Studio: Syfy Films
Director: Matt Osterman
Writer: Cleopatra Coleman
Producer: Travis Stevens, Claire Haley
Stars: Cleopatra Coleman, Shane Coffey, Craig muMs Grant, Fabianne Therese, Rhoda Griffis, Andre Starks, Rhonda Johnson Dents, Kasandra Bandfield, Leo Fitzpatrick, Beth Grant
With the world facing a food shortage, a woman who works for an assisted suicide company uncovers a conspiracy involving farming drones.
I say the following not as an insult but merely as a matter of stage-setting fact. “Hover” plays less like a traditional Syfy thriller and more like an “Erin Brockovich” drama that happens to have a mild science-fiction overlay.
In the near future, Vastgrow has made a market out of a massive food shortage by manufacturing planter drones to maximize crop harvesting. Building upon that success, Vastgrow recently unveiled their new line of sentinel drones, which are capable of protecting personal property via lethal means using autonomous technology.
Euthanasia became another booming business in the midst of this global crisis. Claudia and her mentor John work for Transitions, a company specializing in assisted suicides. With a wave of farmers inexplicably falling ill, Claudia and John find themselves facing a caseload they can barely keep up with. They also find themselves taking the first steps toward uncovering a connection between Vastgrow’s drones and a murderous corporate conspiracy.
Going in blind is generally an ideal way to experience a motion picture. Except in the case of “Hover,” knowing next to nothing puts the viewer in a hole because of how long the setup takes to turn into a plot. Immersing one’s self in lukewarm fiction presents a challenge when one-third of the runtime elapses without clearly indicating which arcs are worth an investment.
The trailer shades “Hover” as a ‘killer technology’ movie, and that element certainly sees some play. As already indicated however, the movie really functions as a casual investigative procedural with a made-for-TV tone. It just ends in a feeble firefight against flying contraptions instead of in a courtroom.
“Hover” means well. It’s hard to swipe at a socially conscious script threading themes of world hunger, environmental responsibility, and compassionate death. The reality though is that these themes don’t gel into a solid, cinematic story.
Starting off on a ho-hum foot, “Hover’s” slightly futuristic setting falls short of being visually alluring. Everyday items from door locks to cars are automated with voice commands and touchscreen interfaces of course. But other than a quick cut to a holographic housecat or neon hubcaps, you’re not exactly transported to an imaginatively fantasized world.
That’s one reason why the main threats read as rather wimpy. Hovering drones are basically black boxes with three circular spinners, hardly conveying a sinister silhouette. There’s an evil corporate overlord in the mix as well. But prior to her third act confrontation with the heroine, she only appears in one or two brief TV clips. Without even a routine scene such as the CEO unrepentantly berating an underling or frigidly surveying an assembly line of dangerous drones, there’s no villainous flair putting personality into any antagonism.
Prominent protagonist Claudia also has a hard time clawing out characterization from substandard support. In an effort to eke out some sort of development, Claudia acquires a sketchy new partner who doesn’t fully commit to being a friend or a foe, a love interest unaccompanied by a motivated romantic spark, and an unwanted pregnancy that the film seeds as an important conflict, yet neglects to sow into a resonant subplot. The screenplay by Cleopatra Coleman, who also stars, puts several such plates on poles without ever returning to spin them.
“Hover” at least capably covers filmmaking fundamentals. Prolific genre indie composer Wojciech Golczewski contributes a Carpenter-esque synth score. Simple cinematography from Stuart Brereton keeps scenery sharp. The movie also features familiar faces that are always welcome sights to see, such as Craig muMs Grant from “Oz,” Fabianne Therese from “Southbound” (review here), Leo Fitzpatrick from “The Wire,” and Beth Grant and David Jensen.
Good intentions and B+ technical execution only waver a downward thumb’s orientation so far. In the end, “Hover” doesn’t possess the entertainment factor to be engaging. The film is cursorily interesting to the extent that surface scratches on exploratory ideas about morally problematic population management can be. But exposition concerning equipment leases, product patents, defaulting on loan payments, and escrow arbitration are conversations better suited for a basic cable docudrama than high concept science fiction. Striking out in three pitches despite a textbook batter’s box stance, “Hover’s” skinny-armed swing needs more time in the minors before it can compete in the big leagues.
Review Score: 45