“Fighting for survival”
Directed by Mikael Salomon
Starring Sam Claflin, Corey Sevieras, Annabelle Wallis and Sean Bean
In a post-apocalyptic world, a tribe of human survivors scrape a living at Grey Rock, hunting sloth-bears and trying to avoid the Beasts, humans mutated by disease whose bite turns others into Beasts as well. Kaleb (Claflin) is a tracker and dreamer, overlooked in favour of the chief’s son Savan (Sevieras) by most, including Dorel (Wallis), the hypotenuse of a pointlessly forced love triangle.
When the Beasts attack their village, most of the tribe hide in a cave, while Kaleb, Savan and Dorel meet up with Amal (Bean), a member of a Brotherhood who retain some knowledge of the old world. He tells them of a powder which cures the Beast disease. If they can reach the city and find notes left by Kaleb’s father, they can make more of the powder, but the notes and the powder are guarded by a power-hungry tyrant, and only Kaleb can read.
Sean Bean doesn’t die.
What’s wrong with it?
The pacing of the film is way off. It takes too long to get going, slows down in the middle and then rushes the denouement. It takes at least a couple of days to reach the city, but it then seems only to be running distance back.
The love triangle is utterly forced and unconvincing. Kaleb yearns, Dorel is into Savan, and then Savan dies, hinting that Kaleb might get the girl after all (although the film kind of sets up a better love interest for Kaleb in the form of the tyrant’s daughter). It’s there because that’s what you do, right? Poor Sam Claflin seems to keep getting stuck in these things (see also Snow White and the Huntsman, if you must).
On a related point, Dorel’s role is pretty much to be sought after. One of the reasons that the tyrant’s daughter is a better love interest, despite not actually being a love interest, is that she does something in the course of the film. She’s a proactive and reasonable character, rather than an object, although you might not know it from her bizarre outfit, which is more clubwear than post-apocalyptic chic.
In many ways, the film smells of pilot. The open ending and the slow build are typical of a two-parter. If not for the fact that they kill the tyrant at the end, I would swear this was intended to feed into a series, especially as Savan is basically the hero of this film, despite the role being pitched to Kaleb. It’s as if Kaleb was supposed to pick up the hero torch in the series.
The mutants are basically orcs, which is a little odd.
What’s right with it?
For a SyFy produced schlockbuster, this is a pretty classy piece of film making. The location shooting around Cape Town is classier than any set piece would be on this budget, and distinct from the more common Eastern European or Canadian locations.
Sean Bean is as classy as ever, and future hot property Claflin does excellent big, soulful eyes. The support players are pretty solid.
How bad is it really?
Its the pacing that kills what would have been a solid series opener, but doesn’t really measure up as a film. It is also plagued by its own solidity, lacking any real standout moments.
Best bit (if such there is)?
See about re solidity. The film occupies that hinterland between actually good and laughably bad that produces nothing truly memorable.
What’s up with…?
- The Brotherhood of Learned Folk being unable to read. Kaleb’s father apparently spent loads of time with them, and he was able to teach Kaleb to read, so why not Amal?
- The tyrant’s long-term plans? He’s clearly setting up his daughter as his successor, so why isn’t he more worried about running out of powder? And how much powder can he store in one maglight?
Production values – Location shooting is the poor film maker’s friend, and it pays off here beautifully. 4
Dialogue and performances – There is absolutely no good dialogue, but nothing terrible either, and the cast are solid pros. 6
Plot and execution – The plot isn’t bad, but it’s paced wrong. The antagonist is introduced much too late in the day (we only hear his name halfway through the movie) and he never has enough time to build up a proper sense of menace. 12
Randomness – I can’t really fault the film here, aside from making Kaleb’s ability to read his USP without any explanation as to why the Brotherhood can’t. 7
Waste of potential – Really impressive by SyFy standards, but there are actually better ideas here than are done justice. 7