With Earth's demise slowly becoming more and more of a reality as we look down the barrel of climate change, it's only natural that we should ponder what would happen to humanity. In fact, this isn't a new concept, especially not where Science Fiction is concerned, with the premise of humans leaving Earth behind being a prominent theme for decades. However, those works are often focused on what happens when humanity establishes a new colony, the growing pains of adjustment and the attempts to create a new, utopian society as part of a fresh start for the whole human race. Inevitably, those ideas are far loftier than human nature will allow and stories tend to evolve from there. However, Colonials is less interested in where such a thing might start and more what, or who could be left behind and what a futuristic conflict between those two might look like.
Colonials is chiefly concerned with Silas, a recent academy graduate on a mission of unknown specifics from the Mars human colony to Earth. However, after crash landing he loses his memory and finds himself saved by The Resistance, who are fighting back against The Exiles, a society who seem to be based on the moon mostly. Silas joins them, but as he discovers more about his past, and remembers who he is, things get a bit more complicated.
Before getting into the real meat of the review of Colonials, it's important to factor in that this film is not a big budget, Hollywood studio production. It's very much an indie movie with the resources to match. As such there are moments where perhaps the ambitions of the filmmakers outstripped their finances, so the CGI looks a little less than polished in places. However, context is important and while the effects are often distracting and look less than stellar, there is a reason for that and perhaps it's important to factor the film's more modest budget into any criticism of those effects. That said, there are definitely moments where it detracts from the overall quality of Colonials and impacts the audience's ability to stay in this moment and not be taken out of the story. When the film opts for practical effects, such as the sequences on Earth it works really well, and the cinematography is excellent in places when it comes to establishing a believable, and frankly stunning dystopian landscape.
While the effects may be excusable, the issues with the writing on Colonials are less forgivable. There are points where the convoluted plot is difficult to follow and the identities of the various characters, their alignments and loyalties and even their intentions are muddled at best. Even the dialogue is rough around the edges at points, bordering on-the-nose in terms of the information being provided. That the dialogue is often exposition-heavy makes the confusing nature of the story in Colonials even more baffling, as there is seemingly no excuse for the lack of clarity.
On a more positive note, there are some more-than-serviceable acting performances in Colonials. Greg Kriek in particular shines as Silas, while Sean Kanan (as Zeke) and Jamie Burnadette (as Zoey) provide excellent supporting performances. It would have been interesting to see what the rest of the cast, all of whom are at least passable in their roles, could potentially have done with an improved script.
Colonials is definitely a film that has it's fair share of issues, as previously discussed. However, it also has a number of positive elements too. Independent science fiction films are notoriously difficult to pull off well, and for the most part Colonials achieves that. Unfortunately, it's a genre that requires big ideas and often even bigger budgets, but those two things have to be in sync and that's clearly not the case with Colonials. Ambition should not be something that is criticised, and if nothing else the attempts to create a believable futuristic world, while holding up a mirror to current events should be lauded. Yes, Colonials could and possibly should have been better, but the ambition and potential in the premise and the moments where it works definitely mark the team behind this film as ones to watch in the future. While Colonials has its problems it's still more thought provoking and more engrossing than anything you'll see on the average cable sci-fi channel or Asylum release, even if the visuals at points don't quite live up to the film's promise.
Colonials was released on digital platforms on April 17th