2067

★★★

I’m not certain a post-apocalyptic sci-fi flick in which Earth grows increasingly less inhabitable, society’s crumbling and people can’t breathe is what we need right now, but “2067,” available in theaters and on VOD Friday, Oct. 2, is here regardless. And in spite of being of bit of a bummer, it’s a nifty albeit flawed genre exercise that makes the most of its meager budget.

Kodi Smit-McPhee stars as Ethan Whyte (I kept thinking of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Calvin Candy and his dessert whenever the character’s surname was shown or uttered). Ethan was orphaned as a child. He’s subsequently taken under the wing of Jude (Ryan Kwanten). The two now work underground doing maintenance on an unstable nuclear reactor in a world ravaged by climate change and deforestation. Oxygen is practically nonexistent with most everyone employing masks and breathing artificial air. Many folks grow sick from not having the real thing – one of them is Ethan’s wife, Xanthe (Sana’a Shaik).

Scientists led by Regina (Deborah Mailman) receive a transmission from 400 years in the future stating, “Send Ethan Whyte.” Apparently, Earth has become habitable again. Ethan must then weigh whether he’s willing to leave his wife behind in order to save her and the rest of the world. He reluctantly agrees and is slingshotted through the space-time continuum. Steampunk grunginess is replaced by lush jungle overgrowth. What initially feels like a sci-fi-tinged “Cast Away” gives way to something more strongly resembling “Hell in the Pacific” when someone else joins Ethan in the future.

I have conflicted feelings about Smit-McPhee as an actor. I think I dug him more as a child performer in films such as “The Road” and “Let Me In.” I may also prefer him in supporting roles as opposed to lead ones like in “Dolemite Is My Name” from last year. He brings a similar energy to “2067” that he brought to “Slow West” a handful of years back – that is being a waifish whiney wimp. In spite of this, he performs admirably enough.

It was nice to see Kwanten again after not having seen him in much of anything since “True Blood” concluded. He’s not as fun here as he was there, but he has some interesting notes to play with which he excels. It’s curious that this is an Australian film, Kwanten is an Australian actor, everyone else employs an Australian accent and Kwanten opts for an American accent.

Shaik and Mailman aren’t given nearly as much to do as their male counterparts. Shaik’s Xanthe serves more as motivation than as a fully fleshed out character. The thrust of Mailman’s performance is derived primarily through the silver wig she employs.

“2067” is the screenwriting and directorial debut of special effects artist Seth Larney. Its look is more impressive than its words, but it’s a promising start to what could be a fruitful career. I’m certainly interested in seeing whatever Larney does next. Dialogue and themes are somewhat circuitously repetitive rendering the whole enterprise draggy. The sets are well appointed; the effects impressive. With as visually striking as “2067” is, I’m somewhat surprised it didn’t resonate with me more deeply. Perhaps it’s too emo? Perhaps I’m struggling with time travel fatigue after having watched “Tenet” and all three of the “Bill & Ted” movies within the last month? Either way, “2067” is a trip worth taking – it may just behoove you to do so sometime in the future … hopefully a brighter one.

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