Studio: Image Entertainment
Director: Travis Zariwny
Writer: Travis Zariwny
Producer: Steven Istock, Tyler Hawes
Stars: Roark Critchlow, Jeremy London, Louise Linton, Sean Patrick Flanery
Review Score :
Rival crews of space debris scavengers battle over an alien device with the power to change the known universe.
As an independent science-fiction feature, “Scavengers” has the look of a low-budget television movie, with none of the B-movie charm. If it were a pilot for a potential show on SyFy, the safe bet is that it would not be picked up as a series, even if it had “Sharknado” as a lead-in.
Wake and Captain Jekel are rival space junk scavengers with a tumultuous past. Their paths intersect once again as each man brings his crew into a fight over possession of an alien device with the potential to change everything in the known universe.
The device, something known as the Chaos Generator, is basically a MacGuffin to fuel 93 minutes of space-related yakkity yak and green screen effects straight out of “Battlestar Galactica.” The 1978 original, not the 21st century reboot.
In defense of the production design, it is certainly no worse than any similar film that one is likely to stumble across on the aforementioned SyFy, or on syndicated television of the 1990’s. But it still depicts a world where spaceships are piloted by punching buttons on an array of old computer keyboards and magnetic tape pulled from the reels of a VHS cassette hangs from the ceiling as “debris.”
In cinema, the MacGuffin works as a plot device only when the fight over it or the search for it is so compelling that the item in question is either secondary or unimportant altogether. That is not the case here. The script that drives “Scavengers” is less about story and more about excessive “tech-speak” that keeps the audience far behind the characters and not invested in the outcome of events. It is nigh impossible to relate to the players or to develop an attachment when the bulk of their characterization comes from meaningless gobbledygook like, “soft trace pattern,” “patch the lead coolant reviver and reset the dampeners,” and “configure a flux protocol for immediate punch-out.” Garble everything over an Edison-era squawk box to boot and then watch the confusion unfold as an audience tries to follow along at home.
With so much of the dialogue reading as unintelligible, it is little wonder that the actors seem just as confused about how to perform the lines. Kelley Whilden as Breathtaker settles for simply letting words fall plainly out of her mouth rather than trying to impart any inflection or to flesh out a personality.
Sean Patrick Flanery is an actor capable of turning in solid performances. This is not one of them. Whether by his own choice as a performer or in collaboration with the director, Flanery plays his villain as an over-the-top caricature from a 1950’s comic book, or another movie entirely. Perhaps one directed by Mel Brooks.
Flanery delivers lines in an accent that is a nearly indiscernible mix of Southern gentleman and… something else. Dialogue funnels through a gravelly whisper that accentuates the cartoon persona even further. His is the type of villain that uses adjectives like “insolent,” and mutters phrases as silly as, “blast it!” in the face of frustration. Speaking of faces, Flanery completes Captain Jekel’s absurdist portrait with bizarre mannerisms and a face that constantly scrunches as if he is standing over a pile of dirty diapers. He may as well twirl a mustache on top of everything else. Aside from being played in a different tone than every other character, the performance is utterly distracting.
Outside of the CGI-created space battles, “Scavengers” is stifled by confined sets that never allow the production to open up. Virtually every interior scene takes place in a single room. There are no shots of running down corridors or extended action sequences to create atmosphere. When fistfights and gunplay finally do take place, they largely occur offscreen. Take out the uneventful space battles and “Scavengers” is a conference table away from being a round robin talk show.
Imagine “Star Wars” if it was comprised mainly of scenes involving Han and Chewie going over the “flux protocols” necessary for making a jump to hyperspace. Then think of Darth Vader and Ben Kenobi squaring off by staring at one another while raising their lightsabers. Picture the film cutting away and then cutting back with Vader’s boot already stamping out Ben’s smoldering robe. “Scavengers” takes the mundane moments meant mainly to move sci-fi from one exciting scene to the next and extends those dull interludes into a feature length film. The result is exactly what one would expect. “Scavengers” is a test of patience that is incredibly light on action and thrills, but burdensomely heavy on boredom and hammy acting.
NOTE: "Scavengers" is also known internationally by the title “Space Soldiers.”
Review Score: 30