Saturday, 23 August 2014

Survivor (2014)

I generally watch DVDs for this blog in roughly the order I got them.  So the ones that have been hanging around longest will finally get a viewing.  But I make an exception whenever an indie production turns up in my mail.  The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and The Sky Has Fallen are two examples of such productions.  Widely divergent ones, when it comes to how much I enjoyed them.

This is another small company release, in this case one I backed on Kickstarter back in January.  The DVD arrived yesterday, and I sat down to watch it and let you know how it was.  I like to do this with indie stuff since if I do like it, my review might in some small way (very small, given my readership :) ) help the production be a success.

And there are things to like about this film.  The cast is all solid.  The characters they're playing are generally pretty thin, but the actors all deliver their lines confidently and smoothly, with none of the awkwardness you might expect from what is presumably a very low budget affair.  If $40,000 on Kickstarter makes an appreciable difference to a film's budget, we're definitely not talking about the big end of town.

Other things to like: the action is generally well-staged, and the CGI, while obviously CGI, is only occasionally actually bad.  The physical effects are significantly better.  The 'monsters' of the piece aren't that innovative in their design, but the costumes are very well executed.  That's probably not surprising since they have a definite Orcish look to them and the company's done a number of fantasy films in the past.

Finally, I like that the protagonist, Kate (the young lady on the DVD cover) is a competent badass whose gender is never raised an issue in the film.  Now to be wholly truthful, her level of badassness does seem to wax and wane as the script requires; there'll be a scene where she struggles to defeat one enemy, then a few minutes later she'll take out five or six in short order; but she is at least never rendered helpless by being grabbed on the upper arm.

Now obviously the movie has got some flaws too, or I wouldn't have only given it a Qualified Recommendation.  And in fact, I'm probably being a little generous in giving it that much.  The script, you see, is the biggest weakness of the film.  In many parts, it's fine, and it has some inventively conceived and staged action sequences (the scene where Kate is pursued up a cliff by some bad guys comes to mind).  But it also some very clunky exposition / narrative bits that come across more like info dump cut scenes from a computer game than natural conversations or observations from the characters, and there's the matter of Kate's waxing and waning combat skills as well.  Plus there's a moment right near the end that's just laugh out loud silly (you'll know it when you see it, trust me).

But ultimately, I don't regret spending the time to watch this film.  It was better than I honestly expected, and - perhaps a more important indicator - I don't regret having backed another Kickstarter by the same company, back in May.

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