SCIENCE FICTION VOLUME ONE: THE OSIRIS CHILD. Starring: Kellan Lutz, Daniel MacPherson, Teagan Croft, Isabel Lucas, Luke Ford, and Rachel Griffiths. Directed by Shane Abbess. Rated MA 15+. (Strong violence). 99 min.
This lengthy-titled, Australian science-fiction film is set in the future when interplanetary colonisation has taken place and crisis looms. The theme of colonisation is increasingly prevalent in contemporary science-fiction movies: "Passengers" (2016), for instance, pursued the theme when a spaceship, carrying colonialists to a hoped-for utopia, malfunctioned; and "Alien" (2017) carried hopeful idealists to a new planet before monsters started attacking the crew of the spaceship as soon as it landed. The movie's story (in Volume One) is told in seven Chapters.
The dark forces at work are personal as well as physical. Sy Lombrok (Kellan Lutz) is an ex-nurse who has had an unhappy past, and he forms a cautious relationship with Lieutenant Kane Sommerville (Daniel MacPherson), an ex-fighter pilot. Kane is escaping from the clutches of the military contractor company, Exor, which has unethically permitted one of its major programs to get out of control. When Kane learns that Exor intends to destroy the planet because of the program, he escapes to save his daughter ("The Osiris Child") from what he knows is going to happen.
Kane, with the aid of Sy, goes in search of his daughter, Indi (Teagan Croft). In trying to find her, they engage with some very eccentric characters along the way, including two very unusual characters they come across in a bar - Gyp and Bill (Isabel Lucas and Luke Ford), who join them. The movie is visually arresting, action-oriented, and very well photographed, and it puts its core emphasis on human emotion. It uses a wide variety of set designs that range impressively from a funky rock-and-roll drinking bar to isolated desert locations, and with a powerful rock-musical score it employs lots of plot surprises to help maintain the tension.
The acting in the movie is uniformly good. Daniel MacPherson stands out as the troubled father, trying to cope with the daughter he has left behind. Rachel Griffiths cooly plays General Lynex, who gives the order to destroy the planet to cover up for Exor's mistakes. For Sy and Kane, it is a race against time to outwit Exor, while also battling with savage creatures, called Raggeds, that are genetically modified and murderous, and that are the results of Exor's experimental program going terribly wrong. Kane also has to cope with the internal tensions of thinking he is a failed parent.
This is an Australian movie, which fits the sci-fi genre distinctively. Its special effects are sophisticated, and its photography nicely captures the isolation of the Australian landscape - the film's director, Shane Abbess, has transformed outback Australia to make it suitable for alien encounters. Further, Abbess employs novel twists to the theme of colonisation that keep viewers guessing. The real difference is that this is a sci-fi movie that is character- and plot-intensive: the sci-fi look of the film is nearly always secondary to the strength of both plot and character.
Although the film's imagery is finely detailed, there are hiccups. The Raggeds shuffle instead of moving seamlessly, indicating that some of the special effects are not right, though the Raggeds look sinister. At the centre of the movie are human relationships and human attachments to which Abbess keeps returning.
This is an impressive Australian-made adventure story which is different, and one that tackles a demanding genre in an unusual way. It has its weaknesses - it is loose in narrative, mixes time-frames a little confusingly, flirts with some sadistic imagery, and has some clumsy special effects - but it is surprisingly watchable. The entire cast is Australian, and the film makes excellent use of the countryside surrounding the town of Coober Pedy, in South Australia.
Peter W. Sheehan is Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting
Released May 18th., 2017