Kellan Lutz as Sy Lombrok
Daniel MacPherson as Lt. Kane Sommerville
Luke Ford as Bill
Isabel Lucas as Gyp
Rachel Griffiths as General Lynex
Teagan Croft as Indi Sommerville
Shane Abbess, Brian Cachia
Shane Abbess holds a spot very dear to Poutine and Grits, as his accomplishments and career range from astounding to foolish to everything in between. It’s this director’s relentless work ethic and passion for the worlds he creates that makes each new film an adventure. The Osiris Child lands more on the astounding side, in my opinion, but brings him not an inch closer to directing the next big Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster even though he would be more than capable.
The opening dialogue is the best writing of the film, “My dad said you can’t trust someone who wants something from you. And I’ve never known a person who didn’t need something from someone.” Although this bit of poetry won’t make sense until the final minutes of the film, it’s fucking awesome and it sets up the world of human greed and corruption the audience gets dropped into. We meet our tween narrator, Indi and her dad, Lt. Kane Sommerville on a distant human colony planet that consists of a prison, a main city and a floating government agency. Their relationship is strained and he sends her to the city while he works in the clouds. During the night, the prison is overrun by monster not unlike Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle villains. This sets in motion a massive cover up, prison riot, dog-fight and is also only the first “Chapter” of the movie which goes on to feature many characters at many points in time. And so continues the tale of Shane Abbess’s dizzying body of work. If it were to be made into a movie it would be titled – Self-Sabotage of Creativity or: How I Never Learned to Take a Studio Note.
Shane Abbess is a film maker of tremendous vision, boundless confidence, and what I can only assume are testicles the size of Death Stars. Since discovering this hard-working Australian auteur during a whiskey fueled B-movie bender, Craig and I have looked forward to the next Abbess Feature Film. This is a director who made his first micro-budget indie, Gabriel about a celestial civil war between good and evil angels, demons and gods. It was CGI heavy, the plot was all over the place, the lore was nigh incomprehensible, but damn if it wasn’t inspirational if only for its aspirations. Gabriel stars the late Andy Whitfield best known as the eponymous hero from the STARZ hit Spartacus so by all means check it out http://amzn.to/2f7fiER. I’m not going to go into his sophomore effort Infini which you can check out here http://amzn.to/2jqOW1W, but let’s just say Mr. Abbess doesn’t reign in the crazy. At all.
This all may sound like faint praise, but I assure you, in a world of cookie cutter super hero clones, a Shane Abbess movie is something to look forward to, which brings us to his latest feature, the ungainly titled Osiris Child: Science Fiction Volume One. It’s clear from the opening shot, to the closing moments that this is supposed to be Abbess’ Star Wars. On so many fronts he has succeeded miraculously on a budget that was likely about half of what George Lucas spends on take out each week. The special effects work alone is so good it’s often startling (despite some iffy creature design we will get into later.) As Craig stated, the movie opens on a dystopian prison planet, where we will spend most of our time despite a brief detour to a massive space flotilla in low orbit. The opening voice over leans heavy towards exposition, but you know what, 10 year old Teagan Croft lent it a sincerity that belied its intention. What I’m trying to say is, I was onboard 110% and little niggling things like “form,” “narrative structure,” or McKee’s thoughts on voice-over weren’t going to get in my way.
Yeah, you are definitely sparing the readers the brutal parts of the first two acts, like when Abbess flashbacks two different times to tell the story of Sy in the prison even though we already knew that story arc. He’ll flashback two more times in the third act to try and tie up his theme with a bow, but it’s just not necessary or how traditional movies are made or watched. If I was a studio exec, I would cut the chapters, cut the flashbacks, get a love interest, introduce an underdog, introduce a big bad and I would have at least one set piece. Nope. Shane Abbess would laugh in my face. I’m not saying he shouldn’t take these notes, if he ever wants someone to hand him over a franchise, he should take these notes. But I’m not convinced he gives a shit, are you?
Very clearly not as we seen when the plot proper kicks in and Daniel MacPherson’s Kane finds himself on lockdown high above the planet while his daughter is stranded on the surface. The prisoners, who serve as the primary labor force for the colony, have rioted, and are threatening to release a deadly nerve gas into the atmosphere if their needs are not met. Oh wait that’s not true, it’s just a fib that Evil Corporation made up to cover up their nasty doings. The prisoners have actually taken over the planet’s nuclear reactors and are planning to make them go critical if their demands are not met. Oh wait, that’s also not fucking true, just another lie from the military industrial complex. These may sound like spoilers, but they are told to our protagonist and then debunked for him within about, hmmmm 30 seconds. OK, so Abbess likes to over-plot things, who cares. So if it isn’t nerve gas or nuclear reactors, what IS the Evil Corporation trying to cover up. Brace yourself reader: the prisoners are being secretly turned into overweight iguana monsters with poisonous tongues and what appears to be ghillie suits and old leaves as skin. Just image a lizard puppet wearing this and you have the idea:
Four or five Chapters later, Kane meets up with Kellan Lutz’s Sy, an escaped prisoner. They recruit some extras from The Hills Have Eyes to drive a fortified bus into the city for them to rescue Indi from overwhelming monsters and, as part of the deal, they will bring them to the secret military bunker to survive the explosion. And here is where you have to love Shane Abbess. There is no happy ending in sight. They won’t get beamed off the planet nor is the Millennium Falcon going to swoop in for a last-minute save. The plot has been set in motion and barrels down on the characters like a fucking cruise missile and we get to see how our heroes will react.
I agree, part of the pleasure of these movies comes from the fact that you never know what is about to happen next, hell, sometimes we don’t even know what GENRE is coming next. We go from Star Wars to Wing Commander to Mad Max to some kind of reverse Enemy Mine. So in some ways the occasionally amateurish plotting pays off. This movie reminds me a lot of Neil Marshall’s Doomsday in that while you can constantly see the movie getting away from him but it’s still a helluva ride.
What’s astonishing is how well choreographed and expansive some of the action is considering the budget, did you not find your jaw frequently dropping to the floor just because of how far Abess can stretch a dollar?
When he rescues his daughter there is a firefight that is more suited to a big budget filmmaker that he pulls off seamlessly. From then on, the action and production value stays at a constant Hollywood level high. It looks like Grits is making fun of the monster suits here so I’m gonna shame him a bit. We have watched literally fifty Hollywood movies that have worse monsters than this. These practical effects driven creatures are creative, they are executed flawlessly, they have some level of character but more importantly – Abbess isn’t afraid to put them on camera! There are close ups, there are group shots, there are epic panning shots. He didn’t blow his budget on forty seconds of CGI work or keep them in the shadows, he’s proud of them and they call back to the 80’s when this was the norm and design ran wild rather than having anonymous CGI monsters crawl across the screen (Yes, you, Kong: Skull Island).
So then, in the third act, Shane does what he always does and tries to really hit these characters and themes home. Which ones worked for you?
Let me take a second to go over what I meant with regard to the creature designs. I love the fact that he went with practical puppets, and it did make them feel more real than some shitty CGI Hulk-a-like, the problem for me was mostly that these things look like big lumbering turtle things. Because Abbess didn’t use multiple different types of puppet for different types of action I never for one second believed that they would be able to move fast enough to be considered a threat to the prison guards, let alone the entire universe. I am sure that they needed two puppeteers to operate each monster, hence the large hump they tried to camouflage with, well actual camo netting. So while I loved the way they used practical effects and I liked the way the creatures looked for the most part, I never for once second believed those things could sprint through fields of wheat like velociraptors.
Back to your question, the 3rd act kind of drags the movie down as it shifts who the lead of the film is in a jarring way that I’m not sure works. The biggest issue is that once again the director’s obsession with using flashbacks to fill in details we don’t need/want/care to know about. As soon as we switch up the leads Abbess fills the need to do an entire chapter showing us why this character is worthy. It’s an insecure move that sucks a lot of momentum out of the end of the film. That aside, I kinda loved the WTF nature of the ending which is ballsy in two ways the most obvious being is that this is clearly being set up for a sequel that will require even more crazy visual effects and plot twists and as of right now, I don’t see that happening. I’ll be praying though, with my fingers crossed.
Overall the movie was original enough and had so much heart poured into it that I had a great time watching it. I would love to see it get a wider release so that Shane Abbess can continue to grow the story and his talents as a filmmaker. With a proper mentor and some studio feedback I think he could be the real deal. 3 out of 5 Chubby Space Lizards
My final word is this – if you love sci-fi, you need to watch this movie because it’s solid. If you’re just a movie fan, it really gets you out of the blockbuster comfort zone. Its structure and imagination put it far above the rest like Alien: Covenant or Riddick because, even if it’s not entirely unpredictable, your brain isn’t used to watching something so unusual… so entirely Shane Abbess.