Defcon 2012 (2010)

Rating:

USA. 2010.

Crew

Director – R. Christian Anderson, Screenplay – Brian Delizareaux, Photography – Charles Street, Music – Aubrey Young, Animation – Frank Pannuci & Stefan Weichelt, Special Effects – Christopher Kelly, Makeup Supervisor – Judy Twine. Production Company – Red Fortress Entertainment/Liechtenstein Films

Cast

Ryken Zane (Kaynin), Xu Razer (Tak), Shy Pilgreen (E-San), Thema Johannsen (Axton), Justin Brusca (Archer)


Plot

In 2009, a film crew have vanished under mysterious circumstances after making a film about the end of the world according to the Mayan Calendar. The US government views ‘Defcon 2012’, the film they left behind. In the film, it is the year 2207 where Earth (now known as E521) lies in ruins following an alien invasion. The scavengers Kaynin, Archer and the cyborg Rune arrive, scouring the ruins for salvageable junk. In an abandoned complex, they encounter Tak and Axton, people from the Umay Human Resistance who only communicate by telepathy and have arrived in answer to a distress call. Something then begins killing members of the group. They also discover that the various abandoned shop fronts contain time portals. They encounter E-San, a girl from Shelter City where the remnants of humanity live deep beneath the Earth, who explains how Earth was invaded by creatures made up of combined human and insect DNA. The alien leader Volkal wants to find the location of Shelter City in order to eliminate the rest of humanity.


Not so long ago, I was sent a copy of Enemy Mind (2010) to review and was impressed with what the filmmakers had done, creating a reasonable and intelligent science-fiction film out of low-budget resources. I was curious what else they had done and asked to see more. They sent me a copy of Defcon 2012, which several of the group (stars Xu Razer and Ryken Zane aka writer Brian Delizareaux) had worked on before with a different director and production team. Xu Razer and Brian Delizareaux subsequently went onto make the psycho-thriller House of Mirrors (2012).

The team apologize that Defcon 2012 was an earlier effort where they were still perfecting what they wanted to do. Certainly in comparison, Enemy Mind is a huge leap in quality and the clarity of vision they are aiming for. Defcon 2012 swings between moments of considerable professionalism and others that are clearly amateurs playing around with a video camera. I was captivated by the opening minutes of Defcon 2012 and its montages of impending disaster and some extremely accomplished visual effects of various spaceships and space stations, as well as slick graphic displays from information readouts. Particularly good are the space station and fleets of invading alien spacecraft that turn up at the end, which are computer-generated effects sequences that could easily compare with those being turned out by professional Hollywood effects houses.

Unfortunately, when the body of the film kicks in after some thirteen minutes, all of these professionally polished scenes abruptly telescope down into a cheaply shot amateur film. Almost the entire film takes place inside an abandoned mall that the film crew were able to obtain use of around the Palm Springs area. Certainly, this does a more than capable job of standing in for a ruined city of the future. Unfortunately, these scenes are often beset by dropoffs in recorded sound quality (the result of having no budget for ADR in post-production), murky video photography and unclear/uncertain staging of the dramatic action.

More than this, the biggest problems with Defcon 2012 lie in the script. Most of the film involves a group of people exploring an abandoned city. Now, the idea of the mysterious labyrinth or alien-infested zone has made for great science-fiction cinema, even when conducted with an absolute minimalism – see the likes of Stalker (1979) and Cube (1997). Defcon 2012‘s failing is that is never constructs much drama around this. There is never the sense that the group are facing a clearcut menace – at least, until a black-cloaked alien villain emerges but stays in the shadows at the very end. The group discuss much about the situation and the world they are in but little of it coalesces into a plot. Most of the dramatically interesting things – the time portals in the abandoned shops, the lurking alien menace killing people, evidence of the alien invasion, the remnants of humanity hidden in vast underground shelter cities, time that is out of phase – never seem to happen in front of the camera. There is a scene where two of the group are abducted and teleported aboard a spaceship but this has almost nothing to do with the rest of the film and could have been edited out without anybody noticing. At the end, the script for Defcon 2012 leaves you confused – much seems to be happening but you are not entirely sure why the alien is menacing the party, why there are time portals in the complex, what everything has to do with the Mayan Long Calendar and its supposed predictions of the end of the world, even what a phrase like humanity having ‘killed time’ means.

Furthermore, all of this is often shot in quick cuts and random intercuts of other visuals – shots of nebulae, starscapes, light patterns, cuts away to spaceships or computer information displays across the screen. Everything is run over by a sometimes intrusive pounding techno soundtrack. After a time this goes beyond being visually interesting and seems to be visual busyness conducted to mask the relatively nondescript action.

I was also entirely unclear why the filmmakers added a contemporary wraparound about the film being viewed by the US authorities in the present-day. There seems little relevance between the two scenarios. The wraparound is set on the eve of the supposed End of the World according to the Mayan Long Calendar – see 2012 (2009) for further details. The bulk of the film consists of the fictional film being viewed, which takes place some 200 years later and is set in the aftermath of an alien invasion. It is not clear if the filmmakers are meant to have vanished because they somehow predicted something that is about to happen in December 2012 – in fact, we never even learn any details about their disappearance other than that they are missing. I am confused why this wraparound is there as the film could have easily done what it does without it, unless perhaps the filmmakers inserted it to capitalise on the fascination with the looming 2012 date.



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