Wastelander (2018)
Wastelander (2018)

Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 1 hr. 30 min.

Release Date: February 2nd, 2018 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Angelo Lopes Actors: Brendan Guy Murphy, Carol Cardenas, Jon Proudstar, Sian Vilaire, David Morden, Angelo Lopes, Aaron Stielstra, Timothy Starks, Kali Sherwood, Melanie Macy

 


 

A

low-budget “Waterworld” without the water, “Wastelander” excels at poaching the signature elements of the best of the genre. Moments from “Escape from New York,” “The Road Warrior,” “The Book of Eli,” and just about every other notable post-apocalyptic actioner find their way into the picture – many appearing as effective homage, though an unfortunate slew evokes banal imitation. Nitpicking “Wastelander’s” technical limitations due to budgetary restraints is unnecessary. Fans of the genre will look past such shortcomings to focus on the quality of the ideas presented and the efficiency of the atmosphere created. What’s more difficult to overlook, however, is the disparity in acting abilities, the wavering cohesiveness in science-fiction design, and the heavy dose of cringe-worthy dialogue.

While bordering on nonsensical near its conclusion, the premise of “Wastelander” adheres to the staples of the post-apocalyptic adventure. Solitary, nomadic warrior Rhyous Solidore (Brendan Guy Murphy) wanders the parched 27th century desert in search of a fabled “Eden.” Assassins, thugs, and gangsters are a daily threat for the laconic seeker, but when he encounters ominous regent Dr. Caldwell Benedict (Angelo Lopes), who seeks the same forbidden enigma, the Wastelander inches closer to uncovering the promised land – and the terrifying truth. With companions he enlists along the way, including mercenary Solek (Jon Proudstar) and bandit Neve (Carol Cardenas), Rhyous must battle “Scourge” outlaws, cyborg gladiators, and vicious warlords to accomplish his mission.

Despite most of the film being bathed in washed-out, over-bright sunniness, “Wastelander” still offers picturesque Arizona desert landscapes throughout, sometimes heightened by digital background additions or occasionally hindered. The over-reliance on computer-generated imagery often reduces the production to that of a Syfy Channel exclusive, though the vast majority of the desolate, dilapidated sets are visually engaging. Disused buildings crumbling in decay and tunnels splashed with graffiti are the highlights, but interior sequences such as a fog-soaked gladiator fight provide comparably appealing, darker environments.

“Wastelander’s” science-fiction design choices offer as many intriguing concepts as confusing ones. Much of the cyperpunk and steampunk costuming is elaborate and well-conceived; several of the film’s characters would be right at home in the worlds of George Miller. But a few curiously contrasting decisions do detract from the overall aesthetics – namely the overindulgence in CG embellishments, overused robotic voices, and an unconvincing mix of modern and futuristic technology. Old West accoutrement, machetes, and nunchaku feel out of place in the same world that touts laser blasters, cryogenic capsules, virtual reality helmets, and cybernetic upgrades.

There’s definitely a demand for Mad Max copycats (behold character names such as Krognar, Volguss, and Hildenstern the Cyber) and “Wastelander” fills a niche in the subgenre that rarely attracts large-scale productions. What holds the film back more than its meager budget is its overbearing desire to take itself seriously. Engrossing costume and set design, ample combat sequences, and a smattering of solid practical effects can’t overcome messy storytelling and atrocious conversations (a campfire discourse between Rhyous and Neve about time and age is the epitome of ridiculous). A little more levity would have been a welcome feature. Despite a restrictive script, Jon Proudstar shines as comedy relief character Solek. So it’s a shame the Wastelander continuously insists on abandoning him throughout the journey.

– Joel Massie

  • 3/10