I don’t know why, but I love stories with an Arctic setting. The poles are some of the most inhospitable places on the planet for life, topped only by the few locations that rise into the deoxygenated death zones at the tops of mountains. The starkness, the harshness, of these places I find fascinating. So much so that, once upon a time, I looked into getting a job summering over at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Alas, I am unqualified. They have PhD’s down there scrubbing toilets. What more can I offer?
If it takes place out on the snow, I’ve probably seen it or read it. The Thing and all its incarnations, Antarctica by Kim Stanley Robinson, The Terror by Dan Simmons, Werner Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World (do yourself a favor and watch that film)...the list goes on and on. Even shitty movies make the list. Like The Colony.
The Colony, written (with others) and directed by Jeff Renfroe, doesn’t take place at either the North or the South Pole, but it does take place in Arctic conditions.
In the future, humanity is faced with dual apocalyptic disasters. First, a superflu ran through mankind, killing off most of the population. As if that were not enough, human attempts to reverse the effects of global warming unfortunately plunged the earth into a new ice age, covering the entire surface with ice and snow. Jesus Christ, Renfroe, pick your poison. If it were up to me, I would have ditched the superflu angle as totally unnecessary, just like the movie itself did about ten minutes in. That’s how expendable that little foray into post-apocalyptica was.
Anyway, the movie begins at Colony 7, an underground shelter housing survivors of the disasters. They are led by Briggs (Laurence Fishburne), a gruff military veteran. His second in command is also a former brother in arms, Mason (Bill Paxton). The two of them have differing views on the amount of compassion that needs to be shown to the other survivors, and it’s clear from the first scene that Mason is going to become a problem.
After receiving a distress signal from another colony, Briggs sets off to investigate with a pair of volunteers. Among them is Sam (Kevin Zegers), who, it turns out, is the actual star of the movie. After arriving at the stricken colony, the group finds the place has been overrun by feral, animalistic cannibals, and they have to flee for their lives. But, in doing so, they bring the menace back to Colony 7. Oops.
These bad guys are a treat. They butcher their victims with abandon, and stab others like they were using shivs in prison. They file their teeth to make it easier to rip apart raw flesh. Only one of them has a line for the entire flick, and it’s one word. They must have been working for scale. Are they some sort of zombie or otherwise infected, maybe with a mutated form of the discarded superflu? It’s never said, and it never needs to be.
The Colony is an intriguing movie. It’s loaded with CGI, a necessary evil for a film that has loads of scenes outside in an Arctic wasteland populated with the detritus of human civilization. Arctic wastes exist, and so do cities, but it takes CGI to meld the two together, no matter how clever a film’s production designers are. The CGI is overused, but for the budget of the film, is much better than I would have expected. Is this a good sign? Does it mean that CGI is getting better? Inevitably, yes.
Fishburne and Paxton are slumming it, but are reliably professional. I love it when actors with solid reputations appear in dogs like this. They look so good compared to everyone else around them. The rest of the cast were throwaways, and I mean that. They were just a collection of interchangeable parts, and that goes for the titular star, as well. Totally forgettable.
Unfortunately for Mr. Renfroe, so is his film. I enjoyed watching it, sure, but I had no illusions during it that it would stick in either mine, or the public’s, consciousness. It’s still a better movie than Alien: Resurrection, though. So it has that going for it. I guess.