Science fiction films are all the rage these days. Most are big spectacle films with asteroids slamming into Earth or some sort of massive space battle. Settlers is a more intimate sci-fi film, with shades of horror that focus more on dialogue and suspense than big-budget action sequences. Let’s take a closer look at our Settlers review.
Settlers most closely resemble Moon, the critically acclaimed 2009 film from Duncan Jones. Both feature a very small cast, with the films being carried by performance instead of spectacle. It’s rare to see these days, but a welcome addition to the cinema landscape.
In Settlers, some early colonists have settled on Mars after it has been terraformed. The story follows a single family as they deal with the dangers that come with living on another planet. It’s essentially the old west on the Martian plains. But this isn’t a story about survival as much as it is a story about human nature and what happens when there’s no one to stop you from exploring that nature.
Reza (Jonny Lee Miller) is the head of the family on Mars. He lives alongside his wife Ilsa (Sofia Boutella) and young daughter Remmy (Brooklynn Prince). Soon after the audience is introduced to the family, they are visited by Jerry (Ismael Cruz Cordova) who provides much of the tension and trauma featured in the film. There are a few other characters that appear, most notably a Wall-E-type robot that befriends Remmy, but for the most part that’s the bulk of the cast of the film.
With such an intimate offering, individual performances are what drive the film. Jerry feels like a more human variation of Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees. He’s an intimidating, yet soft-spoken figure who is a looming threat throughout the film. It’s not quite as intense as a traditional suspense film, but it does help to create an atmosphere of mistrust that fuels the plot.
Speaking of the plot, there’s little to be had in Settlers. If not for the general description of the film, the audience wouldn’t even know the story takes place on Mars. We know it’s not Earth, and while it somewhat resembles Mars (although not quite as red), it could potentially be Venus as the planet is never directly named in the script. Throughout the film, there are small snippets of history that are relayed to the audience, but it’s very subtle.
While a minimal plot is not a bad thing, it does put that much more pressure on the performances. While each actor does their part, none of them rise above words on a page to really elevate the film. For instance, in the previously mentioned Moon, Sam Rockwell, and Kevin Spacey deliver outstanding performances that lift the film from an average sci-fi affair to an exceptional movie. That same elevation doesn’t happen in Settlers, despite the best efforts of the cast.
There are some specific scenes in Settlers that may haunt you for some time after the credits roll. However, for the most part, Settlers is a middle-of-the-road sci-fi film. It does well to balance the suspense with small spurts of action, but it never quite attains the level of cinematic relevance that it seems writer/director Wyatt Rockefeller was reaching for in his first feature-length film. Despite this, he seems like someone to keep an eye on if a studio is willing to give him a bigger budget and big-name actors.
Synopsis: Mankind’s earliest settlers on the Martian frontier do what they must to survive the cosmic elements and each other.
Director: Wyatt Rockefeller
Writer: Wyatt Rockefeller
Stars Sofia Boutella, Ismael Cruz Cordova, Brooklyn Prince
Rated: Not Rated
Runtime: 1 Hour, 43 Minutes
Bryan Dawson has been writing professionally since the age of 13. He started his career as a video game writer and has since worked for Random House, Prima Games, DirecTV, IGN, AOL, the British Government, and various other organizations. For GNN, Bryan taps into his passion for movies.