The Movie Waffler New Release Review - ARCADIAN | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - ARCADIAN

Arcadian review
A father and his sons battle night-dwelling creatures in a post-apocalyptic future.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Benjamin Brewer

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Jaeden Martell, Maxwell Jenkins, Sadie Soverall

Arcadian poster

For most of the past two decades we've known what to expect from Nicolas Cage. He's delivered a series of over-the-top performances that suggest no director can rein him in, if they would even want to. But in the past couple of years he's reinvented himself, dialling down his trademark Cageness to remind us just what a good actor he really is in the likes of Pig and Dream Scenario. His role in sci-fi thriller Arcadian might be his quietest yet, given how he spends most of the movie literally unconscious. Even in Willy's Wonderland, in which he played a mute, he managed to ham it up more than here. It's a shame, as Arcadian is so dry it could use some of Cage's signature theatrics to bring it to life.

Arcadian review

The film takes place 15 years after an apocalyptic event that saw most of humanity wiped out by monsters. Liberally cribbing from Richard Matheson, said creatures only come out at night and so the few human survivors get on with their lives during the day and retreat to the safety of fortified homes at dusk. Cage's Paul lives with his teenage sons Joseph (Jaeden Martell) and Thomas (Maxwell Jenkins) in a cottage surrounded by a few other farms in a small community that has managed to eke out something approaching normality. Paul's motto - "Are we not men?" - suggests a connection with HG Wells' 'The Island of Lost Souls' (or perhaps DEVO?) that never materialises. Disappointingly, the monsters are not the human-animal hybrid products of a mad scientist.

After managing to get through 15 years unscathed, everything goes to shit thanks to the horniness of a teenage boy. Infatuated with neighbouring teen Charlotte (Sadie Soverall), Thomas loses track of time and fails to return home before darkness falls. Paul heads out to find his son, leaving Joseph to defend their home. When the curious Joseph traps one of the monsters in his family's living room, it sets off a chain of events that sees the monsters up their game, leaving the humans fighting for their lives.

Arcadian review

With Cage's Paul suffering a wound early on, the film centres on its three teenage leads and leans heavily into YA territory. As such, the film's family friendly trappings mean we're denied the sort of gory monster on human action horror fans will be hoping for. When the monsters attack the camera cuts away just before things get messy, rendering their rampage underwhelming once it finally arrives after a full hour of rather uninspired plot and character development. The movie spends so much time developing its three teenage leads that you might wonder if it was originally written as a pilot for a TV series. Despite so much investment, there's nothing remarkable about any of the characters here. They're just another group of stock YA teens.

First time director Benjamin Brewer comes from a VFX background, and he has put some thought into his film's monster antagonists. He keeps them in the shadows just enough to obscure the limitations of fashioning such CG creations on a limited budget, but they do somewhat resemble the Skeksis of The Dark Crystal with their birdlike appearance. A nice touch sees them slam their jaws open and shut at a rapid pace as they prepare to engulf their victims in acidic goo, but as the PG-rating denies us the results of such a tactic, it's all moot. In what looks like a nod to the Critters franchise, the creatures roll themselves into giant balls when they need to move quickly.

Arcadian review

If Arcadian were a TV pilot it would be a perfectly serviceable set-up for a world to explore over several episodes. But as a movie it just doesn't get into the meat of its story quickly enough. Spending a full two thirds of its 90 minute running time fleshing out its characters is simply a waste of precious time for what is ultimately a rather unoriginal creature feature.

Arcadian is in UK/ROI cinemas from June 14th.

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