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By Lawrence Wang | February 25, 2009

We currently live in a world filled with economic turmoil, environmental concerns, social unrest, and wealthy kids raised on healthy doses of Xbox — so trying to imagine our beautiful plant in a post-apocalyptic state 20 years from now is not that hard a feat. Films about trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world are nothing new (“Mad Max,” “I am Legend,” “Children of Men”) but when done well, they can always put butts in seats. Unfortunately for “20 Years After” it doesn’t have the luxury of Will Smith being in the cast or the screenwriting gusto to engage an audience.

Azura Skye (“28 Days”) stars as Sarah, a young woman following in the footsteps of Jamie Lynn Spears, who is pregnant with the first child to be born in 15 years (I guess the bombs that were dropped must have left all the guys with no ammo). She like many others now lives in fear after plagues ran their course and the world population problem became null and void. But of course when the world is cloaked by darkness — there is always a light to help guide us out. At least in the movies. That light comes in the form of a lone voice on the radio by the name of Michael, played by Joshua Leonard (when you see him, you will say to yourself, “Where have I seen this guy before?” and then you will remember and say, “Oh yeah — The Blair Witch Project!”). Michael plays “Pump Up the Volume” and fills the airways with messages of hope and music he finds in the pockets of dead people — hoping to provide comfort to the people that remain.

Threatened by a drought and after a visit by a mystical guest played by Reg E. Cathey (“The Wire”) — Sarah decides to leave the basement she has been hiding out in and venture out into the big bad world where big bad people want her baby since they are more rare in the future than Cabbage Patch Dolls were back in 1982. That is when Sarah meets Michael in “caveland” and other stereotypical survivors (ie. “the guy who is really good with tools and fixes cars,” “the quiet but caring guy,” and so on) and they embark on a journey and shoot the bad guys until Sarah can deliver her baby and inspire the world!

The acting in this film is good. The chemistry between the actors in this film is good. The cover of the DVD is good. The film however… Not-so-good. “20 Years After” is shot beautifully with great dramatic lighting in the cave scenes and set pieces and effects that are up to par with some of Hollywood’s best — but the film walks and doesn’t run. The pacing is painfully slow and draws attention to the fact that you are not watching anything particularly fresh and the stakes are not high enough for you to actually care about anything going on in the film.

Again, I love the cinematography and I love how there is a natural ease to the performances, but the film is just flat out no fun and has zero urgency. The tone and mood are great, but without a purpose to everything, that is like popcorn without butter — good, but not delicious.

Fans of the post-apocalyptic sci-fi/thriller genre may get a little kick out of “20 Years After” because it does have its moments, but all-in-all general audiences will probably find this 95 minute film a little too long and a little too pointless.

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