Movie Review: Colonists | Diversions

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From the 1970s there was a profound change in science fiction cinema. More and more filmmakers have avoided the “big, big, beautiful tomorrow” prophesied in the Richard and Robert Sherman song written for Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress. Instead of a Jetsons space-age future dominated by convoluted robotic contraptions, flying cars, holograms, and cities in the stratosphere, sci-fi has turned to darker themes in dystopian societies. future. Some of these films featured distant post-apocalyptic storylines while others hinted at disasters that awaited civilization in the decades to come.

These themes certainly existed in science fiction at the turn of the 20th century, but the 1970s seemed like the decade when they began to overshadow optimistic and uplifting visions of the future. The film “Fahrenheit 451”, based on the 1953 novel by Ray Bradbury, hit screens in 1966 and was not followed until two years later by “Planet of the Apes”, the first film in the original franchise. of five films which ended with “The Battle for the Planet of the Apes” in 1973. In 1971, moviegoers were treated to the depressing and disturbing future depicted in the films “A Clockwork Orange,” “The Omega Man “and” THX 1138 “. Other dystopian films of this decade include” Soylent Green “,” A Boy and His Dog “,” Zardoz “,” Death Race 2000 “,” Logan’s Run “and” Mad Max “.

My point: Desperation is by no means a new theme in science fiction. The new movie “Settlers” appears to go the extra mile to paint a particularly grim scenario not only for the colonization of the solar system, but also for the continuation of the human race. “Settlers” was released on July 23 by IFC Midnight and can be rented through various streaming services such as Amazon Prime, Vudu, AppleTV, and GooglePlay.

Directed by Wyatt Rockefeller, “Settlers” combines science fiction with classic Western elements to tackle multiple contemporary issues in an uplifting grim narrative that contrasts ingenuity and determination with desperation and futility. The story takes place in a remote farmhouse set in a predominantly inhospitable Martian landscape. At the start of the film, a family occupies the remote outpost: Reza (Jonny Lee Miller), the father, and Ilsa (Sofia Boutella) tend the cattle and vegetables while raising their daughter Remmy (Brooklynn Prince). The script provides subtle clues as to how these three ended up in this place without going into specifics. The viewer is only told that Earth is not what it once was and that Reza – before he left – had never seen a whale, owl or elephant. From their brief discussion of their old home, the viewer can deduce that an ecological collapse has occurred.

If you’re planning on watching the movie, you might want to put this review aside: Discussing “Settlers” beyond this point involves some important plot points that I would consider spoilers.

Reza regards the Martian farm as his salvation. But refugees face complications. Their occupation of the complex is contested by a group of foreigners. When Reza refuses to move his family, the struggle escalates into violence and bloodshed.

The outcome of this crisis ultimately leaves only two survivors and sets up the conflict that will play out over the rest of the film. The story picks up several years later with Remmy, now a young woman (played by Nell Tiger Free), cohabiting with Jerry, the only surviving member of the group who attempted to force the refugees off the farm. Jerry’s character is initially inconsistent: Rockefeller’s script gives him enough history to make his claim to the outpost somewhat legitimate. Like Reza, he sees a greater purpose in ensuring their continued existence – or at least, he gives lip service to the survival of the human race. There is, however, a much smarter aspect of his motivation. Presented as a utility that will do what needs to be done, it makes decisions based solely on what it perceives to be necessary. Needless to say, that means he doesn’t take Remmy independence into consideration. He sees himself as potentially responsible for the rebirth of the species. So, yes, in a sense, “Settlers” evokes the much-maligned and overused science fiction plot of Adam and Eve, albeit with a punitive twist. As usual, the idea that Jerry and Remmy might somehow repopulate the species completely ignores the legitimate genetics of the population – but there’s no need to revisit the math in this case since Rockefeller’s script makes this a moot point.

What’s important here is that Jerry is trying to use survivor logic to justify the rape. It doesn’t work well for him.

“Settlers” leaves the viewer wondering about the perseverance of optimism in a world that is spiraling out of control. It tackles several complex themes that can be linked in daily headlines, from the mistreatment of refugees to the appalling pervasiveness of women facing sexual violence. It also provides a microcosm of society, highlighting our growing inability to communicate effectively, compromise, and work for the common good.

“At the end of the day, it’s Remmy’s story,” Rockefeller said in the film’s production notes. “It’s this girl’s coming of age, and her discovery of independence. Indeed, the chapters of the story are pillar after pillar – pillars on which it depends – crumble and it has to look within. Not just for the strength to keep going, but ultimately for the strength to do the one thing they never thought they could. It’s the risk of a single life that sends Remmy out. It is ultimately the backbone of the film. This is the girl who grows up and takes matters into her own hands.

The viewer will no doubt sympathize with Remmy and applaud his strength, but it ultimately feels like a hollow triumph. The ending does not guarantee anything, leaving the story of the young woman incomplete. Its ambiguity forced me to revisit all the points in history where discourse and diplomacy could have led these characters on different paths. Perhaps that was one of Rockefeller’s goals: to make the viewer understand that members of a society must work together on an equal basis in order to survive and thrive.

An ode to misguided intentions and adult stubbornness, “Settlers” is a disturbing representation of human nature in crisis mode. Despite its pessimistic outlook and oppressive tone, the film resonates with strong emotions: grief, betrayal, indignation, endurance and courage. Thanks to a discreet narration and exceptional performances, he offers a contemplative and avant-garde science fiction, at the same time provocative and introspective. Focusing on human drama rather than spaceships and laser guns, “Settlers” may not appeal to all sci-fi fans, but it delivers in terms of storytelling, stark visuals, and important themes.


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