Scavengers (2014)

Scavengers is a mess. A confusing, baffling, ridiculous space adventure with a wonky plot, terrible characters and undesirable CGI. As a debut feature it is a brave and bold experiment, but one that completely falls on its face and drowns in its own viscera.

The plot? The crew of space-scavenging ship The Revelator happen upon an extraordinary piece of salvage – a mysterious device called the Chaos Generator, which might hold the power to change literally everything, ever, for some reason.

Unfortunately evil nasty super-gravelly space-bastard Captain Jekel (Sean Patrick Flanery) wants this device and will stop at nothing – apart from buying a throat lozenge – to get hold of it, even if it means destroying everything and growling angrily on his spaceship.

The opening twenty minutes are epically confusing, chucking in countless characters with ridiculous names (Olos Nah, Wake, Overkill and Breathtaker), grey CGI spaceships that all look the same and tonnes of Sci-fi jargon like “hard lasers”, “flex protocols”, “ultra-unique energy anomalies” and “space scavenging”, which are all just baffling and seemingly lobbed in to sound ‘futuristic’.

Coupled with the shonky CGI, it might be a tough watch for even the most die-hard Sci-Fi fan to stomach. So, is it worth trudging through the first twenty minutes of brain-baffling confusion to get to the meat of the story?

No. No it’s not.

Sometimes a writer-director can create an amazing, awe-inspiring vision that is unparalleled by any other, taking their script and making a truly superb piece of filmmaking history. Unfortunately Travis Zariwny is not one of those people.

Having worked as Production Designer on a number of low-rent horror films, such as Hatchet 3, Chillerama and Ice Spiders, Scavengers marks his first foray into feature making (after a few shorts) and it’s a total mess.

Zariwny has chosen a complicated Sci-Fi movie as a debut, which is a brave and difficult task to undertake. Unfortunately his script is both hugely derivative and utterly impenetrable, chucking out lines like “Energy spike, Revelator’s spiking!” and “I might be able to match the Revelator’s flex protocols”. Although a bold decision to try to immerse the viewers in another world, the confusing narrative and uncertain settings means it will leave most audiences baffled and frustrated.

At best, Scavengers plays out like a decent episode of Star Trek or Firefly, with random perils and a psychotic enemy to avoid or defeat, but at worst it feels like a parody of such programmes.

Perhaps the very-worst part of Scavengers is the character of Captain Jekel. Played by Sean Patrick Flanery of Young Indiana Jones / Boondock Saints fame, Flanery does an incredibly poor job of a terribly-written character. Sounding like Christian Bale’s Batman after the national cigarette-smoking championships, his uber-gruff turn as pointlessly-evil Captain Jekel is distractingly bad and parody-esque hilarious. Honestly, it ruins any chance of the film being taken seriously.

Unfortunately Captain Jekel isn’t the only mismanaged character, as all the ‘good’ character are – mostly – baffling idiotic, especially regarding the magical device called “The Chaos Generator”, which – surprise surprise – seems to do utterly random and utterly chaotic things. One moment helpful, one moment violently insane, the Chaos Generator is a shameless McGuffin that makes almost absolutely no sense but drives the ENTIRE PLOT.

There are many (many) things wrong with Scavengers and these unfortunately outweigh the good things, which are a severe minority. There are buckets of blood and some decent gore effects, a couple of genuinely gobsmacking moments and some decent acting from a few minor characters, but this is all eclipsed by the terrible script, distracting CGI and a smoke-throated Flanery. Avoid unless you love confusing Sci-Fi cliché.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

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