Science fiction is a genre that has room for everything. You can basically throw anything at it, and it will find a spot for it. Society is a complex entity, and science fiction, more than any other genre in fiction, deals with how society moves and interacts with each other. More often than not it throws a fantastic element in its direction and that is what created the fantastic science fiction stories we know and love. Time, discovery, war, religion, there is really nothing in sci-fi. This is a review of Deus, a new sci-fi story that follows that example with an amazing premise.
The film is directed by Steve Stone and stars Claudia Black, David O’Hara, Phil Davis, and Richard Blackwood. The film tells the story of a spaceship crew on a scientific mission. They have been sent into space to analyze and possibly identify a mysterious black sphere that has appeared floating around the orbit of Mars. Its mission is to discover what this thing is and where it came from. However, when they arrive, the sphere begins to transmit a message, one word repeated endlessly. That word is “Deus”
Religion, science, love, and many other things have been important pillars when it comes to the development of humans as a species. The need to believe in something greater than oneself is almost endemic. That belief has served to create some of the most beautiful things in the world, as well as doing some of the most awful things ever seen. It is a complicated matter, so when an unexplained entity appears in space and tells us that it is God. Well, now that is interesting.
Finding God in space isn’t anything new. It has been a story that has been told several times, mostly in short stories or in science fiction novels, but seldom on film. Deus tries to fill the void by tackling the subject straight away, and the film is successful in doing it. At least to a point. The issue is that while Deus has a fantastic and interesting premise, the characters that work inside that premise are pretty boring, and pretty boring characters make for boring drama. It is so, that Deus has never the chance to take that awesome premise to its ultimate consequences.
The first reminds you of past films such as Event Horizon and Sphere. It takes elements from those films and tries to give them new meanings by being more mysterious. However, Deus does basically the same thing that Sphere does with its cast and starts becoming more of a psychological thriller instead of a science fiction opera. It is at this moment that the movie offers all of its weight to its characters, and it is there that the movie fails to grab the interest of the audience.
The writing is the biggest fatal flaw of the movie. For example, our main character, Karla Grey, is rude and obnoxious most of the time. Her dialogue and decision-making really stress out the fact that Stone might not have had the time to lock in a more polished script. Right at the beginning of the movie, for example, Karla seems mad because they are cruising towards a sphere that they don’t know anything about. This is extremely weird because the mission is exactly to discover what the sphere is. If you are mad about flying towards an unknown object, then you should have been mad when getting on the ship seven years ago.
There are plenty of examples of this as the movie progresses, and sadly, not all the actors are good enough to overcome these failings in the writing, and so things just sound silly coming out of his mouth. David O’Hara quickly becomes the saving grace of the film, and it makes you wonder, why isn’t he the main character of the film? His character is reserved, rude, and very matter-of-fact, but this type of character is often used as just a supporting character. It would have been nice to see it at the front of the story. At least he is interesting.
Visually, the movie also faces a big contrast when it comes to its production values. For example, some visuals of the ship from the outside and seeing the ship flying towards the sphere in space are truly amazing. The VFX team that worked on those sequences did a great job. However, everything falls apart when we get inside the ship, where the sets reach old Doctor Who levels of detail. Everything looks fake, and it doesn’t really match the type of spaceship the movie is showing us when showing it from the outside.
So, Deus is a movie of opposites. The film has an incredible premise that carries the movie right to the end, but the character work never really matches the strength of the premise, and so the drama between the cast never reaches its full potential. Some visuals are quite solid, while others just look plain cheap. In the end, the film is quite watchable, but it doesn’t end up being as memorable as it should have been. The ending especially feels a bit unsatisfying and leaves all the interesting stuff for maybe a sequel. Not good.