Monday, June 19, 2017

Rakka - Oats Studio - Volume One

Today's short film is called Rakka.

So, right off the bat, I should probably tell you two things about this particular short film. 1. It's not really that short. And 2. It's part of a new Neill Blomkamp project.

I've talked about Neill Blomkamp on here before, most recently in this post, and what I said then is still true: At this point, I consider him to be a Director of Diminishing Returns. Unreliable. Basically, with each new endeavor, he makes District Nine seem like more and more of a fluke. For me, his stuff can all be summed up the same way: Cool ideas executed poorly.

So, when Blomkamp teamed up with Oats Studio to announce a series of shorts films intended for release on the online gaming platform Steam, mostly as a possible test for future feature film releases, I was interested, but I was also appropriately wary.

Blomkamp has had a lot of failures recently. Chappie is an inhumanly terrible film. His recent BMW short film about The Driver went over like a lead balloon. And most recently, in what just might be proof that God exists, his terrible ALIEN franchise reboot idea was dumped by FOX. Who knows what it is. Maybe he's out of ideas, out of gas, and this is all of the ill-advised left-over crap he hasn't got to use. Maybe it's time for him to hang up his spurs, and this is just him refusing to listen? It's possible.


Maybe this is his redemption? Maybe he's got some cool new ideas, instead of recycling all of the same old garbage? Maybe a smaller budget and less studio oversight is just what he needed? Maybe it will allow him to work with more clarity and focus? Plus, a series of experimental short films with a generally dark and militaristic sci-fi bend? Yeah, I'm certainly interested. This could be cool. Maybe. Of course, they could be terrible too... But hey, at least this one has Sigourney Weaver in it. She's awesome.

Here's the synopsis: A tale of a dystopian future where an unknown alien group have colonised the earth and humans struggle to fight back. 

Okay, well, that's a bad sign. This is a good microcosm of why I'm a little wary of Blomkamp's stuff: At first glance, it sounds super cool, right? But if you take a second and think about it, you'll see that they misspelled "colonized" on their IMDB page. I mean... come on, dude...

Oh, well... only one way to find out.

Let's watch.

Well, that was about on par with what I expected. It looked good. It was gory and gross. It had some good special effects. The characters were paper thin archetypes. The story was wide and vague, and that's being pretty fair. Being tough, you might say the film leaned too heavily on the "experimental" idea in order to jump over all of the necessary narrative heavy lifting. At 20 minutes long, we got a lot of familiar imagery--and a lot of it was definitely cool--but mostly it felt more like a really long trailer more than anything else. The fact that this project was launched as a test for future possible feature film releases on Steam suddenly looms pretty large.

There wasn't a very good sense of geography either, or character placement, and granted, this was a short film, but the resistance force felt pretty small. Was that scale on purpose? Were they just a local cell of something bigger, or were they it? It was hard to tell, and the film didn't seemed concerned at all. I wasn't a big fan of the design of the aliens' tech either. The spike goo effect just felt unfinished. Also, a nitpick, but if they're changing the atmosphere to be more heavily methane, then I would have liked to seen that reflected in the aliens' body language, and their tech compensating.

In the end, at best, this film felt like an extended trailer for an overly-familiar project, and at worst, like a poorly constructed prequel to an obviously under-funded and underwhelming production.

Blomkamp, man... Diminishing returns...


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