I’m a bit of a sci-fi buff. From Stargate to Alien to Little Shop of Horrors, I’m a fan of the genre and all it’s strange, fascinating iterations. Despite this–sadly–I don’t know if I can say I love Alien: Reign of Man. In its entire runtime, I couldn’t exactly tell you what was going on and why I should even care about it.
But I’ll do my best.
There’s some talk of a zombifying disease called Terminus, tons of references to the impending downfall of Earth, some talk about a shadow government called The Council and a group of soldiers immune to Terminus called The Eternals. The Eternals have been sent to some planet, Demo, to investigate a spire? That holds some kind of key that can be used on a spire on Earth? Lots of talk about dark matter? And a cure for Terminus? Earth is dying? Beuller? With all these things going on, Reign of Man is kind of like that gumbo your not-so-favorite aunt makes every Christmas: it has great elements, but it doesn’t really come together the way it should.
“…the film feels like a series of shorts stitched together to become one large, drafty quilt of lukewarm sci-fi.”
Like said gumbo, the core of the issue with Reign of Man is that it employs the best and worst of things at the same damn time. In its best moments, the film is a killer Tumblr photo set. From inventive set and art direction–with so little they went a long way– to shot choice, the film is striking in its presentation. At the very least, you can feel that you’re in another world watching this film. It is, as the kids call it, a mood.
Sadly, the story and supporting structures don’t do this particular mood justice. From editing to actor chemistry, the film feels like a series of shorts and singular ideas stitched together to become one large, drafty quilt of sci-fi. Which admittedly isn’t unique to just Reign of Man. Alien: Covenant and Prometheus were beautiful, ponderous films that had little coherency or common-sense infused in them. That aside, Reign of Man lacks the primary building blocks to elevate it from a cool idea to a cool movie. With such a lack of cohesion and general space for believability–seriously, there are points where actors seem to be saying lines at each other, versus conversing–Reign of Man falls flat where it didn’t need to.
“…this facsimile of its larger budget cousins may be its greatest accomplishment.”
Perhaps a better film exists somewhere in there. Maybe if the film was re-cut. Or if lines were run better or more organically. Or maybe if the script itself wasn’t a collection of expositional monologues and throwaway dialogue. Alas, it’s too late to go back. As Drake once said, you ask forgiveness, not permission, when you’ve got a dream. And that’s just too bad in Reign of Man’s case, because there’s plenty to be sorry for.
Or maybe not.
If we’re being fair, this facsimile of larger budget scifi movies may be its greatest accomplishment. Much like the flicks it’s riffing off of, Reign of Man is an interesting installment to sci-fi on the surface that lacks any coherent substance as you dig into its runtime. And if it’s lucky, you’ll probably nab it and Alien: Covenant on your next trip to Target. If we’re being totally honest, that’s basically mission accomplished when it comes to this particular side of the movie bin.
Alien: Reign of Man (2017) Written and directed by Justin Price, Stars Khu, Torrei Hart, Deanna Grace Congo.
1.5 out of 5 dark matter thingies