Wednesday, July 8, 2015

So Beyond The Bad: Death Machine: The Fall Of London Is Unwatchable!

The Good: Moments of special effects, Moments when the acting is not terrible
The Bad: Terrible plot, Listless acting, Dull characters, Decidedly mixed special effects, Awful writing
The Basics: Death Machine: The Fall Of London is terrible.

Whenever Hollywood makes a blockbuster, especially as part of a franchise, it seems the indie movie circuit responds. When the remake of Robocop (reviewed here!) as produced, it was predeced to theaters by the low-budget Android Cop (reviewed here!). In a similar fashion, with Terminator Genisys (reviewed here!) hitting theaters, Death Machine: The Fall Of London seems to be trying to glom onto whatever market the Terminator franchise might have. The distribution for Death Machine: The Fall Of London remains unclear; it is doubtful that the indie film will actually ever reach theaters - its quality seems to make it a likely candidate to be sold at gas station DVD racks (for its first run).

I've never been one to think it is chic to attack indie films and I try to balance my reviews of the earnest attempts by independent filmmakers working within their means by returning to the formula I have for my numerical evaluation of a movie. Still, there are some films where the net result is just so bad, one cannot justify trying to up-rate it. Death Machine: The Fall Of London is one such film.

Opening in the 25th Century where humankind is split into two groups - pure humans and "homo superior" which is an enhanced, cybernetic version of humanity that inorganically modifies what we would recognize as humans with artificial devices and weaponry - the enhanced Erebus-7 warrior is dispatched to kill Achilles. Achilles flees in his ship and opens a time vortex to modern times. Achilles is a carrier of a disease that has the potential to destroy the Erebus and when his ship arrives in England in our time, it is witnessed by Byron Kennedy and his girlfriend, Cassie. They hop out of their car and run a ridiculous distance to the crash site where they encounter Achilles. The pair takes Achilles to Cassie's veterinary technician friend, who kicks him out when he kisses her.

Erebus-7 arrives in the UK where he kills a random gunman and then uses his massive personal cannon to vaporize a section of London. While Cassie and Byron try to figure out how to exploit the knowledge Achilles has about the future, Achilles problematically tries to proposition Cassie and is plagued by visions of the horrible future. Erebus-7 starts hunting Achilles and randomly destroying larger chunks of London. Achilles tries to counterattack and ultimately he ends up going back to the future to make out with a woman who is also infected with the disease that can bring down to Erebus.

Death Machine: The Fall Of London is one of those films where form definitely influences function. While director Neil Johnson makes the passage of time fairly clear by cards within the movie that inform the viewer of time and place, he does not make it clear for much of the movie what is a vision of Achilles's vs. what is happening in the present. This is a problem for Johnson both as a writer and a director and, truth be told, there might be clues within the film that I missed, but given how excrutiating it was to watch Death Machine: The Fall Of London once, it is not worth going back through a second time to see what I missed.

Take, for example, the first bombing on London. In one scene, Erebus-7 launches a futuristic weapon which vaporizes a decent chunk of London. That scene is immediately followed by scenes in which Byron and Cassie leisurely return home and eventually turn on the news where Achilles (not the two humans native to that time) learn of London's destruction. The trio then goes out for a meal and the town in which they live (Morey?) has people out and about, nonplussed. I'm not one who makes a lot of callbacks to the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States and I recognize that Britain is different than the U.S. But . . . on September 11, the phones rang off the hook and living in Upstate New York, more than 300 miles from the City, the streets were bare. My point here is that what instantly struck me as way, way off in Death Machine: The Fall Of London was that London is attacked and it takes a long time for the primary characters to find out about it and they - and apparently most of the rest of the UK - goes on about their day like it's not a big deal. The streets are not clogged with people fleeing London, the local cafes are not abandoned because people are cautiously staying home because they don't want to risk being part of the next conflageration. When Erebus-7 launches three more bombs on London (fire engulfs Big Ben, though the special effects are not sophisticated enough to actually show it getting blown away), the news report informs viewers that a provisional government has been set up in Westminister. A quick Google search informed me (the ignorant American) that Westminister is in Central London, which begs the question: what kind of government is so stupid as to set up a provisional government in the place that was just bombed out of existence?!

Turning to elements other than glaring plot holes, one is left with acting and character to consider. The acting is almost universally stiff. When the robotic character, in this case Erebus-7 played by Richard O'Bryan, is giving the most emotionally honest performance, there are serious problems with a film. Another big problem is the casting. Amy Pemberton's Cassie and Helen Soraya's Dedra are cast with such similar looks and are shot and perform so similarly that they are virtually indistinguishable from one another for much of the film. Pemberton's advantage is that her cheekbones are reminiscent of Laura Vandervoort, so they could be differentiated with enough attention.

As for character, none of the characters are particularly likable or distinct. Achilles speaks with a "futuristic" dialect, which is stiff and has words out of order reminiscent of Yoda. The rest of the characters fail to talk like real people and are hampered by performances that seem organic. Watching Death Machine: The Fall Of London, I was aware with almost every line of dialogue that I was watching actors delivering lines. Death Machine: The Fall Of London is one of those films where, if a viewer were to play a drinking game where everyone had to sip when characters eyelines were not matching or their guns were not actually pointing in the direction that would hit their target, the viewer would find themself drunk and then unconscious within the first half hour of the film.

Neil Johnson has a pretty extensive IMDB page full of indie science fiction films he has directed and/or written. Hopefully they are better than Death Machine: The Fall Of London.

For other indie films, please check out my reviews of:
Some Velvet Morning
The Snow Queen
Assisted Fishing


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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