There isn’t much to “2149: The Aftermath,” another entry in the dreaded, cinema-consuming “YA-sci-fi” genre. What’s here is perfectly, if a tad blandly, realized. It’s just that not enough happens.
Editor turned director and co-writer Benjamin Duffield serves up a new version of the post-apocalyptic dystopia, limited in perspective and scope, but myopic, faintly paranoid and competently acted.
An older man tells us this story in voice over, about the days, nights and years when he life in a “sanctuary pod,” cubicle-sized self-contained apartments where people like him stayed in the same chair all day, eating meals, playing games, sending texts to his mom in a separate pod and working — remote control operating front-end loaders for the mining that produces the minerals needed to make sanctuary pods more efficient.
Darwin (Nick Krause) has been in his pod nine years, since “the greatest war of all” killed most of humanity and made the Earth uninhabitable. Any distractions and a disembodied voice barks “Continue working, CONTINUE WORKING NOW.” It’s not like he can afford to not do the job that keeps his air flowing his meals coming and and push-button supersuit (he can shower inside it and never take it off) operating.
But one distraction jolts him. He sees a dog. That’s not enough to get him out of his chair. But a power outage that starts a verbal countdown of his breathable O2 supply does.
“The purification will go off in 15 minutes…Goodbye, Darwin.”
Capitalism. Can’t beat it. But you can figure out it’s been riding that old trope, “the world isn’t as poisonous as they’ve been saying.”
Darwin stands up for the first time in years, wanders outside, and wouldn’t you know it, finds a “family” living in the woods, beyond the reach of the “police cruiser” drones. Molly Parker is the “mother,” but blonde teen Dara (Juliette Gosselin) takes a special interest in this “dweller.”
Can young love blossom amid the gloom? Who or what might stand in the way?
A clever touch, thanks to thought-to-type commands on his computer, Darwin has forgotten how to speak. The other kids in the family have to mimic a keyboard and interpret his “speech.”
The “police cruisers” look suspiciously like assorted specialty conduit-bending tools, or droid soldiers from the “Star Wars” universe.
The threat is “generic,” the “family” lives and entertains itself in “Little House on the Prairie” no-tech fashion, and the passion is dispassionate. The plot is strictly low-stakes, with the characters’ emotions matching that.
Krause (“White Rabbit,” “The Descendants”) makes a sort of Edward Scissorhands impression, which doesn’t give us enough to connect with. Parker is credible, as always. And the Canadian Gosselin (“Kiss Me Like a Lover”) has a moment or two. Actually, just one.
Credit Duffield for making this dystopia feel labor-exploitation lived-in, gutted and depopulated, and the “pod” is pretty impressive.
But the movie with those settings needed some action, man, or a lot more than this.
MPA Rating: unrated
Cast: Nick Krause, Molly Parker, Juliette Gosselin, Jordyn Negri, Daniel DiVenere, and Cassidy Marlene Jaggard.
Credits: Directed by Benjamin Duffield, script by Benjamin Duffield, Robert Higden. A 4Digital Media release.
Running time: 1:17