In the history of science fiction the end of the world has been threatened in many ways; environmental catastrophe, asteroid impact, the rise of hostile artificial intelligence, when worlds collide, but most often there has been some perspective on events, the narrative viewpoint one of first discovery then eventual understanding of what is happening, leading to either acceptance or defiance.
Yet for the American Special Forces on the ground in Kenya, in the line of fire from the mechanical automatons besieging the town of Narok, this isn’t an offensive; at most it is a delaying action while the civilians flee offering little more than a distraction, target practice for an overwhelming enemy whose origin and weaponry is beyond their comprehension.
Waking in a jail cell next to that occupied by French doctor Nadia (Kill Switch‘s Bérénice Marlohe), the man she nicknames “Bo” (Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Lee Pace) has no memory of how he survived, the only one of his squadron to do so, nor who he is or how he came to be there, nor why he now has an affinity for electricity.
What he does remember is the local languages and his combat training, hand-to-hand and with a wide variety of weapons, as he and Nadia make their way across territory swarming with hostile forces, both human and robotic, hoping to find answers at the facility known as “the dish” which many believe summoned the invaders.
The debut feature of director Joe Miale, co-written with Rowan Athale, Revolt cannot hide the influences worn on its sweaty rolled-up sleeves, the unstoppable fighting machines of The War of the Worlds, their vapourising heat rays lifted directly from the 2005 Steven Spielberg adaptation, the mass abductions of Skyline, the South African filming locations and the visual ethic recalling the unsentimental work of Neill Blomkamp, all mixed in with a dash of Oblivion.
The parallels with Gareth Edwards’ Monsters are inescapable, two strangers forced together as they travel rough across occupied territory towards a destination of dubious safety, a fragment of a global event seen through their eyes, but Revolt focuses too much on gunfire rather than developing vital characters, Pace and Marlohe never given the opportunity to become more than witnesses to cycles of violence.
Every meeting along the dusty road a struggle for dominance, while the landscapes and wreckage are stunningly presented under the merciless sun the film falls too readily into a looping pattern when it should be moving towards something deeper, the wider context spoken of in passing but the enormity of what is potentially the end of the world never felt.
Instead Stonehearst Asylum‘s Jason Flemyng is clumsily thrust into the “curate” role of The War of the Worlds, his injured photojournalist proclaiming that “a child facing down a giant… this is the human spirit… that’s why the Heavenly Father sent you here,” before his instability predictably endangers them all. A mashup of too many obvious sources which substitutes explosions for original ideas or a unique insight, Revolt is disappointingly far from revolutionary.
Revolt is available to download now and is on DVD from eOne from 29th January