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Ben Austwick [Film Festival 05.03.09] movie review scifi action



Year: 2009
Directors: Christian Viel
Writers: Christian Viel & John Fallon
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Ben Austwick
Rating: 2 out of 10

I thought we'd moved on. I thought the stereotypical view of science fiction we so rightly rail against, that of the adolescent, unquestioningly simple world of simpering women, macho men, war without consequence and outer space as a juvenile playground was firmly assigned to the dustbin of cultural history. But no, it's apparently still alive and kicking, dressed up in the postmodern excuse of irony with nothing but the director's word to differentiate it from the rubbish of the bad old days.


In a Q&A after the Sci-Fi London Festival's world premier of Recon 2023 director Christian Viel made a big show of his film's tongue-in-cheek credentials. He was brought up on comic books and B-movies and wanted to recreate that time in a fun, low-budget film. It's one that takes its cue from Starship Troopers – a true postmodern great – starting with a group of intergalactic soldiers on a spaceship, who then land on a desert planet and shoot at stuff while some glamorous space people talk about other stuff back on the spaceship before the whole thing just ends, really abruptly and with no explanation.

I'm sure that somewhere in the endless lines of boring dialogue copied from Space Cliches 101 there is a storyline of sorts, but I just zoned out. It's lost in a yawn-inducing idiotic babble that frequently tips over into the offensive. A handful of of stereotypical ball-breaking female soldiers do nothing to counter a vicious misogynist streak that sexualises every female character, and climaxes in a squirm-inducing sexual murder that could be interesting in a more intelligent film, but in this case is context-free and downright creepy. To be fair the male characters don't fair much better, divided into macho killers with preposterous sex drives and sexually inexperienced expendable geeks, but there's no doubt who comes off worse – the women.

The gratuitous female nudity that peppers Recon 2023 was explained away by Viel in the Q&A session as a prerequisite of his distributor, to which I'd say: get another distributor. There are so many well-made exploitation movies out there that turn a profit that this excuse – which is what it is, an excuse – just doesn't cut it. The word “lazy” springs to mind.

And if you think that's a harsh word to use, just wait until you hear what's in store in Recon 2023's sequel – it's basically going to be made from the off-cuts of this movie, which amount to enough to make another instalment.

From reading the above, I wouldn't be surprised if you think: hang on, this sounds like a fun, stupid exploitation movie that doesn't take itself too seriously, and maybe even pokes fun at the genre in a roundabout way. This is certainly what Viel wants you to think, but there are a number of factors that do away with this notion unequivocally. For a start it isn't funny, the humour no more advanced than the flat, sexist one-liners of the films it supposedly lampoons, jokes which are furthermore often repeated lest you miss them the first time around. Secondly, the crucial element of satire is missing from a flabby, indecipherable storyline which amounts to: shoot stuff and win. And there is nothing to undermine the gender stereotypes it presents us with, the big hard men overpowering all.

All Recon 2023 does is rewrite the rubbish of the past. We only have the director's word to tell us it is tongue-in-cheek. It does not come across in the film.

Are there any positives? Gunfights with a giant crab and a mutant chicken could be funny I suppose if they weren't so predictable, and one must give a nod to Viel's blind chutzpah in attempting to create a big budget feel in such a low budget movie, even if he does fail miserably. But for anyone who loves science fiction, low-budget exploitation cinema, the wonderful creativity that comes out of it and is so often ignored by mainstream criticism, Recon 2023 is just a big kick in the teeth and a begrudging acceptance that sometimes those guys have a point.

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Christian Viel (8 years ago) Reply

Dear Ben,

Sorry you did not like the film. To each his own. I respect any opinion, good or bad. However, I would like to point out the following element of your article:

"
And if you think that's a harsh word to use, just wait until you hear what's in store in Recon 2023's sequel – it's basically going to be made from the off-cuts of this movie, which amount to enough to make another instalment." as being blatantly wrong. What I said at the Q & A was that we ended up with too much material, hence we decided to remove them and include them in a new script, to which we added new material.

Regardless of your feelings about the film, reporting accurately should be the least that should be expected. I guess low standards are not only to be found in my B-movie land... :-)

Take care.

Christian Viel

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Hot Fuzz (8 years ago) Reply

I think there's always room for Pulp elements in space opera but agree that it's all about execution and intent. I'd like to see Viel cap the Recon films at three and think about other projects before they become too stale.

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Ben Austwick (8 years ago) Reply

Correction noted Viel I do apologise, I forgot my sound recorder so was working from memory.

And thanks for being so gracious.

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Adam Gilbert (8 years ago) Reply

Well i loved the first one and hope to get my hands on this soon. I feel christian is a great director and if his film samhain hadent been cut so badly he would be a cult name by now.

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tomas (8 years ago) Reply

this is the worst fucking movie i have ever seen!!!!!!!
they problaly spend like 20 dollars making this movie. how does this movie dare call it self a movie!!! i mean it was made in 2009 the digital editing is fucking useless shit!!!!!!!!the giant crab is teribly made, its so bad that like its not explainable!!!! i fucking hated this movie!!!!!!!!!! I rather watch a 24 hour marathon of barney with my eyes taped open then to watch ten minutes of this movie. And after the fail of this movie theire making a sequel!?!?!?!?!?! What the fuck!!!!!!!!!!!!


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