This is the inaugural post in what will, I hope, be a recurring column devoted to the fine art of the SyFy Saturday night movie. As much as I love SyFy, they’re original movies don’t just have an aura of cheese, they go full tilt and cannonball right into the pool of cheese. Of course they know this, so it’s all tongue in cheek, which makes the whole idea even better. I mean seriously, if you can’t laugh at yourself, then who can you laugh at? SyFy aired an original movie this past Saturday so I DVR’d it and thought I’d use it as my jumping off point for this column. Red Faction: Origins would be my test run.
Ok. I had ulterior motives for watching this one. I won’t lie. How could I possibly turn away from a movie that stars Robert Patrick, Brian J. Smith, and Kate Vernon, directed by Michael Nankin and scored by Bear McCreary? The T-1000, Lt. Scott from Stargate Universe and the mother of all Cylons! And to top it off, Nankin and McCreary are also former BSG’ers. Of course I was going to watch!
Base on the video game, Red Faction: Origins is set in the years that take place between the video games Red Faction: Guerrilla and Red Faction: Armageddon. Smith plays Jake Mason, the son of former freedom fighter turned cranky drunk, Alec Mason. In his younger years, Alec led the Martian colonial rebellion to victory and was married to a woman who hailed from the Marauders tribe. Just over a decade after a truce between Red Faction and the Marauders was formed, Alec’s wife was killed and his daughter, Lyra (Jake’s sister) was kidnapped. Alec was left to think that his daughter and wife had been killed at the hands of the Marauders as penance for his wife marrying out of her tribe, even though Jake swore Lyra was taken by soldiers in white, not Marauders.
Fast forward several years and Alec is a drunk and is estranged from his son, who is now a Red Faction officer. Alec is an embarrassment to Jake, especially when Jake has to arrest him for being drunk and disorderly. Shortly afterward, Jake and his unit – which includes and insecure Earth born gal named Tess (Danielle Nicolet), are sent on a salvage mission to a downed satellite that landed in disputed territory. Trying to beat the Marauders to the wreckage, the team finds that they aren’t the first ones there when they find several dead Marauder bodies laying amongst the wreckage.
While doing a bit of recon, Jake discovers that the soldiers outfitted in white are very real and responsible for the dead bodies. He engages one of the soldiers and is shocked to find Lyra (Tamzin Merchant) under the mask. Jake is hit with the revelations that A) the white soldiers exist, B) one of them is his long-lost sister and C) the white soldiers have some sort of plan that doesn’t bode well for either Red Faction or the Marauders. Going against orders, Jake, Tess and Alec team up with a pair of Marauders in an effort to get Lyra back.
I am not a gamer by any stretch of the imagination. I own a Wii and have played my fair share of SSX Tricky on the PS2, but that’s about as far as it goes. Pretty much the only gaming I do involves playing the old school Super Mario 3 on the Wii and that’s only when I’m feeling nostalgic. I don’t know anything about the Red Faction video game other than the fact that they exist. I was concerned about going into this movie not knowing anything and whether or not it was going to be easy to follow along. Well all that worrying was for naught. Since this movie takes place in the years between the games, it made the translation from game to film a little bit smoother. I didn’t feel like I was missing out on any back story, since the movie lays it all out for you in the beginning as well as through a series of flashbacks that are peppered throughout.
I may not be a gamer, but I’ll watch a film based on a video game. I’ve even watched the truly terrible adaptions. Double Dragon anyone? It seems to me that most video game adaptions are sorely lacking in quality on every front. I really didn’t have that complaint with Red Faction: Origins. Ok, some of the CGI was a bit rough I’ll admit. But overall, this was a pretty good SyFy original movie and I actually liked it. The acting was up to par even through the bits of clunky dialogue. This was definitely a step up from what SyFy normally airs on Saturday nights, and that was a welcome relief.
I did have one minor complaint. Well, it’s more of a gripe really. With Kate Vernon’s name in the credits, I figured her part as the Marauders Matriarch would be a little more substantial. It was rather small however which was a tiny bit of a let down. The end of the film however is left open so the story can be expanded upon. Whether or not the ratings will be there to warrant taking this film to series, or even doing a sequel has yet to be seen, but they left it open to do so. Based on one viewing of this film, I’d check out a series if it came to fruition for sure. Especially if Brian J. Smith reprises his role.
Red Faction: Origins is a fun, engaging escapist film. If you have a couple of hours to kill and like science fiction, you should check it out. It’s not Citizen Kane, but then again, it’s not meant to be. Take it for what it is and you may just find that you like it.
Be sure to check next week’s Homage to Fromage when I review Saturday’s newest SyFy original movie, Ice Road Terror. Oh yeah!Tags: Bear McCreary, Brian J. Smith, Danielle Nicolet, Kate Vernon, Michael Nankin, Red Faction: Armageddon, Red FAction: Guerrilla, Red Faction: Origins, Robert Patrick, SyFy, Tamzin Merchant