Cast: Olivia Grant, Chike Okonkwo, and John Hannah
Directors: Freddie Hutton-Mills and Bart Ruspoli
109 minutes (15) 2018
Lion Gate DVD Region 2
[Released 16th July]
Review by Steven Hampton
Whether biblical or not, movies and stories titled ‘Genesis, are usually about a beginning, of some sort. However, this one’s about the end of the world, or the fall of civilisation, at least. “Distress is, after all, the essence of evolution,” asserts newly minted android ABEL (Chike Okonkwo). Are humans doomed to mere survival of apocalypse, or is there really one more chance left (any hope left at the bottom of Pandora's box?), for social progress beyond the current dystopian gloom?
Scottish veteran John Hannah (The Mummy, TV's Spartacus, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.) prowls around in refugee-camp conditions to calm increasing dissent, against callous presidential authority, over an oppressive regime that heralds abject slavery, into peaceful protests about rationing. Olivia Grant leads the main cast as Dr Eve Gabriel (oh dear, is that two biblical references too many?). Political officers in the community bunker of ‘Eden’ test ‘Abel’ for moral choices emerging from its ‘mark 3’ AI. Has the machine got a mind in its technological brain? Can it develop a conscience? Perhaps that depends less upon its core programming, or exposure to learning from human flaws, and has rather more to do with what’s expected of it. “I cannot understand this human obsession with death,” complains the routinely stoic android. Later, an SOS signal is detected, which suggests there are more survivors underground elsewhere, and a mission for Abel is planned in response.
Genesis offers just low-rent post-apocalypse imagery, with car wrecks, and a ruined city painted on the horizon, as the main signs of a supposedly widespread catastrophe. Abel is pursued by soldiers in hazmat suits “One more drop into this pool of resentment and the whole dam could bust.” “Pithy comments and quaint metaphors,” aside, what starts as a serious drama quickly becomes just another action thriller of shoot-outs where very few characters actually know what’s going on, and even viewers who find the frequently pounding score emotionally stirring probably won’t care much. The enraged mob stuffing a victim in a furnace seems like overkill. It’s a sadly pointless moment of shock value to enliven the otherwise stodgy narrative.
Truth is we have seen all of this before. The bunker mentality that prompts a breakdown in law and order, android saviours turning against unwary creators, or twisty revelations about who is also artificial, and why the intelligent machines were originally made... It’s simply a grab-bag of genre notions assembled to make good use of an easily available, and inevitably low, British production budget. Genesis is reportedly intended as the first of a trilogy, and hints about unmade movies are duly noted when Eve discovers info about an abandoned project named ‘Babel’ (and someone else peruses documents about ‘Jericho’), yet both references only add further confusions, not proper genre sophistication, or extra layers of thematic complexity, to an already muddled and unfortunately messily unfinished plot. So, perhaps this decidedly ‘average’ effort is just suitable for devotees, and home-grown sci-fi completists?