In the year 2245 the sun is dying and threatens to wipe out all of humanity. Teams of hired mercenaries travel to uncharted planets to collect a rare mineral known as stardust to replenish the fading Sol. After one of these teams’ spaceship crashes on a distant planet they are stalked and hunted by a creature that is essentially a rubber mask version of the Predator sans dreadlocks. Much scenery is chewed. CGI, some good, some bad, splashes all over. Welcome toThe Dawnseeker.
The narrative is incoherent. 16 minutes into the film there’s been one voiceover, one really bad take at the ”St Crispin’s day” speech, and of course, the aforementioned rubber mask. The ship’s computer is suddenly announcing that the reactor section is being isolated and we are flung into a flashback. All without the first actual clue about what’s going on.
The ship crashes, after which the mercs take a prisoner, a human speaking clear English, albeit with a southern accent (on a distant planet ) who has never heard of Earth. He informs them that the creatures stalking them are the eponymous Dawnseekers and are “basically the ultimate goddamn killing machine.” Where’s a Giger alien when you need one?
For an action movie the pace is awfully slow. As with much low budget science fiction, lingering pauses are less dramatic than dull. There’s not enough dialog to establish character and not enough dramatic performance to fill those gaps. Too many drawn out shots of actors responding to something the viewer can’t see results in boredom, confusion, and deep, but active, apathy.
Stellar fusion is a simple process and sprinkling literal stardust won’t catalyze it, but we’re supposed to suspend disbelief. Also, every element can accurately be described as “stardust,” which we learned from Carl Sagan. Science, pfft. Sorry… suspending…
“…basically the ultimate goddamn killing machine…“
There’s an attempt at world-building with galactic federations and interstellar politics between named factions whose provenance and purpose are never revealed, but it all winds up feeling like a table read of the notes from Saturday night’s Sci Fi role-playing game session. 45 minutes in characters are still being introduced. Characters in a firefight casually stroll around like they just woke up.
While visually striking, the film would have benefited from a script. The budget (and there was some) all went into the shiny: visual production value isn’t too bad, with the exception of one laughably dodgy stop-motion animation. Sets, costumes, lighting, camera work are all up to par. That is damning with faint praise: with acting, pacing, dialog, and a story this bad, the movie might actually have been fun if the production value was more amateur. We could laugh with the cast instead of being mortified for them, but alas.
One aspect where the production value falls apart badly is the sound. Dialog is buried in the mix, with too much dynamic range. If you turn down the effects the dialog is so quiet you can’t make out the words. Much can and should be forgiven in indie film, but sound can’t be compromised: the viewer has to hear the dialog.
After 90 minutes trying to determine why this film exists, I’ve got nothing. I took a cheap CGI plasma rifle bullet for you, dear viewer. Learn from my mistake.
The Dawnseeker (2018). Written and directed by Justin Price. Starring Franziska Schissler, Khu, Alexander Kane.
5 out of 10