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First Look Review - SHOCKWAVE DARKSIDE

Atheists and believers come into conflict on a far off moon.


Review by Ren Zelen (@renzelen)

Directed by: Jay Weisman

Starring: Mei Melancon, Bill Sage, Sonequa Martin-Green, Rich Ceraulo, Alexander Cendese


Even with all of its flaws, I would commend Shockwave Darkside as a first feature that attempts to say something in an original way, rather than being yet another bland genre reboot or rehash. The movie shows chutzpah and some good ideas, even if they don’t all entirely work.



You have to give credit to Shockwave Darkside for its heady ambition. The movie is described as “a 10-year labour of love” by writer/director Jay Weisman, who further describes Shockwave as a “call-back to the science fiction that I grew up with – sort of a modern-day interpretation of the character-centric morality tale like The Twilight Zone and even some of the ‘Lost Patrol’ war movies from the '50s.”
Shot in a sandpit in Harwich, Massachusetts, Weisman’s Shockwave Darkside is an independently financed sci-fi space drama - “it’s like Saving Private Ryan on the moon,” Weisman said of his first feature.
The 21st Century twist to Weisman’s tale seems to be that in the far future, the atheist majority (‘the Unlighters’’) of the world drive out and exile religious believers to colonies on the moon. This alas, only succeeds in causing another war, and a combination of military attacks and environmental degradation culminate in a nano-plague that poisons the Earth’s water supply.
The humans on the moon build their outposts over frozen water found in craters, but a fierce fight rages over these limited resources with the atheist ‘Unlighters’ launching from Earth and amassing on the darkside of the moon to prepare for a massive ice-mining operation.
A ship is shot down and five surviving soldiers, cut off behind enemy lines, start a dangerous journey through snipers and minefields to a rescue point, having only a limited amount of oxygen to sustain them. As the oxygen runs out, they fight off attacks and their numbers dwindle. They become suspicious that there may be a traitor in their midst. But then, they accidentally make a revelatory discovery about the moon that might save their lives and those of others.
I should stress that, this is what I personally understood the story to be, because, quite frankly, one of the drawbacks of the movie is that it isn’t made particularly easy to extract more than the gist of the narrative, and I fear that any subtleties were lost on most viewers.
Now, I’m all for some challenging sci-fi that makes the viewer pay attention and think, but to do this one must first ground one’s ideas in the clear framework of a narrative and utilize some engaging characters. The problem here is that none of this is established at the outset – it’s all rather fuzzy. The script is full of invented terms and slang which, when used in moderation can aid with futuristic world building, but here, just takes too long to get used to and unfortunately only serves to obfuscate the story and alienate viewers from the characters.
In the first instance the narrative appears meandering, with an overabundance of voices, computer readouts and rather undifferentiated characters.
I can appreciate what Jay Weisman was trying to do, which was, I think, to create an immersive Sci-Fi film with a complex world of disparate warriors and cultures. By featuring multiple scenes from the heads up display of the characters and machines the idea was to make the viewer feel in the thick of the action and share in the experiences of the soldiers.
The movie tries to get across the complexities of a future world but without any initial clues. Instead, we are expected to discover the backstory over the course of the movie. This is an interesting technique which has been used very successfully in some films, but here it isn’t communicated in any lucid way which might engross or intrigue us.
This unfortunately meant that when we reached the revelation at the denouement, it felt distinctly underwhelming. Instead of a reaction of ‘Oh wow, THAT makes all the difference!’ it was more of a shrug of the shoulders and ‘Well, okay - that’s that then.’
One plus point for the actors is that at least their characters avoid fitting into hackneyed stereotypes and undergo some decent development, which is commendable in any contemporary movie, where so many characters remain underwritten at the expense of CGI flights of fancy. This is possibly why Shockwave Darkside attracted a cast that includes The Walking Dead star Sonequa Martin-Green, Mei Melancon (X-Men: The Last Stand) and Bill Sage (We Are What We Are, American Psycho).
Even with all of its flaws, I would commend Shockwave Darkside as a first feature that attempts to say something in an original way, rather than being yet another bland genre reboot or rehash. The movie shows chutzpah and some good ideas, even if they don’t all entirely work.
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