Germany/South Africa/USA. 2010.
Director – Mikael Salomon, Teleplay – Bev Doyle, Diane Duane & Richard Kurti, Story – Jonas Bauer, Producer – Moritz Polter, Photography – Paul Gilpin, Music – Michael Plowman, Visual Effects Supervisor – Steven Hodgson, Visual Effects – UPP (Supervisor – David Vana), Special Effects Supervisor – John Smith, Prosthetics Designer – Rob Carlisle, Production Design – Tom Hannam. Production Company – Tandem Productions/Film Afrika/RTL Television/Syfy.
Sean Bean (Amal), Corey Sevier (Savan), Sam Claflin (Kaleb), Annabelle Wallis (Dorel), Eleanor Tomlinson (Miru), Jonathan Pienaar (Gagen), Hannah Tointon (Giselle), Danny Keogh (Yisir), Jessica Haines (Neenah), Tertius Meintjies (Uri), Sam Schein (Persk)
Civilisation now lies in ruins and the remnants of humanity live as primitive tribes. The people of the village of Grey Rock are attacked by mutants – humans that have been reduced to savage animals by an airborne infection. While the other members of the tribe shelter from the mutant onslaught inside a cave, three young people, Savan, Kaleb and Dorel, escape to freedom. It is discovered that Kaleb was taught how to read by his father. They meet Amal, who knew Kaleb’s father and explains to them that Kaleb’s ability to read can save the future. Kaleb’s father also discovered a yellow powder that provides immunity against the infection but the scanty remaining supplies have been taken by the warlord Gagen who maintains control in the ruins of the city. The three of them must venture to the city to obtain the yellow powder from Gagen in order to save the tribe.
The Lost Future is a film made for the Syfy Channel, the repository for a great many cheap and tatty direct to dvd and cable science-fiction and monster movies. The film was shot in South Africa by former cinematographer Mikael Salomon, director of films like A Far Off Place (1993), Hard Rain (1998) and Freezer (2014) but mostly known for tv work with movies and mini-series such as Aftershock: Earthquake in New York (1999), Sole Survivor (2000), ‘Salem’s Lot (2004), segments of Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King (2006), The Andromeda Strain (2008), Coma (2012) and Big Driver (2014). The surprise name on the credits is that of SF/fantasy author Diane Duane, best known for her young adult work and various Star Trek novels.
As soon as The Lost Future hits in with cavemen running around hunting animals, you immediately think that you are in the midst of a remake of Roger Corman’s cheapie Teenage Caveman (1958). Teenage Caveman started out seeming like a standard prehistory drama and then conducted an ingenious conceptual reversal to reveal that it was not set in prehistory after all but in a post-apocalyptic future. By 2010, such an idea of caveman in a destroyed future has been rendered a cliche by films like Yor, The Hunter from the Future (1983), A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell (1990) and sundry episodes of Doctor Who (1963-89, 2005– ). Certainly, the reality of where we are is not made into a particularly big surprise by the film – that is, if the title The Lost Future had not given it away in the first place.
The surprise is that the sum conception of The Lost Future is a post-holocaust future where humanity has been reduced to cavemen and that is it. You keep waiting for the script to put some further conceptual spin on everything but it never does. All that the story involves is cavemen escaping a mutant attack, discovering the nature of the larger world and then being caught up in battling to obtain the McGuffin of the all-important yellow powder, with occasional flashbacks to the B plot where the tribe are trapped in a cave by the mutants and the attempts by some of the group to make an escape. Even then, the film makes utterly minimal effort to play the usual games of the people of the future puzzling over relics of the past and what they must have meant.
Certainly, there is slightly more effort put into The Lost Future than the average Syfy Channel film – the monster that the hunters fight near the start looks reasonably convincing rather than cheap CGI – and Mikael Salomon gives the film a slick, even occasionally panoramic sheen. However, what The Lost Future cannot escape at heart and seems unable to transcend in the script department is that it is no more than a hackneyed B movie about cavemen running around fighting mutants. This might well have sufficed for something in the 1950s, but in 2010 things have moved on in terms of conceptual sophistication. It is perhaps telling that the film makes it an issue of crucial importance to the future of the world that one person has learned how to read, yet after introducing us to a library, the sole thing it puts the books in it to is to batter a guard unconscious.
The only recognisable name in the cast is Sean Bean. The rest are either generic Hollywood twentysomethings or else bit parts filled by South African actors, none of which are standout in any way. Sean Bean gives all appearance of having signed on solely because he needed to pay an outstanding tax bill and it was the nearest project offering him money. He gives the part worth but is clearly batting below what he is capable of, especially when it comes to being required to deliver lines like “Mutants – run!” at the top of his voice. Equally, he appears to have only signed on for a few days shooting where his character turns up about a quarter of the way in and is sidelined for the latter third of the film with the bulk of the action then being carried by the young leads.