Somnus (2016) (a film review by Mark R. Leeper).
A commercial spaceship from the year 2252 runs into technical problems followed by the ship’s computer guidance system trying to kill the crew, an idea perhaps borrowed from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. The problems on board cause the ship to divert to the asteroid Somnus. There, they find a cult whose believers are implementing a plan to take control after the Earth’s coming destruction. Sorry, that makes the film seem better than it really is. It is a stylistic mess, almost impenetrable that seems to borrow a lot and not give very much in return. A good Science Fiction story can be told without a lot of computer effects, but this film shows how not to try it. Newcomer Chris Reading directs a script he co-wrote with Russell Owen, but neither seem to have much relevant to say.
Rating: -1 (-4 to +4) or 3/10
‘Somnus’ (the name means sleep, not too inappropriately) is a Science Fiction film that tries to communicate its story with a minimum of words and with relatively crude visual images. The story is told in three chapters. The first takes place in 1952 and sets the tone for the confusion to come. In 2252, a space cruiser has serious problems with its guidance system, Meryl (voiced conveniently by Meryl Griffiths), decides to kill the crew on the ship. The third chapter takes place on the asteroid Somnus and involves the long-term life of planet Earth.
The film began with that incident in 1952 England involving a professor who gets on a train without a document he intended to carry. Flash forward 300 years and the crew is in space. How will the missing document connect with whatever is happening three centuries later? Somebody forgot to put it in the script. It is just a loose end the size of a planet. Then again, maybe it does connect up, since we never really understand what is happening in the 23rd century, so it could connect up somehow.
‘Somnus’ mostly comes off as an attempt to copy ‘Dark Star’, albeit without the humour. There are also parts of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and bits imitate Andrei Tarkovsky’s style. It has no CGI and almost no effects of any kind. Much of the film, we have the actors in a spaceship most of whose sets look like they were cobbled from parts found in an electronic junkyard. While the film takes place in a year something like 2252, the electronic equipment we see looks very 20th Century.
When the filmmakers want to add some visual interest they do things like use starscapes and maybe stock footage of sea-life. Most of the story is carried by short talking interludes embedded in long sections of silence. The main action is not shown on screen. There are lots of long takes with no payoff. Most of the action that would lead to visual excitement happens off-stage.
We see some nice lush space-scapes, but then we knew the ship was in space. We also get some nice stock footage of jellyfish. How does this image connect up with our story? I don’t know. Maybe the jellyfish have the missing document. At 83 minutes, this film is short and, at the same time, seems way too long.
While some of the sky scenery seems polished, that is about the only thing about this film that looks accomplished. I rate ‘Somnus’ a -1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 3/10.
‘Somnus’ had a small theatrical release on 9th September and will go to digital platforms on October 4th.
Mark R. Leeper
(c) Mark R. Leeper 2016.