By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ***1/2 out of *****.
Much in line with Ridley Scott’s vastly underappreciated Prometheus (2012) and Alien: Covenant (2017), writer-director Justin Price’s Alien: Reign of Man (2017) is cerebral, ambitious science-fiction. Though bound by the iconic series Scott started with Alien (1979) in name only, there is a sharp focus on characterization, origin and exposition prevalent in Price and Scott’s aforesaid efforts. Such sharpens the many quiet moments of awe, planetary exploration and seamlessly woven elements of fear utilized in these endeavors. There is also a gradual and fluent pace to these presentations. Such makes each respective venture much more than a collection of routine space scares. A remarkable eye for masterfully designed shuttle interiors as well as a beautifully constructed atmosphere of impending dread also uplifts these exertions.
Yet, Price’s feature is distinctly its own endeavor. Chronicling a group of interstellar travelers who are tasked with triggering a mechanism which will bring Earth back to a time before its decline, the account is naturally intriguing. The marvelous, claustrophobic direction and pleasantly inquisitive scripting from Price make this low-budget narrative evermore engaging. This stellar handling of the material extends to the backstory of our lead, Zan (in a solid turn from co-producer Khu). Such bits are potently glimpsed in dream-like flashbacks throughout the endeavor. The inclusion of this element augments the sense of urgency and intimacy coursing through the proceedings. It also makes the wonderfully understated finale dramatically tense and satisfying. Correspondingly, this is a terrific bookend to a picture that grips audiences with its personal touch, elegiac essence, scope and inventiveness immediately. The commencing credits sequence is where this latter-addressed quality is especially evident.
This lean, effective and efficient eighty-five-minute affair, distributed through Uncork’d Entertainment, has a heavy reliance on effects. Luckily, they are largely impressive. Still, the animation of the multi-eyed entities spied in the creative cover art is questionable. Given that the viewing of these creatures is primarily reserved for a few quick moments during the opening and concluding acts, this isn’t as much of a problem as it could be.
Though the delivery of the otherwise fascinating dialogue is underwhelming at times, Price’s labor still sports solid performances all-around. Torrei Hart as Viceroy, Deanna Grace Congo as Constance and Cameron White as Reed provide solid proof of such a statement with their robust enactments. This is even if Price doesn’t focus on what drives them from a human level as much as he does with Zan. Further helping matters is the rousing, highly cinematic music from Julian Beeston.
In turn, Price has assembled a superior B-movie. Some of the motions of the film’s arc of events are routine in hindsight. Regardless, the photoplay is so well-made, thoughtful and broodingly tense that such criticisms barely register. It is also a lot of fun. Because of this. Price’s latest triumphs from both a technical and chronicle-oriented standpoint. Price’s work may not be as groundbreaking as Scott’s similar in moniker franchise. Regardless, it is a small wonder unto itself; a successful on-screen persona-minded action-thriller that pulsates with real heart.
Alien: Reign of Man will be available on Video on Demand on August 1st, 2017. It will be released on DVD November 14th, 2017.