‘Origin Wars’ (Blu-Ray/DVD) Review

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Our Rating

Osiris Children8
8

Its ‘Star Wars’ meets ‘Mad Max’, apparently…

In the far future, where humanity has begun colonising other worlds, a pilot attempts to save his daughter when a prison riot escalates into a potential end-of-the-world scenario…

To those of us of a certain age, the phrase ‘straight-to-video’ will certain memories. Back in the seemingly dark days of the local video store rental establishment (everyone had one, mine was ‘Videoshack 2’) you’d go along with a parent or responsible adult in the hope of renting the latest blockbuster release, only to discover that all copies were out. Your hopes of spending the afternoon watching ‘The Goonies’ or ‘Back To The Future’ duly dashed, you were then faced with the worst choice imaginable to a child: picking something else. How? What was the point? And this is where we learned what the straight-to-video market as all about. You’d be faced with racks and racks of titles that you didn’t remember seeing in the cinema, and suddenly the full implications of this would hit you: there was a whole world of movies to be discovered that had never seen the inside of a cinema, and never would. In the UK that usually meant one of two things: 1) the film was appallingly bad, or 2) there was no room for a cinema release. For the second option, there are plenty of other reasons for that. As an example, the 1985 release ‘Explorers’, directed by Joe Dante, starring Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix (both making their debuts) and backed by Paramount, was a major flop on its US release, so went straight-to-video in the UK, where it became something of a cult favourite. These days, of course, there is no such thing as video anymore (or video rental stores, come to think of it). And ‘straight-to-video’ has been replaced by ‘DVD premiere’ (at least that’s what HMV call them). Go into any store that still stocks DVD’s and Blu-Ray’s, and you’ll be greeted with dozens of these titles, more-often-than-not horror, sci-fi or fantasy, and all made specifically for this market. Just like with any form of mass-market entertainment there is a lot of poorly made rubbish to be waded through before you get to the good stuff, but if you can stick at it you will be rewarded. And ‘Origin Wars’, backed by a heavy ad-campaign on the SyFy channel (they’re not stupid…), is one such gem.

Taking place in one of those futures where corporations seem to run the show, ‘Origin Wars’ drops us down on a dusty colony world where one such corporation operates a number of facilities, including an impressive-looking floating headquarters in high-orbit, as well as a super-max prison that’s also home to some extremely shady science types (proving that, even in the far future, ‘extremely shady science type’ is still a viable career path). A mass-breakout from the prison also results in some of the less-friendly experiments (a race of genetically engineered creatures called ‘the Ragged’) also getting loose, putting the rest of the planets population in danger. This leads the corporation to decide to nuke the planet, which will both dispose of the Ragged and cover up what they’ve been doing, as well as wiping out millions of innocent people. Even Starbucks have never gone that far… On the back of this decision, the closest thing the film has to a hero, Lt Kane Somerville (Daniel MacPherson), disobeys his orders and heads to the surface to try and find and rescue his daughter. Somerville is aided in this endeavour by one of the escaped convicts (Kellan Lutz) and some mercenary types (Luke Ford and Isobel Lucas).

The first thing I should address with ‘Origin Wars‘ is that it is by no means ‘Star Wars meets Mad Max‘. That particular line, used at the beginning of this piece and taken from the DVD sleeve, is a particularly lazy comparison, presumably made by someone who saw spaceships and a desert and thought “sod it, that will do”. If anything ‘Origin Wars’ has a lot more in common with some of the more recent sci-fi TV shows, sharing a frontier-in-space feel with ‘Firefly‘ and ‘Serenity‘, as well as the corporate-controlled-future aesthetic of ‘Dark Matter‘. For example, the corporation at the heart of the story is headed up by a General, as opposed to a CEO. However, it’s by no means a copy of those shows, and there are plenty of original touches to set it apart. A low-orbit dogfight sequence, for example, features an ingenious design of fighter that pivots and changes direction with all the agility of an Olympic gymnast on speed. And Lt Somerville is a flawed hero, to put it mildly. He drinks beer in the morning, is a crap dad and husband, and even after he sets out to find his daughter his lack of basic toughness means it’s not guaranteed that he’ll succeed. For instance, he ends up paying way too much for the services of Bill and Gyp (the afore-mentioned mercenaries played by Ford and Lucas) basically because they bully him into it. He’s quite the loser. Other characters do fall into more standard character types (the strong-yet-sensitive escaped con, the nutcase mercenaries, the cute kid), but they are ably served by a decent script, and the cast itself performs well. Lutz and MacPherson are stand-outs, while Teagan Croft also impresses as Somerville’s missing daughter, a child who seems a lot more grown-up than her dad. If Ford and Lucas are a touch on the irritating side, well they’re meant to be, so it’s all good. Elsewhere there are small-but-effective cameos from Rachel Griffiths and Temuera Morrison, who add a certain gravitas as the Corporate General and the Prison Warden respectively. The special effects work is excellent as well, with this future world being beautifully realised. The floating corporate headquarters is beautiful to behold, while the planet-based sequences have a grungy look that feels genuine. There is some prosthetic work that feels a bit more TV than movie, but considering this feels like an extended pilot for a TV series, that is to be expected. Furthermore, a chapter structure within the film (it’s broken into seven chapters, which jump around within the story giving background to certain characters and their situations) means that the whole thing is easy to digest and understand.

Before I sum up, a word about the title. ‘Origin Wars‘ could be one of the most misleading titles ever committed to a film. There is no ‘War’ to speak of, apart from the dogfight sequence I mentioned earlier, and that only features two ships. The word ‘Origin’ also has no place here, unless it’s referring to the Ragged, and even then they hardly go to war. The daft thing is that this is not the original title. Look this film up on IMDB, and you’ll be taken to a page for something called ‘The Osiris Child‘ (subtitled ‘Science Fiction: Volume One’). Despite sounding very portentous and slightly doom-laden, this is actually a much more accurate title. There is a ‘Child’, and she lives in a city called ‘Osiris’. Quite why the title was changed is a mystery, but if I ever find out why I’ll be sure to let everyone know…

Despite the limitations of the budget, ‘Origin Wars‘ is an effective and enjoyable slice of modern sci-fi movie-making. The cast perform well, the setting is an intriguing one and the story, despite being familiar, barrels along at a fair old pace, meaning it never gets boring. Written and directed by Shane Abbess, it feels like the start of something, as mentioned above, either a TV series or, more likely, an ongoing film series. The ending certainly backs this up, and I’m intrigued to see what comes next. Here’s hoping Abbess can deliver on this early promise.

 

About author

TheMetalHead

Long-time fan of all things geek-related. Comics, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, Warhammer, video games, mythology, you name it, I probably like it. This also extends to pro-wrestling and heavy metal, hence the name. Particular loves would be the Star Wars sage, Game of Thrones (books and TV), Judge Dredd, Assassins Creed, and many more. Born and raised in Essex by parents who have broadly supported these passions over the years, so much so that they now share many of them.