrow time window to fire inches closer and closer. Right at the last minute, they fire the laser and break the asteroid into pieces, creating a meteor shower over the night sky. Cue to later that night when Madison arrives at Donovan’s home, again interrupting their sex session. Laughing at how she always interrupts them, they invite her in to celebrate. The world is safe.
The script for “Deadly Skies” is CHEESY… and poorly written. It’s the same tired story of nearly all disaster films, with a low budget that fails to elevate the story out from that disastrous crater. They do try to add in a gay storyline with Donovan and Lt. Mark, but it’s added almost as an afterthought. Almost like the producers had the following conversation: How can we market this film to a wider audience — because it sucks. Oh!… let’s add a gay character, show them having gay sex, and even throw in a little nudity right at the beginning. Hopefully they’ll stick around and keep watching till the end because they’ll be caught up by the intrigue of the asteroid. Yeah — it doesn’t work.
Worse, the cheesy script is filled with horribly written characters. Donovan is the standard military hero, but with a bit of brains rather than just the kind that comes in guns blasting to save the day. All three scientists in “Deadly Skies” are stereotypical geeky nerds: Madison is a female pacifist scientist with big, wild-looking, frizzy hair. Hockstetter is rather cute, but still definitely the quiet IT geek. And even Covington is what you’d expect from a government scientist. To cap it all off, General Dutton is about as cliché as you can get for a general trying to hide his “secret” agenda to create a weapon of destruction. Yeah, they all fit together within the B-grade film oeuvre, but they’re also stuck there. Additionally, even casting decently known stars in the roles doesn’t help elevate the poorly written characters; the acting doesn’t feel natural and often comes across as comical when it shouldn’t.
The last piece of the cinematographic quagmire that pulls “Deadly Skies” into the lower scoring ranks, is the cinematography. There’s no question: this is a TV film which typically have low budgets and quick production schedules. The set lighting is on par with TV shows and daily soaps. (Yes, there is a “look” for soaps.) Even for being made in 2006, the CGI elements are poorly created and quickly pull the viewer out from what could otherwise pass for a typical made for TV film. Add in music that, while decently setting the ominous tone for a disaster film, is too loud and overbearing at times, it’s a mess cinematographically.
Despite all of the flaws of “Deadly Skies”, I actually don’t mind watching the film. Yes, part of that is because we have not one — but two — gay sex scenes which actually aren’t too bad. Watching Antonio Sabato Jr’s muscular butt is definitely a highlight, and it’s nice to see male full frontal nudity (especially when Michael Boisvert is just as attractive to look at!) Movie censorship is definitely gender biased among major studios and while they have no issue showing us naked women all the time, it’s rare to see male frontal nudity. While I also feel that they only added both of these elements to appeal to a wider audience, I’m glad they didn’t shy away from the sex and nudity. (Mostly…see below for more)
The aspect I actually love about “Deadly Skies” is how smooth and effortless they queer storyline aspects are incorporated. It’s definitely an dated film, taking place in the US military’s infamous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” phase and Donovan coming out is part the reason why he is kicked out of the military (yet also to help hide his tampering with the laser weapon to keep it from annihilating the world). Other than the two sex scenes, the fact that Donovan and Lt Mark are gay, let alone in what appears to be a loving, committed same-sex relationship, has little relevance to the disaster storyline. I LOVE watching a film where a character’s sexuality doesn’t matter, and while it’s more common today in 2020, this was rather novel back in 2006 when “Deadly Skies” premiered. The only reservation I have is that because it’s not directly relevant to storyline, it can equally be cut out with little impact.
Despite giving “Deadly Skies” a rather low rating, I enjoy watching it now and then. It’s certainly not a big budget blockbuster disaster film, but it still is enjoyable (even if cringeworthy at times). Even better, it features a main storyline with gay characters in a manner that equally shows how their sexuality doesn’t actually matter. In terms of representation, it’s a step forward. And let’s face it — Antonio Sabato Jr has a sexy butt! I probably wouldn’t recommend adding “Deadly Skies” to your To-Watch list though, unless you enjoy disaster films.
Queer Relevance of “Deadly Skies”
“Deadly Skies” is an odd film.
On one hand it IS a Queer film. After all our male lead is a gay man in a healthy same-sex relationship on the side. Yes, Donovan was kicked out of the military because he came out as gay. Yes, his partner Mark has to hide his sexuality and relationship with Donovan to remain in the military under DADT. And yes, not only do we get a rather erotic sex scene that show’s Antonio Sabato Jr’s butt, but we also get a full frontal nudity shot of Michael Boisvert! But even if you add all of that up, their personal life and both of the characters being gay has no direct effect on the actual plot of the film.
And that’s why “Deadly Skies” is also NOT a Queer film. If you removed all of the queer & gay aspects, the plot does not change. In fact, there are actual releases of this film where the gay aspect is toned down — or cut out entirely! In “Force of Impact”, the Canadian version, the nudity is cut out and the homosexuality themes are drastically downplayed. In the UK version, “Ultimate Limit”, they cut it all out entirely! Depending on which version you watch, you actually see different films.
Plot & Script: 0.5 / 1.0
Casting & Acting: 0.5 / 1.0
Directing & Editing: 0.0 / 1.0
Cinematography: 0.5 / 1.0
My Opinion: 0.5 / 1.0
My Overall Rating = 2.0 / 5.0