New Sci-Fi Releases: Wastelander (2018) - Reviewed

With the critical, commercial and artistic success of Mad Max: Fury Road, an onslaught of movies featuring post-apocalyptic wastelands filled with ugly meanies was sure to follow. Though some of the derivative films that have appeared since may have succeeded in capturing the spirit of Mad Max: Fury Road, Wastelander is, unfortunately, not one of those films. With a plot line so convoluted it’s unfollowable, the bad CGI, practical effects, and editing are unforgivable. 

To say that it is difficult to keep an understanding of what’s happening while watching this film is an understatement. The movie cuts from scene to scene with no fluidity; characters appear only to disappear minutes later, then pop up suddenly a few scenes down the road with no explanation, as if they’d never left. I found myself repeatedly questioning…well, everything. Everyone’s motives are unclear, including those of Rhyous, the titular Wastelander. While veteran D-Movie actor Brendan Guy Murphy does a passable job growling through his lines, there is nothing behind the glower, no distinguishable reason for the violent hate. Rhyous repeatedly says he is on a mission to seek greater understanding, the elusive Eden, but the drive is missing and it makes the entire plot seems like an afterthought. The female lead, Neve, played by Carol Cardenas, joins the action a little over halfway through, and has the film’s only discernible backstory. Her addition does bring the plot into focus for a bit, but that focus is quickly lost, never to be recovered. The film also swings and misses with its fighting and action sequences. 

The fights are stilted, the actors participating seem tentative and unsure of their next moves. There are long gaps in the action while the fights are taking place, making it seem more like a heavyweight boxing match than the balls to the wall MMA cage fight you’d expect from characters who look like they would chew the hubcap off your car without a second thought, just because they can. 

Wastelander did manage to succeed in a couple areas: set and costume design. The locations chosen for shooting are pretty perfect across the board, showcasing barren land and derelict buildings that feel at home in the world the film inhabits. The decision to shoot the film in vast, open areas is possibly the production team’s best choice. The set dressings and props are fairly realistic and believable, and the technological aspect of some characters plays really well. Costuming and makeup are generally impressive, especially considering the minimal budget the artists had to work with. I can definitely say that all the characters looked like they belonged in the sets composing the world of Wastelander, even if I had no real idea why they were there, or how they ended up there. 

If you’re looking for a comparable post-apocalyptic film to tide you over until Mad Max: The Wasteland gets out of pre-production hell, unfortunately, you’ll have to keep looking. Wastelander just can’t overcome its confused, disjointed plot. 

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-Josie Stec