The post-apocalyptic film DYSTOPIA: 2013 is an honest, often exciting cinematic effort, with a story that takes place after a mysterious and life-changing cataclysm on earth – or at least the Midwest. Obviously an independent film, a viewer shouldn’t go into the film expecting earth-shattering visual effects or top of the line acting. To enjoy the film, one must accept it as it is. It’s low budget and fun. The viewer should use their imaginations. If you do these things, you will find the film to be a cool and entertaining trip.
The film is directed by Johnno Zee. He definitely has a vision, but due to budget restraints, much of the story must focus on the characters and not on special effects depicting a devastated world. The film is good when the characters are interacting, but less impressive when showing the horror of the world they now find themselves in.
As the film starts, a midwestern guy has a terrible day: He loses both his job and his wife. Can’t much worse than that, right? Wrong. He seems to be a stoic sort of guy, an okay kind of dude. After his depressing day comes to an end and he is going to bed, there is an off-camera explosion. He survives and the scene fades out. When we see him in the next scene, a certain amount of time has transpired since the big bang that changed the world and he is pushing a cart and looking for food and supplies. I think there should have been a larger transition between the off camera explosion and our hero pushing a cart around a landfill looking for anything to utilize in his survival. Basically, it is a subtle transition, but it also is slightly confusing. Perhaps this was part of the director’s vision.
Within a short time, he meets another guy, a kindred spirit, and another survivor hiding from mutant nomads like, presumably, our original character. This second man might have a dubious past, though. Throughout the rest of the film, these two characters will try to bond, but never completely trust each other: The tension between them brings a dynamic tension to the film, even if some of the dialogue between them seems forced and awkward.
Speaking of dialogue and acting, much of the dialogue in the entire film is hard-boiled and terse, making points in a very simplistic and blunt way – as you would expect from people who find themselves living through the aftermath of an Apocalypse. Unfortunately, the acting isn’t too professional, but don’t let that ruin the fun. As I said before, this is a B Movie, and in that spirit, the scenes in which the two new partners banter and argue in a neo- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid-type of way, are fun.
The overall direction, as well as the camera work is professional given the limitations in money and equipment. The editing could be tighter, but the films weakness is basically due to the screenplay and acting. The director and the cameraman have obviously seen a lot of these types of films. The scenes that show the passage of time are effective, and in keeping with the overall post apocalyptic storyline as seen in countless films. Although the film has moments of cliche, it also has enjoyable and fun scenes, including an elderly character that is always offering verbal commentary about their predicaments: Whether he quotes a famous author or a film quote, it is fun and/or poignant. I enjoyed this.
The story is nicely paced, although the end of the film (once the characters are taken prisoner by some masked freaks) seems to plod a little – it also shows the films low budget. There needed to be a more palpable threat to the characters. Semi-punk, semi-Road Warrior evil, mysterious characters appear on motorcycles and haunt our good guys. The editing, camera angles and pacing could have added more kinetic menace to these scenes. Filming the action in long shots, the viewer can tell that the cars and bikes are simply not driving very fast or very maliciously. It doesn’t scare or thrill.
I would have had the main characters walk through more unique and visually interesting landscapes. After awhile, they all tend to look very similar. And the visual effects that show the St. Louis Gateway Arch are okay, but the film could have benefited, given its subject and genre, with a few more establishing shots of a world that has been completely decimated and changed by the Apocalypse.
Some of the film reminded me of ROAD WARRIOR and LOGAN’S RUN.
Within the constraints of the budget, the climactic, “nightmarish” scenes within a factory are effective. We’ve seen scenes like this before, but it works within this movie, because, we still care about the main protagonists! Damn it, we want them to survive and not to end up strangled or tortured! Since the acting is serviceable, but not amazing or riveting throughout the film, this is quite an accomplishment: As an audience, we have looked past the things in the film that didn’t completely work and still care about the well being of the characters. To that extent, the film works and is an enjoyable little adventure.
Visit the DYSTOPIA: 2013 website HERE