Here’s the official blurb for new scifi war movie Shockwave, Darkside . . .
It is the last, great war. Out of the wreckage of a troop transport, five soldiers on the way to battle find themselves stranded on the dark side of the moon. Cut off and behind enemy lines, they start a dangerous journey through snipers and minefields back to their home territory. As their numbers dwindle and nerves fray, they make an amazing discovery about the moon that just might save their lives.
I caught this movie’s premiere at Frightfest last week and have just squeezed some time out of my novel-writing schedule to pen a review of the film. Plot and feeling-wise, this work comes across a little like a fusion of the Battlestar reboot, the SF TV series Space: Above and Beyond, and the old fifties war movie Ice Cold in Alex.
The basic set-up is that in the far future the atheist majority of the world get tired of all the religious types causing war and terrorism in the name of God, and over time, manage to drive most of those with Faith into the lunar colonies. Sadly, this forced emigration doesn’t cure mankind’s ills, and a combination of environmental degradation and wars culminate in some nasty nano-warfare which renders Earth more or less uninhabitable and its oceans a killing soup rather than anything you’d actually want to mix with a whisky.
What’s left of Earth then invades the lunar colonies to try and survive off the dwindling ice reserves that the exiled lunar pilgrims’ domed cities are built over. Time for a nasty war to the death between the ‘Unlighters’ (Earth atheists) and a rag-tag mixed bag of the descendants of the religious pogroms.
As the meat of the story, a bunch of grunts from the religious side are shot down in their shuttle during an offensive, and have to march back through uncharted dark side enemy territory to their extraction point. There’s a few interesting twists along the journey, not to mention the ending, which I won’t spoiler-ize for you.
This movie was shot in 3D, and it should be noted, similar to films like 2010’s Monsters by Gareth Edwards, this film is a ten year labour of love by director/writer Jay Weisman, rather than the systemized product of Hollywood billions. That being said, the actors are professionals (people like Mei Melançon – aka Psylocke in X-Men 3, or Sonequa Martin-Green – Sasha in Walking Dead), and the SFX, while not in the same league as the Transformers‘ ‘Bayhem’ caused by Michael Bay, are very serviceable. The irony is, while a big budget would have pushed the effects up to Lucasfilm levels, you can almost guarantee the Hollywood suits would have also crushed all the originality and spark out of the film, too.
Here’s the strong points of the film . . .
Clever use of 3D – this really comes into its own when viewed visor-out from the soldiers’ point of view. In external shots, the space suits – modelled on NASA future designs with a military armoured twist – are clear, but from the soldier’s perspective, they see a HUD with all the command and control and comms functions you’d expect in future warfare – as well as targeting and hostile labels and weapons tracking etc. There’s also a mess of entertainment apps – so during the forced march you see the bored soldiers writing emails home, playing virtual casino games, watching blue vids etc.
Lots of character building – all the soldiers get clear, memorable individual characters without stereotyping. I suspect this is why some familiar faces were willing to appear for a lot less than they’d get in the usual Hollywood actioner. For actors, it’s all about the character when it comes to art. Take that away, and you need some big paycheck action to sign-up . . . hereby to be known for all time as The Expendables effect.
World creation – there’s a lot of complex, interesting stuff to get across concerning the future world, but it’s dropped in gently over the course of the movie, rather than front-loaded through Star Wars scroll-ups or clumsy voice-overs. This does mean that the average dumb-as-dirt Joe Punter might start the film more confused than the Hollywood model would ever allow, though.
Religion and deeper themes – there’s plenty of exploration of what people are willing to fight for and how that interweaves with religion. The Hollywood system would have killed this dead – can’t afford to offend the Christians/Muslims/Buddhists/Jews. Hell, this one will even piss off the Militant Atheists by painting the distant descendants of Richard Dawkins as the bad guys!
So, in summary, a very enjoyable and intelligent movie. Given a big budget, this might have been another Bladerunner or Aliens – but of course, attach the Studio suits and beancounters and committees, and everything that made it so original might have been crushed drier and faster than an oily rag in Mad Max Fury Road.
It’ll be fascinating to see what happens when Jay Weisman is given the big guns to play with!
If you want to see more, the official site is over at http://www.shockwavedarkside.com/
Stephen is the author of the 6-book Jackelian series for HarperCollins, and now has the Far-called series (first book: ‘In Dark Service‘) out from Gollancz. His blog and web site is across at www.StephenHunt.net