Petra (Anna Landreth) is a woman being pursued by aliens from the realm known as the Magnate, as she too is an alien who has forgotten her role and assimilated into life on Earth. For whatever reason, it is important to the Magnate that she remember her place and return home, though they make their point by trying to assassinate her and her friend Milla (Kate Gunther), who is also an alien, every chance they get. Throw in Petra’s father, police Lieutenant Willets (Warren Bub), a nosey reporter who conducts interviews and reports stories via her cell phone (Kristin Bellamarie) and Petra’s husband Detective Tomsun (Roman Limonta), and you’ve got a lot of people talking about a lot of random nonsense while Petra’s powers, and memory of Obsidians, Premieres, Regents, Iron Maidens and the Magnate, does or does not return.
Joseph Villapaz’s feature film No One Lives Forever is a ridiculously convoluted sci-fi film that’s narrative ambitions are never realized, either due to the incomprehensibility of the story or the lo-fi look and execution to the film. A story like this might work in a comic book, or a novel, where you can sit down and get into the history of the Iron Maidens, Obsidians, Regents or the Magnate, but as it is presented here, it all blends into gibberish.
For one, the film relies too much on text cards to do expository heavy-lifting early on, and then uses them too much to tie the edit together when there’s little to connect. The use of a black card with white text proclaiming “weeks later,” “days later,” “meanwhile” or the like doesn’t help the flow or pacing but instead gives a comical focus to the narrative’s shortcomings; for example, there’s no reason for many elements to occur weeks apart from each other, because so little seems to happen. It’s a lazy filmmaking device.
And when things do happen, such as visiting with characters on Earth or in another realm, the surroundings look so similar, and the characters so similarly dressed, that you just get confused as to what is taking place where. The only clue, besides the fact people are fighting, that another realm might be involved comes from the characters suddenly all wearing black shirts. At least in the opening the film employs some image alterations to give the impression of being someplace unique. The rest of the film seems to take place in the same few locations, where people either talk to much, or fight too poorly. If you’re trying to sell me on another realm or dimension, give me something more than people just standing around, tossing exposition my way.
Because at the end of the day, the exposition and the story got so convoluted, not only was I having trouble following it, I didn’t care anymore. It just didn’t make any sense, and the execution so poor, that it’s hard to even want to put in that extra effort to try and figure it out. Even the fight choreography was lacking, like it was moving in slow motion. Again, in another medium, like a book, get as complicated as you want because you’ve got more of an opportunity to explore the mythology of the story and flesh out the characters. But here it’s like they’re just throwing exposition and back story at you, whether it makes sense or not.
Can you tell I didn’t enjoy this one? I don’t mind a challenging narrative, or something that makes you think, but this was just impenetrable, and not in a The Master kind of way. And I’m not saying that an epic, or complicated, sci-fi tale can’t be done on the low budget, but this is not how you do it. I do give it points for doing something interesting in the opening visually, and for the brief moments of effects work that make you think that the filmmakers are capable of more than they gave us in the rest of the film, but overall I found the film lacking.
This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.