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Humanity's End

Other // Unrated // September 1, 2009
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Bill Gibron | posted July 26, 2009 | E-mail the Author
The Product:
As careers go, the life of a film critic is pretty low impact. Sure, we have to put up with the occasional hate mail, the constant condemnation of messageboard nation, and the rare confrontational attacks from local screening rats, but for the most part, we abide. We spend way too much time in front of the medium, soaking in suspicious entries and championing unknown quantities. Yet every once in a while, a title comes along that clearly and effectively throws one for a loop. In fact, it flummoxes you so wholly that you wonder if Workman's Comp covers such an assault. Maverick Entertainment sent DVD Talk a press screener of their future release Humanity's End, and after checking out a synopsis of the plot, yours truly picked it from the availability list, curious about its homemade sci-fi designs. Even with the low level CGI, the trailer looked intriguing. Little did I realize that this movie was going to make me its space bitch, in more ways than one.

The Plot:
The time is several centuries into the future. Man has been relegated to a minority species, "homo-sapiens" quickly being replaced by the clone race "homo-technis". Even these scientifically designed carbon copies are being usurped by a new breed of genetically engineered individual known as "homo-superior." In conjunction with an alien race known as the Nephilim, superior in strategizing to eradicate homo-sapiens all together, a galaxy wide bit of revenge as genocide is happening on the behalf of these angry extraterrestrials. Hoping to save the genus, "breeders" have been developed, capable of carrying multiple children to term. It's up to disgraced military man Derasi Vorde and his ragtag crew of spaceship stalwarts - including a freed slave pilot, the mechanic wife of a late friend, and a computer with psychological issues - to deliver this latest breeder to the off-world safety of a rebel base. But with the universe literally crawling with Nephilim, it looks like this will be a suicide mission.

The DVD:
Let's start with the basics - Humanity's End is one oddball effort. Take a smidgen of Serenity, filter in a little of the post-modern Battlestar Galactica, toss inside an insane salad of old school '50s schlock, musky male machismo, and intergalactic tech-speak, and garnish with a big fat helping of unintentionally hilarious cinematic cheese and you've got some idea of how completely nuts this movie is. It's peanut brittle level loco. And then, just to make matters even more disconcerting, take the entire production, paste it onto a DVD with little or no care for the critic, slam a big fat "SCREENING USE ONLY" label across the bottom of the frame (blocking the occasional bit of important action/information), and oh yeah, master the disc in such a way that the clearly color film turns black and white within the first ten minutes - and then NEVER regains its hues. Now, try your reviewer shoes on for size. Even if this was 200-friggin'-1, with HAL going gonzo on the entire crew of the Discovery One via a blowtorch and death ray, it would be almost impossible to follow thanks to the lousy preview tech specs.

So tossing aside the horrid presentation, one has to try and evaluate this love letter to the entire speculative fiction format on the movie merits. Co-writer/director Neil Johnson clearly loves his interstellar overdrives. This is a movie that borrows basic plot points from Children of Men, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the aforementioned space operas, any b-movie made before 1968, and a couple of dozen farcical film noirs, just to get the hard-boiled bullspit down right. Like the audacity of the recently released 10,000 AD: The Legend of the Black Pearl or the unhinged brilliance of Cory McAbee's The American Astronaut, Humanity's End is determined to create its own version of the universe and then stick strictly to such insane boundaries. Sure, the half-a-hipster ship captain with a face full of Homer Simpson stubble and an attitude that's equally cave-manic could grate on your nerves, but he's no less noxious than the bitchy on-board computer, the wimped out turncoat crewman, or the snotty, stuck up breeder. Johnson believes in being true to his inspiration, no matter how irritating or aggravating. As a result, we never really care about the characters here. Instead, we spend most of the movie's running time wondering how more irksome they can be.

Then there is the space stuff - you know, the pseudo-CGI. Again, the screener didn't allow for accurate judgment of its authenticity and scope, but there are shots that look as amazing and effective as Season One of Babylon 5. Indeed, some of the stuff here beats the standard sloppy SyFy spectacle handily. But Humanity's End clearly needs a couple more Crays of processing power. Some of the more epic sequences suffer from a lack of detail, and the explosions appear ported over from a file full of animated desktop clip art. Johnson has a way with such filmic flash, and it would be interesting to see what he could do with a legitimate Hollywood crew behind him. While it won't win any awards, the look of Humanity's End is far from space junky. But when you populate your frenzied future shock with gimmicks instead of genuine human beings, when you go for quirk and idiosyncrasy instead of straight ahead adventure, you're bound to end up looking a bit silly. One the one hand, Johnson and the gang deserve kudos for being so brave. Humanity's End, however, also earns a few demerits for being so bafflingly brazen.

The Video:
HA! I think we established the tech spec value of this particular "preview" screener. Should an actual copy of the DVD be provided for perusal, this section of the review will indeed be updated.

The Audio:
See Video.

The Extras:
See Video and Audio.

Final Thoughts:
It seems really unfair to write this review. Every time Humanity's End thought it was delivering in the "wow" department, the digital representation of same undermined its effectiveness. Even the performances from many in the otherwise hardworking cast seem stunted by the constant fuzzy facets of bland black and white. Still, for what it tries to do, for the laugh out loud lunacy employed, Humanity's End will earn a Recommended rating. Again, this has NOTHING to do with the final product or the present technical limitation. Based on pure imagination alone and what this critic perceived as Neil Johnson's cinematic intent, there is more here to enjoy than complain about. One day, studios will learn the truth about screeners. Like having some idiot spend the entire film texting their buddies from the seat next to you, any interference lessens the overall entertainment experience of a movie. Below-average DV-R's of efforts you want opinions on do neither party any good. Humanity's End may be a terrific film, visually and aurally. As of right now, no one knows.

Want more Gibron Goodness? Come to Bill's TINSEL TORN REBORN Blog (Updated Frequently) and Enjoy! Click Here

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