“The Colony” is a 2012 horror film directed by Jonathan Levine, who made the films “50/50” and “The Wackness”. The film is about college kid, Ivy (Ari Graynor), who is forced to move back home with her parents after her boyfriend is sent to prison for drug dealing. Soon after moving back, she finds out that her house was built on the site of a former colony experiment which was scrapped years ago. As she investigates the history of the colony, she finds out that things are not as they appear.
It’s a shame that this is a movie that nobody saw. It’s a shame that this is a movie that is remembered by a few. It’s a shame that this is a movie that is going to be remembered by a very few. But I hope that at least the few remember it the way it deserves to be remembered: as a fun, low-budget adventure movie with a very small but memorable cast that was made for arguably the lowest dollar amount of money ever spent on a movie.
I had big plans for the weekend…I was going to stay home on Saturday, watch a couple of movies on Netflix, spend some quality time with my wife, and maybe take a little nap. Then Saturday came, and I got really busy. I’m sure you can imagine my frustration when I finally got around to watching “The Colony”–and learned that I could have really used a nap.
The novel “The Colony” by Tim Fehlbaum includes numerous futuristic ideas. While not all of them work together perfectly, there are a few intriguing aesthetic and narrative choices that make it entertaining. There’s enough going on to keep your interest for a few minutes until the narrative devolves into complicated story complexities or trite sci-fi clichés.
“It all boils down to climate change. Warfare. Pandemics.” These are the Apocalypse’s Horsemen, who persuade the governing class to leave Earth in favor of Kepler 209, a faraway planet with unforeseeable long-term repercussions. Two generations later, the wealthy want to return to Earth since their reproductive ability has run out, like in “Children of Men,” and their civilization is withering and will die out unless something changes. They sent out an expedition to survey their old homeworld, but the first mission was lost. We arrive in the second round just as they’re going to fall into the sea. When the tide goes out, one woman, Blake (Nora Arnezeder), and one man, Tucker (Sope Dirisu), survive to begin their search on a windswept ocean bottom. These explorers are not alone, and they soon discover that this semi-wet “Waterworld” is inhabited by the survivors—all young humans under the age of 30—of the impoverished who were abandoned by the upper classes.
What follows is a little bit of a thriller, a little bit of a moral perspective on colonization from the colonizer’s perspective. Blake is thrust into a water-themed spoof of the “Mad Max” movie and finds herself alone on a home planet that is everything but welcoming. The survivors, as they’re called, dress in burlap and rags, have filthy faces, and untidy hair, and live up to their name. With the help of Maila (Bella Bading) and Narvik, Blake establishes an uneasy partnership (Sarah-Sofie Boussnina). Even yet, a bigger group of survivors is pillaging smaller organizations like Maila’s and aligning itself with the power-to-be in the hopes of reaping the benefits. They bring secrets with them, as well as a sinister scheme to recolonize the planet’s human resources.
The script by Fehlbaum and Mariko Minoguchi—with Jo Rogers and Tim Trachte contributing additional writing credits—can become mired down in specific sci-fi jargon or cross-cultural misunderstandings (between the Keplers and the survivors, who produced their language after the well-heeled civilization took English with them). The narrative, on the other hand, moves at a reasonable pace, racing through duller sequences in order to get to the next surprise or action moment as quickly as possible. “The Colony,” as the title suggests, examines the ethical ramifications of a dominant tribe becoming rulers over a people they see as inferior. Blake symbolizes the journey from someone indoctrinated to think of “the good of the people,” to defaulting to the state’s will, and finally to someone who thinks for themselves and comes to a difficult, but humane, choice.
The tug-of-war between Blake’s experiences with motherhood and her father’s memories adds to the film’s emotional complexity. The story becomes too preoccupied with her ability to reproduce, which is later explained by her generation’s loss of power. While parental analogies in science fiction are nothing new, this one seems to leave her responses on the surface. She is hesitant when she is given her first child, and she takes on the role of mother for Maila while trying to rescue her from kidnappers. However, at the end of the film, it’s unclear if she wants to be a mother or whether the colony wants her to be a mother. Blake’s father (Sebastian Roché), who was lost on the previous expedition, remains large in her thoughts, and she is forced to reconcile with his ideals despite the consequences.
These recollections portray a clean, brilliantly lit world of wealthy expats, a paradise far apart from the harsh Earth where they abandoned the poor. It recalls the kind of class division found in sci-fi films like “Metropolis” or “Elysium,” where one half lives in luxury while the other can’t fathom such luxury. Markus Förderer’s mainly grungy grey and green cinematography concocts a visual style so dense that you almost expect the camera to emerge dirty itself to create this gloomy future image in “The Colony.” It’s a brilliant technique that conjures up images of a future world where massive tides have wiped out much of the ecosystem we know today (RIP trees) and all that’s left is ocean spray in the air.
However, not every aspect of “The Colony” succeeds. Arnezeder’s performance fails to bring Blake to life, following in the footsteps of great female stars in science fiction films but never breaking free from their shadow. It’s unmemorable, almost like portions of the film’s didactic passages or its tacked-on conclusion, which leaves some of the narrative’s ideas unfinished. “The Colony” is more of a lighthearted distraction than a genuine test of one’s values.
The film The Colony is currently in cinemas and on digital platforms.
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