Running Time: 90 mins
Reviewer: David Gillespie – HCF Official Artist
I never quite bought into the hype that surrounded the sci-fi series Firefly and movie spin-off Serenity (2005). It wasn’t because they didn’t offer solid entertainment with a great lead character in Nathan Fillion’s Mal; it was just that there was nothing new or ground-breaking regards the productions. Serenity was good enough to blow Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (2005) out of the water as the best sci-fi movie of that year. Unlike the latter it attempted at creating three dimensional characters and an interesting plot. Scavengers follows in the footsteps of Firefly with a similar synopsis, a whole host of characters but with half the budget.
Wake (Roark Critchlow) is the captain of a stereotypical, rag-tag crew that salvage the remaining valuable cargo from space wars. The film opens with the Starship Revelator, dodging two rival scavengers, to take hold of an unusual energy module. Unfortunately for the occupants of the Revelator, they are being pursued by an unhinged adversary of Wake called Jekel (Dexter’s Sean Patrick Flanery) whose ship has far more firepower. He knows about Wake’s new cargo and is willing to risk everything to get his evil hands on it. The artefact is known as the ‘Chaos Generator’, an alien, power source with the ability to destroy and blow up unsuspecting b-movie actors that are unfortunate or stupid enough to touch it. The remainder of the film involves a cat and mouse dash across the galaxy as both captains sacrifice not only their ships but their crew to retain this source of power. The fate of the universe may well be at stake.
The first thing that comes to your attention whilst watching Scavengers is just how bad the CGI effects are. It is clear that Zariwny did not have much in the way of a budget to rectify this matter. The spaceships and battles are nothing better than you would have seen 20 years ago in late night sci-fi TV fair. This dispels much of excitement and spectacle that could have been created from the numerous set pieces that take place throughout the film. Thankfully the chemistry and the occasional sequence of amusing banter between the crew members makes up for this. The cast with the exception of one are solid in their roles. Although he is no Fillion, Roark Critchlow makes a charming and charismatic hero to route for. This is at polar opposites of Sean Patrick Flanery’s laughably bad villain who hams his way through each scene that he’s involved with. All that is missing from the performance is the top hat, dark eye makeup and twirly moustache.
There are some fun and unexpected sequences. One of these involves an overly curious member of the engineering team that gets too close to the alien artefact and explodes all over his colleagues. The moment is gory and hilarious. His body is then regenerated in a similar fashion to last year’s Elysium. An unfortunate villain also goes through a similar process after getting fried in an early shoot-out.
Although there is a lot of humour injected into the film there is a dark and foreboding tone present throughout the story. You don’t quite know which of the characters are going to live or die. Perhaps this is a bonus of having such a relatively unknown cast?
Scavengers is never going to win any awards for originality or likely to feature in anyone’s sci-fi flick top ten, but it is a lively, engaging and ocassionally thrilling entry into the genre. The cast is enthusiastic and there are some well crafted sequences. However it is unlikely that this film will gain the same size of fan base as Firefly did.