Andrew Bellware is one of those directors who intrigues me.
I’m not saying he’s a great director, or that he’s made any incredibly great films. No, all I’m willing to say at this point is that he’s made several massively cheap SF films which are strange enough and have so many ideas that they stand out from the herd of SF film out there. I first encountered him in Prometheus Trap, which involved androids and a time loop and Clonehunter, a bounty hunter movie with clones and immortality.
I’ve wanted to see Millennium Crisis for some time now, thanks to the extravagant imagery of the trailers, and the fact that it was one of his first SF films. But it has proven elusive, and I’m mildly surprised that I finally found it.
Let’s get one thing straight from the start: this is a very cheap film. It is also incredibly ambitious in its attempt to create a lush distant future, with several very different worlds and a lot of detail and a distinct visual style. Obviously the two do not go together very well, but Andrew achieves this through a lot of little tricks. Several of his alien worlds are just 2-D images (with one a rather obvious drawing, perhaps a concept art sketch which was supposed to be replaced by CG in the final version which has been scanned and inserted as a background element); there is an impressive amount of smoke and mist throughout; virtually every scene is dramatically lighted; and he’s buried most of the film under layers of digital effects, video effects and filters, with a somewhat annoying little quirk of inserting staticky breaks in the film. But if you’re watching, you’ll note that the sets– even the green screen sets! — are almost all tiny, some little more than curtains or lighting tricks, and many of the scenes leave me with the suspicion that, if you peeled away all the effects, it would end up looking like a daytime soap opera.
Then there’s the plot, which is tangled, complex and full of plots and counterplots. We get talk of galactic war, alien races, lost civilizations, secret agents and assassinations, and the vampiric Kluduthu. It isn’t exactly easy to follow at times — it’s somewhat like coming in on the middle of the third or fourth novel in some epic series — and there are a lot of things that aren’t ever explained. I’m not one of those viewers who expect every detail in an epic work of SF explained, but I’m sure this will disturb many viewers.
He also includes several rather unnecessary bits of nudity (including a sword fight with a topless assassin), but no sex, minimal amounts of gore and no brutality. The film might almost get a PG rating with a few more clothes, so it clearly was never intended as an exploitation film.
Ted Raimi (Sam’s brother) gets a nice minor role as a geeky anthropologist, but the real standout is Olja Hrustic as a sexy but incredibly ancient android (with a tail) who is the last remnant of a long-dead race.
Whatever else you many say about this film, it is never dull. While I think the plot could have used a lot more clarity — and could stand having a lot of the layers of complexity stripped away — its vast ambitions are enough to keep it all moving.
I’m not sure it’s good, or that I would recommend it to anyone other than a die-hard fan of cinematic SF. However, it is worth a look for anyone willing to ignore its low budget woes and see it on its own terms.
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