(2020) (Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ryan Kwanten) (Not Rated)
- QUICK TAKE:
- Sci-Fi: An ordinary man travels four-hundred years into the future to find out who's summoned him there and if there's a solution to present-day Earth's dire environmental state.
It's the year 2067 and Ethan Whyte (KODI SMIT-MCPHEE) is a young man living in a world ravaged by climate change to the point that everyone must wear oxygen masks outside due to the bad air and all of the plants having died. Married to Xanthe (SANA'A SHAIK) who's ill from "The Sickness," Ethan works with his friend and surrogate father-figure, Jude Mathers (RYAN KWANTEN), repairing systems that provide their city with electricity.
To his shock, he's summoned to Chronicorp -- where his late father, Richard (AARON GLENANE), a scientist, once worked -- to meet the synthetic oxygen company's CTO, Regina Jackson (DEBORAH MAILMAN). She informs him that they've created a time machine that's sent radio waves 400 years into the future, with the reply reading "Send Ethan Whyte."
Regina, Jude, and Xanthe encourage him that he must travel to that time to find a solution to Earth's problem that will soon result in a mass extinction event of humans. He's reluctant, what with Xanthe being sick and not wanting to leave her with the possibility of being unable to return, but eventually agrees.
When he arrives in the year 2474, he must figure out and find who sent the message and then see if there truly is an answer to the problem before it's too late for everyone back in the past.
- OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
People have long been enamored with the notion of time travel. After all, who wouldn't want to head back through time to witness some important historical event, meet a famous person, or take a gander at your younger self or your parents, grandparents, and so on from a period before you knew them or even existed?
At the same time, no pun intended, one could always travel forward and see how things turn out for humanity or, on a far smaller and more personal scale, what happens to you and how, when, and where you meet your maker.
Most fiction related to that -- whether in the form of novels, TV shows, or movies -- usually opts for the reverse mode. After all, there's far more potential for intrigue, dramatic conflict, and the potential of accidentally or purposefully changing the past and thus the present from whence the travel originated. All of which creates the time travel loop paradox.
Far fewer go forward in time mainly because it usually would be little more than an expeditionary excursion of peaking into the future. That is, of course, unless one is traveling ahead to find the answer or solution to a problem in the present and will apply that once they're back. But if they do that, wouldn't it change the future and thus the ability to find the answer going forward from the present once again?
Shelving that looping issue, and interestingly enough, two films of 2020 featuring time travel have opted for the latter direction. The first was the comedy "Bill & Ted Face the Music" where the titular goofball characters, having squandered the past quarter-century trying to write the song to save the world, decide to travel forward in their old-fashioned phone booth time machine, discover what that song is, and then return with that to literally and figuratively save the day.
The second is "2067," a decidedly more serious drama named for the year in which it takes place. That is, the present-day setting in which Kodi Smit-McPhee stars as Ethan Whyte, a systems engineer repairman of some sort who works to keep the power grid online in the never-named city. There, he works alongside his surrogate father-figure friend, Jude (Ryan Kwanten) -- who saved and raised him after the deaths of his parents back when he was eight -- and lives with his sick wife, Xanthe (Sana'a Shaik).
Her illness seems directly tied to environmental conditions where global warming has finally led to the demise of the last plant on Earth and thus no more naturally occurring oxygen in the world where everyone must wear masks when outdoors. Air for those as well as indoor living is synthetically created by a big corporation that just so happens to have created a time machine on the side. After having sent radio waves into the future as a test, they've come back with a simple text reply, "Send Ethan Whyte."
So far, so good in this cautionary sci-fi tale from writer/director Seth Larney where Ethan now finds himself as the unlikely and reluctant hero who's humankind's last chance for survival. Reluctantly leaving Xanthe behind, he's catapulted forward and crash-lands in the year 2474 where his mission is to find out who sent the message and see if they have an answer for all that ails the world back in the past.
Despite the high stakes of the discovery mission and some unsettling reveals along the way -- including Ethan finding his own skeleton with a bullet hole in the skull from an apparent past trip to that same time and place, and then the arrival of another character -- I found the flick less engaging and interesting once it arrives in and then proceeds from this part of the storyline.
While certainly physically fitting the bill of the unlikely and reluctant hero character, Smit-McPhee and Larney don't give the character enough gravitas or the sort of ability to engage us regarding his and the world's plight. Thus, the stakes never feel that great and some counting clock deadlines similarly don't feel fraught with the sort of suspense they should
It doesn't help that the big twist and explanation is fairly easy to predict, simply from having seen enough movies like this before as well as Larney perhaps returning to the well one too many times regarding flashbacks to young Ethan's traumatic loss of his parents (and no, he doesn't turn into Batman, but the villain is too easy to spot).
Having tried my hand at writing a time travel screenplay many decades ago, I know how difficult it can be trying to make the logic and details work, so I'll cut Larney some slack. But in the end, the filmmaker might wish he could travel back in time and enact some changes to "2067" to make it work better. It rates as a 4.5 out of 10.
Reviewed September 29, 2020 / Posted October 2, 2020
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