'2067': Film Review

RLJE Films
A sci-fi misfire.

Kodi Smit-McPhee plays a reluctant time-traveler in Seth Larney's save-the-world picture.

Rarely have sci-fi/fantasy flicks embraced the "chosen one" trope as enthusiastically as Seth Larney's 2067, in which a world on the brink of extinction invests every ounce of hope in a time-machine experiment, and, once it's running, a message from the future comes back: "Send Ethan Whyte."

And so a nobody who fixes power plants for a living becomes humanity's hope in this clunky sci-fictioner, which has a couple of interesting ideas up its sleeve but doesn't know how to reveal them. A more skillful filmmaker could have made this ride less jarring, but as it is, the rushed nature of its action and emotional beats makes 2067 feel like a story that needs the breathing room of a limited-run TV series or a novel, not a feature.

Kodi Smit-McPhee (Dark Phoenix) plays young Ethan, who lives in the last extant city on an Earth that's busy living up to enviro-activists' most pessimistic predictions: The last tree was logged years ago, natural disasters destroyed nearly everything, and all the oxygen ran out. Today, a company called Chronicorp makes synthetic oxygen, but most people can't afford enough of it, and some, like Ethan's wife Xanthe (Sana'a Shaik), have "The Sickness," which seems to make their bodies slowly reject the manufactured air.

Out of nowhere, Ethan is summoned to the offices of Chronicorp, where company exec Regina Jackson (Deborah Mailman) announces, "you could save all of us." She shows him the time machine — it turns out, Ethan's dad built it, before killing himself long ago. It's only partly functional, though, and if Ethan ventures 407 years into the future (the assumption being that whoever's still left alive will know how our present-tense losers can fix the planet) there's no guarantee he'll be able to return. Cue a very rote reluctant-hero scene, in which Ethan has to be talked into the mission by his lifelong buddy Jude (Ryan Kwanten).

When he finally says yes, Ethan is outfitted with a nifty space suit and an AI gizmo named Archie. But immediately after landing in 2474, where he sees a world transformed into a verdant jungle with no humans to be found, he nearly gets himself killed. Inexplicably, Jackson's rescue effort sends not a scientist or soldier to save Ethan, but Jude.

That choice turns out not to be so inexplicable, but like some other confusing events — like the skeleton Ethan finds that appears to be his own murdered remains — the movie rolls with it in an unsatisfying way, neither giving us a satisfying temporary explanation nor allowing the characters to be as puzzled as they should be. Instead, the two men just start their mission, which soon involves trying to fix a nuclear power device before the time machine's window of functionality closes forever.

Occasional flashbacks observe Ethan's father's strange behavior and the trauma he caused, all rendered with intense overacting and broad-strokes dialogue.

Though the melodrama contains information we'll need later, its emotions are prefabricated and unconvincing. Though the action in 2474 is ostensibly a ticking-clock suspense affair, Ethan and Jude dither away an unreasonable amount of time with arguments and sad walks down memory lane. (One trip to find the school where Xanthe worked would, it seems, probably eat up all the time they have by itself.) Almost without fail, Larney's dramatic beats dispense with any build-up before arriving at their intended level of intensity, and the movie overall projects grandiosity without taking the time to make us care about the world being saved. That's all the more frustrating when, after its secrets are revealed, 2067 proves to have had the makings of a decent sci-fi adventure.

Production company: Arcadia
Distributor: RLJE Films
Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ryan Kwanton, Aaron Glenane, Deborah Mailman, Sana'a Shaik
Director-Screenwriter: Seth Larney
Producers: Lisa Shaunessy, Jason Taylor
Director of photography: Earle Dresner
Production designer: Jacinta Leong
Costume designer: Oriana Merullo
Editor: Sean Lahiff
Composers: Kirsten Axelholm, Kenneth Lampl
Casting director: Marianne Jade
114 minutes