Thursday, October 23, 2014

More Civil War Than Science Fiction, 10,000 Days Struggles To Land!

The Good: Decent direction, Moments of concept
The Bad: Ridiculous exposition moments, Tries to service too many characters in a short time
The Basics: Another futuristic survival story, 10,000 Days puts two families of survivors at one another’s throats when one discovers a potential resource that could allow them to survive longer.

With the somewhat surprising success of the indie science fiction thriller Snowpiercer (reviewed here!) earlier this year, it is no surprise that studios and distributors are opening up to creating limited release science fiction projects. As the mainstream theatergoers look toward the forthcoming Interstellar, indie cinema viewers will have choices, the most notable of which might be 10,000 Days. 10,000 Days is the creation of writer-director Eric Small and, as it turns out, the film is based upon a digital online television series that Small produced a few years back. It is well worth noting that I have not seen the digital episodes of 10,000 Days; this, then, is a review of the film 10,000 Days.

10,000 Days is not going to be a major cinematic release and not just because the biggest star power the movie has driving it comes from John Schneider; the film has a fairly large cast for a film that is barely over an hour and a half long. The result is a number of plotlines and characters who are introduced, but not developed in a satisfactory or truly interesting way. 10,000 Days actually feels like the first chapter of a larger cinematic story and the film’s resolution is hardly as conceptually complex as the film’s set-up.

Twenty-seven years after Comet 23 devastated Earth, plunging it into a new ice age, the survivors in the Rocky Mountains are split into two clans. The Becks and Farnwell are survivors who are fighting over an old observatory (which survived the many tremors, ice and conflict between the two clans), though the Becks – led by Lucas – currently control it. When a boy arrives near the observatory, it is the women in the Beck clan who take pity on him and take him in so he may survive, while William and Lucas Beck explore the nearby faultline created when the boy showed up. In the crevice, William and Lucas find a downed plane, frozen sometime after the comet hit and buried under hundreds of feet of ice. David Ruiz theorizes that the plane might be Air Force One and there might be survivors and supplies inside.

As Remy Farnwell marshals his clan to leave the igloos and retake the observatory, the Becks explore the downed plane. Finding everyone aboard long dead and learning about the crash from the laptop they recover, the Becks find themselves divided. While the men want to defend the observatory, the women at the observatory seem eager to strike a peaceful settlement with the Farnwells. With Remy’s forces moving in, the Becks buckle down and prepare for the attack, while trying to learn more about the boy they took in.

10,000 Days actually has quite a bit going for it. I am not into special effects as a serious qualifier for movie quality, but 10,000 Days should get some credit as an indie film that looks and feels like a major studio work (lack of recognizable actors notwithstanding). 10,000 Days is not like Snow Queen (reviewed here!); it looks and feels like it belongs in theaters and it uses the scope of the world it presents well. Director Eric Small has a decent visual sense and the frozen remnant of Earth he presents in 10,000 Days looks realistic.

Moreover, Small tries to create a distinctive, if occasionally nonsensical future world. The Becks utilize blood lanterns, which are refilled by the younger survivors. Any technology that depends upon human body fluids in a world with a seriously diminished population is not a reasonable or realistic technological progression. In a similar way, the loud, traditional alarm at the observatory makes little sense in a world as tectonically unstable as an ice world; anything where soundwaves might disrupt the environment seems like it should have been disconnected immediately upon taking residence.

10,000 Days is an ambitious premise, though that is where the film falls down. Testosterone driven, 10,000 Days features multiple generations of Becks who illustrate implicitly that life has gone on for the Becks; they continue to have relationships and reproduce. So, as dire as the post-apocalyptic future seems, the Becks have actually been getting along fairly well. But, relationships are strained and the quality of mercy comes up among the Becks in a way that seems like it is laying the groundwork for bigger character moments than the movie possesses. The young women in the Beck clan and the older generation of women in the Farnwell clan seem ready for peace and have the attitude that there is enough space and enough room for both clans to get along with one another. The film is preoccupied with developing the plot instead of satisfactorily following-up on the character conflicts that are brewing between Remy’s desire for battle and the women in the Beck’s compound’s willingness to share resources with the orphaned boy.

The glossed over moments of character development in 10,000 Days rob the performers of big moments to play with their full range. John Schneider plays the patriarch of the Beck clan well, as does Peter Wingfield, who makes Remy pop. The other performers are given such generic characters to play that they come across flat or amateurish in their affects.

Ultimately, 10,000 Days is a promising start that is executed and pays off in a fashion that underwhelms instead of wows. Even so, the film is worth checking out.

For other indie films, please check out my reviews of:
The Snow Queen
The Dragons Of Camelot


Check out how this film stacks up against others I have reviewed by visiting my Film Review Index Page where the film reviews are organized from best to worst!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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