Science fiction is all about the ideas. It’s about the “what-ifs?” and the “might-bes”; about science and technology perceived through imagination. It’s about pushing boundaries and reaching for the horizon; about testing accepted knowledge and opening new avenues of conversation. Or something more succinctly put than that.
Justin Price’s Alien: Reign of Man is certainly a film full of ideas, of that there is no doubt, but these are ideas that largely confuse and frustrate rather than excite and intrigue. The problem here is that, while some of the notions are interesting, they are never given either the substance or depth to warrant credence. And given the weight of dialogue-replacing exposition crammed into the sprightly 76-minute running time, this is a serious oversight.
Several Eternals – special humans - land on a strange world, scattered to the edges of the land, battling beasties and a hostile environment, to activate a beacon that will save the Earth from destruction. As far as the plot goes, that’s pretty much the extent of it. What passes the time in Price’s film is a series of faintly connected set pieces that consist of characters explaining either what you’re about to see or have already seen, or them battling poorly designed CGI monsters – we’ll come back to them. Without any real flow of narrative, the story becomes equally disconnected, with no discernible plot point or character on which the audience can focus, rendering the whole viewing experience a detached and rather dull one.
There is no mistaking the ambition within Alien: Reign Of Man, and ambition in low budget sci-fi is rightfully to be respected. But with restrictive cash flow comes a responsibility to work within your means, and while Price may have envisioned beautifully shot vistas and terrifyingly designed monsters, what he has ultimately realised is a film that appears partially completed. True, some of the camerawork is impressive, and views of the alien world do portray desperation and desolation as intended. But any goodwill is made immediately redundant once the creatures arrive. Looking more like something discarded in the production of early Resident Evil games, Price peppers his film with these CG disasters. Less would certainly have been more, and these woeful attempts undermine any essence of tension or fear.
There is clearly something interesting hiding away behind Alien: Reign Of Man’s moody, monochromatic and maudlin exterior, and it is perhaps something worth revisiting in the future. For now, this is a film that sadly crumbles under the weight of its own expectations.
ALIEN: REIGN OF MAN / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: JUSTIN PRICE / STARRING: KHU, TORREI HART, DEANNA GRACE CONGO / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (USA); UK RELEASE DATE TBA