Starring: John Krawlzik
Encoding: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only)
It is the year 2057. Special agent Hayes (Paul Nolan) is sent to
investigate a mysterious suicide at a remote base on Titan, the largest
moon of Saturn. Needless to say things aren't as they seem on the
undermanned base (with the suicide only two personnel members are left!)
and Nolan has to uncover the moon's secret before disaster strikes . . .
Ascension is a low-budget labour of love sci-fi film that was shot
for less than $100 000 (probably not even the catering bill for Tom
Cruise's trailer during the making of the recent
War of the Worlds) over a three to four
year period. The results are impressive: the film's production values are
quite high and the special effects look good
enough for those of a film with a budget several times the size of
Ascension's. The photography is crisp and the sound is good.
Production designs and model work are also professional looking.
Technically Ascension is quite an accomplishment
and if movie producers do not shower director John Krawlzik and his
production designer Carol Clouse with endless film contracts,
then Hollywood must be incurable spendthrifts because here are some folks
who'll bring in that next Tom Cruise SF blockbuster in under budget. (That
is if they can get Cruise to cut on the catering bill, that is.)
However, while the film's technical qualities are quite good, the film
unfortunately moves at a glacial pace as the actors spend an insubordinate
amount of time portentously staring into empty space. This type of minimal
acting style may suit some of the film's plot points, but makes for dull
viewing. Ascension is a film that wants to Blade
Runner, but turns out to be Steven Soderbergh's remake of
Solaris instead -
but without sci-fi author Lem's central metaphysical conceit. Also, what
Ascension needed was another draft to better flesh out the film's
themes and ideas. Here it is a bit of a confused muddle, with some of the
characters being underwritten as well.
Still, despite its faults Ascension shows what can be done with a
small budget and film students should check it out for just this reason:
to see what is possible even on a miniscule budget.