30 April 2015

The Lost Future

The Lost Future Gets a Little Lost Itself
by Kristin Battestella

Young tribesman Kaleb (Sam Clafin) and Savan (Corey Sevier) protect their village against violent, mutated humans affected by a unknown virus. Their people, however, are starving while the beasts increase. Tribal leaders fear the disease and do little as they become prey – much to Kaleb's protest. A mysterious outsider Amal (Sean Bean) aides the young warriors in battle and tells them of a yellow powder antidote developed by Kaleb's late but literate father. Unfortunately, the cure and its formula have been stolen by Gagen (Jonathan Pienaar), who lords over an abandoned city. Will Kaleb – who is also able to read – be able to retrieve and recreate the yellow powder in time to save his people from death and monsters?

With its 2010 European via SyFy Channel production, the odds were already against The Lost Future. However, it is the clouded action before promising story approach that truly dampens the potential of this post apocalyptic tale. I know it isn't saying very much when The Lost Future feels like a poor man's 10,000 B.C – which I did like – but neither the double talk tribal angst nor the hunting action cold opening fool viewers into thinking that The Lost Future is in caveman times. We know the title of the picture and the not cool misleading of the audience isn't as clever as producer Jonas Bauer (The Pillars of the Earth), the numerous writers, and longtime television director Mikael Salomon (Nash Bridges) think it is. Wooden dialogue is immediately indicative of the primitive meets future mash up, and this stilted mix of attempted speaketh fancy with leftover modern lingo is at times so jarring that it sounds like a bad dub job. Awkward “What's a book and what do you do with it?” conversations highlight this first draft script design, and the lies about the status of this post apocalyptic community which should be at the forefront of The Lost Future falter as a result. Though underdeveloped, starving hunters fearing a killer virus and a monster perimeter thanks to speculation on God's will, justice, fate, and generational punishment are intriguing topics. Place these alongside a spying outsider and debates on remaining stagnant and clinging to fear or trying to proactively save one's people, and you have story and suspense. Unfortunately, The Lost Future doesn't fully explain its who, what, and why and instead favors several assorted battles and beastly fights before mentioning its confusing goings on in the minutes between the would be spectacles. Three supposedly important deaths happen in first fifteen minutes, but we can't much care about nameless fatalities when the action has already been proven as more important that the plot. Mutants, diseases, past information, immunity – a lot's being thrown at the screen to deflect us from the superficial writing. Intercutting between trapped villagers, the journey for a cure, and more split action means to trick the viewer into not seeing the aimless happenings but instead leaves the audience without an anchor. It's not the best option, but opening with a prologue explaining the science and experiments gone awry would have gone a lot further in grounding the nonsensical and putting the premise at hand in focus.

How will I ever unlock the secret of the yellow powder?!” cries the lackluster Sam Clafin (The Hunger Games) as our hero of the hour Kaleb. He doesn't look the part, has heaps of bad dialogue, and seems insignificant thanks to a too similar rival turned best friend. If he's the tribe's only hope, whelp this is Miscasting 101 all around. The post-The Tudors Annabelle Wallis as Dorel isn't made to be too sexy a cavewoman at least, but everyone else does wear more and her fabrics cover up everywhere except where they are needed. More sad however, is that she remains a useless love triangle damsel who, considering the hunting and gathering society in which she lives, shockingly can't do anything like, you know, maybe hunt or even row the fricking boat. By contrast, Eleanor Tomlinson (Poldark) as Kaleb's sister Miru is made overly gung ho and supposedly strong, but unfortunately, her convenient and contrived plot points lead to exactly what she hoped to prevent. Good job! Although he uncharacteristically changes his tune because the plot says so, prospective antagonist Corey Sevier (Cedar Cove) as Savan at least looks brutish and bearded as The Lost Future requires. He also gets slightly more to do than have sex with Dorel while Kaleb watches. Awkward! Going with these primitive teenager perspectives to steer an already muddled script hurts The Lost Future when the apocalyptic divisions and dystopian strata could have been much more nuanced.

No, I didn't only watch The Lost Future for Sean Bean, but he adds a much needed classy to a production that knows he is the best they have. The DVD designs all feature Bean (Game of Thrones) over everyone else, he is top billed despite having less screen time than others, and most importantly, he looks smashing with a bow and arrow. As the wise outsider Amal, his voice alone raises the tone of The Lost Future, and his smooth delivery adds authority even if he's stuck with a lot of mutant exposition. Was Bean the only person who took the much maligned script seriously or simply the only cast member with the know how to do so? Amal's introduction advances the tale more in five minutes than a half hour of action, and the irony that this one man is doing better than an entire village helps make some of the unintentional chuckles slightly explainable. The cowering superstitious folk flounder while Amal and his family make their home in a ruined church with re-purposed past gadgets – but his comfort isn't enough to him so long as others are without a cure. He has the titular focus in mind rather than the immediate struggle, and The Lost Future plum seems like it would have been a great sociological science fiction film had it been told from Amal's point of view. Man doing science with consequences, antidotes stolen, mutant results, apocalyptic separation, a brotherhood to protect human tribes – the back story Bean is telling sounds a lot more interesting!

Ironically, other elder statesmen support in The Lost Future provide more bad acting instead of maturity. The old speaketh, out of touch adults don't jive with the protesting teens, and everyone feels like they are in the wrong movie. The Lost Future styles itself as a would be television pilot with unnecessary village B and C episodic storylines and too many characters that should have been removed. Capable men on horseback arrive out of nowhere to help in the final half hour when it's too late, and smarmy villain Jonathan Pienaar (To the Ends of the Earth) hams it up a bit too much amid the rushed industrial finish. Once again, The Lost Future misplaces itself by introducing a city, new population, and more characters far, far too late in its 90 minutes. How are viewers supposed to get our bearings when someone new comes along every fifteen minutes? This backdoor pilot mood really piles on the people and possibilities yet simultaneously gives away everything that could have been done in a series season. Unfortunately, The Lost Future unfulfills on most of this blink and you miss it, fast moving potential – there's simply no time to digest whether we like any of these players or not.

Yes, the CGI sloth monster is poorly designed and the actors are woefully thrusting spears into thin air before looming over cheap looking faux animal carcasses. The zombie virus makeup and yellow powder designs are poor, too, and the hectic fight scenes make it tough to tell who is who – unless there is a cool slow motion moment with the appropriately cued music swells. Those fast, seemingly superior and parkouring mutant humanoids are also conveniently and nonetheless defeated, and some of the action looks distorted, as if the camera speed was altered for some kind of misguided special effect. A cave exploration side plot is likewise ridiculously small scale and poorly edited to cover up the rock reuses, however, the up close, through the leafy foliage filming smartly hides outdoor limits. The distant cityscape graphics also look fine, and the Life after People damaged set pieces with piles of dusty rubble, rampant vegetation, old technology, and abandoned libraries look the part. Though perhaps misused thanks to a lot of meaningless walking to and running fro, the South Africa locales are quite lovely with a fitting, untouched bleak beauty. The Lost Future may look rocky to start with an over reliance on battle graphics, but overall, the practical designs look natural and any slightly hokey visuals are not the deterrence here. Indeed, a half hour behind the scenes feature on the blu-ray release proves the production wasn't without its merits, but the absent subtitles – which would have helped tremendously with names and unclarified plot points – highlights the decision to go with the gimmicks instead of fully executing all the script possibilities.

I saw The Lost Future when it first aired on SyFy, and although I haven't watch the channel much before or since thanks to its lack of actual science fiction, this one does seem a bit more sophisticated than the hear tell likes of Sharknado and the other monster of the week knockoffs. Granted, the cerebral post apocalyptic possibilities go unexplored at the expense of more action or a speedy run time while the script spends most of its time on muddled, disjointed storylines and distractions that proceed accordingly just because they should. Ironically, The Lost Future can be humorously viewed as an educational tool on how to not botch a good story with what modern television and film says we should have rather than what the tale needs. One may prefer something more serious, but this is still somehow a fun picture. If you accept The Lost Future as is for the superficial entertainment, Bean fans and science fiction audiences can have a good time. Viewers may even see this as a gateway to search for similar but better realized dystopian adventures, and ultimately, I like to think that the point of The Lost Future is that the ability to read can save the planet. Who knew?

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