Worldbuilding within any narrative media is defined as the process of crafting and constructing an imaginary world. Every book, film, play, or TV show you’ve consumed has worldbuilding to some small degree. If it is meant to be a period piece set in the real world, yet there are unintentional anachronisms, then the visual worldbuilding is a letdown. For stories that take place in a heightened or alternate reality or an entirely fictional landscape, the task of worldbuilding is much more substantial and essential to allow the audience an entry into the world of the story. Monochrome: The Chromism, clumsy, and awkward title aside, fails hard at this task. But, does that mean there is nothing about the film to recommend?
In a black and white world, Isaac (Josh Bangle) is a successful businessman who is preparing an exceptional night for him and his girlfriend, Victoria (Cat Merritt). With the help of his brother Jerry (Ryan Barnes) and the resourceful restaurant employees Isaac is going to propose to Victoria. After getting to the restaurant and ensuring things are more or less prepared, he ventures back to his car to grab the ring. A drive-by shooting occurs, and Isaac is shot.
“…whys and hows of the plan for the virus, of Isaac’s immunity equaling color, and the even more awkward ways in which it spreads are incredibly elusive throughout…”
Victoria goes to visit Isaac at the hospital and is happy to see he is recovering rather well. Though, when Jerry gets there and wishes to see Isaac, he is informed that the hospital has no record of him ever being there. Jerry is confused but then sees his brother… Isaac is colorized. This freaks Jerry out, and he does not know what to do. The government is concerned about the implications of a “hue” (someone is not black and white) in their midst and set about to capture Isaac. However, Isaac gets a letter promising answers and sets out to find the man who wrote it. Will he ever know why he turned to color? Does Jerry come to his senses, or does he help the government track down his brother?
Throughout the film, there are hints that Monochrome: The Chromism is set in a dystopian, totalitarian government society. When Isaac is heading to work before all hell breaks loose, he stops at a zone border. The guard takes his ID and asks about Isaac’s reasoning for going to the downtown zone and how long he’ll be there. Though, how this government operates and what exactly they’re controlling and whom they are trying to weed out is never made clear (more on this in a moment). This is made even more baffling by the shooting that spurs on the crux of the story (to be fair, the particulars of Isaac being targeted do come to light, and things make slightly more sense afterward).
The issue with zone guards is that, as is repeatedly stated throughout, Isaac is the first “hue” of any kind. See, these mad scientists engineered a virus for no apparent reason other than they are evil mad scientists and try it out on Isaac. Thus, the shooting was not all that random. However, he has a natural immunity which made itself known via colorization because reasons the movie cannot be bothered with. The whys and hows of the plan for the virus, of Isaac’s immunity equaling color, and the even more awkward ways in which it spreads are incredibly elusive throughout the entire hour-long film. This is compounded by an absolutely dreadful ending that explains nothing and only serves as painfully obvious sequel-bait.
“Worldbuilding within any narrative media is defined as the process of crafting and constructing an imaginary world.”
The most frustrating part of watching Monochrome: The Chromism (god, I hate that subtitle so much) unfold is that it is a well mounted, expertly acted film. While writer-director Kodi Zene’s worldbuilding is confusing and inadequate, he is an amazing visual stylist. The action throughout the film is, despite the logical gaps in the setup, pulse-pounding and intense. Isaac, after escaping the city, is all bundled up to appear monochrome and winds up at a restaurant. He walks in for a rest and gets into a fight with most of the establishment (because everyone already hates hues, despite him being the first?). The editing between him escaping and the people he is fighting trying to outmaneuver and best him crafts tension and excitement in equal measure.
Plus, while Zene fails at the plotting and setting, he has crafted fascinating characters. This is helped along by a cast that is absolutely to die for. Every actor is doing their level-headed best to make this premise believable while still coming across as wholly relatable and three-dimensional; they all handily succeed. In a small role, Perry Hinson portrays Isaac and Jerry’s dad, and he begs Jerry to take him but leave their mother alone (both are hues now). It is small, but he sells the pleading and hopeless desperation expertly. Everyone in the cast is just as fantastic, with Bangle being a charismatic and commanding screen presence. Thanks to his commitment to his craft, he holds the entire picture together, even as the plot continues to fail him.
Monochrome: The Chromism boasts stellar directing, exciting action scenes, and a simply stunning cast. Sadly, it is all in service of an incomplete story that was not thought through enough. This failure at worldbuilding hurts the film so much because of the fantastical nature of both its setting and plot mechanics (aka hues versus the ordinary black-and-white). Despite being excited to see what Kodi Zene will direct next, especially if someone else writes that project, as he is a great director, I cannot in good conscience recommend this Pleasantville after World War III narrative.
Monochrome: The Chromism (2019) Directed by Kodi Zene. Written by Kodi Zene. Starring Josh Bangle, Cat Merritt, Ryan Barnes, Perry Hinson, Hasan Eddins, David Dittmeier.
3.5 out of 10 Crayons