The Colony: Yet Another Climate Change Apocalypse Destroys Earth, Beautifully
We’ve been destroying the earth for a long time, and because science fiction cinema has distilled and explored these concerns for decades (since Soylent Green To Water world To WALL-E To Snowdrops), the genre has become a kind of echo chamber. Our planet is becoming uninhabitable. Humanity travels elsewhere to start over. Were we the problem from the start? The repetitive configuration of these concerns, and a lack of creativity in taking them into account, gives rise to films like that of director and co-writer Tim Fehlbaum. The colony.
Visually stunning but narratively inert, The colony takes his hat off to other classics of the genre like Aliens and Children of men with questions on reproduction, colonialism and community responsibility. Its protagonist, Blake (Nora Arnezeder), evokes Ripley of Sigourney Weaver with his physical strength, his steely gaze and his tenderness towards children. The characters in the film are divided into warring factions vying for control of the planet’s meager resources, with Earth’s natives seen as backward and unsophisticated. The attractiveness of space and its potential are discussed at length. But for all the time The colony devotes to a nostalgic and melancholy rumination on these ideas, it fails to offer a singular perspective on one of them.
The headlines inform us that because of climate change, pandemics and war, the “ruling elite” has escaped from Earth to settle on the distant planet Kepler 209. But the planet is not perfect: there are no large bodies of water, but there are is widespread radioactivity, making survival difficult. More importantly, people lose the ability to conceive naturally. As humanity’s potential end looms, the Kepler-ians begin an astronaut program to return to Earth. The first spacecraft they return, Ulysses 1, disappears without ever sending back a return transmission. A generation later, Kepler launches Ulysses 2, and puts all his hope on the shoulders of this crew of three, including Blake.
Can you recognize a place where you have never lived? Does this kind of knowledge exist as an existential inheritance? As Blake walks along a wet, foggy beach, lifting horseshoe crabs and stinging jellyfish, Arnezeder exudes both confusion and familiarity. His expressive face reflects these conflicting emotions well, and his supple physique captures a warrior and explorer accustomed to tension and trained to analyze the unknown. But even with all this preparation, Blake is caught off guard when he is ambushed by the planet’s survivors, led by a woman named Narvik (Sarah-Sofie Boussnina). They speak a mishmash of languages, carry weapons, and live nomadically, and unlike Kepler’s humans, they have children. Among the youngsters is a girl named Maila (Bella Bading), whom Blake befriends – and who is kidnapped when this group of survivors is attacked by another heavily armed group who take whatever they want, including all the girls.
Blake’s main mission is to message Kepler to let them know that reproduction is still working on Earth, but when Maila is taken, her AliensStyle protection kicks in. As she follows this second group of survivors into their enclave of gigantic abandoned cargo ships and aircraft carriers stuck on the beach, Fehlbaum has another chance to show up visually. But when he puts the film into action mode, The colony becomes reactive rather than proactive. And while the secrets Blake learns from Gibson (Iain Glen), the leader of the Second Community, connect to his childhood on Kepler and provide solid character development, The colony Then follows a fairly predictable path regarding what Blake chooses to do now that she’s on Earth.
In his first scenes, The colony works as a plaintive visual exploration of what survival might look like if we continue our ruinous climatic path: constant floods and swirling waters, mobile cities built on rickety ships, nomadic peoples wrapped in outfits that protect them from the elements and allow ease of movement. Cinematographer Markus Förderer and Production Designer Julian R. Wagner create a spellbinding world, but The colony is sometimes too literal. Fehlbaum’s presentation of loneliness is full of vivid and obvious imagery (Blake alone on the beach, Blake alone in a tidal well), but its first 20 minutes or so is a disturbing visualization of the loss.
Corn The colony isn’t as thoughtful in his character development, and he doesn’t push far enough. So much remains unexplored: How long have different groups of survivors been at war? What effect does the return of the people from Kepler have? What does Blake think of the societal demand for reproduction? How is the rest of the Earth? Why is a sci-fi movie, supposed to explore a possible future, so little curious about details?
The film’s flippant descriptions of the death, such as “Flood took it” in portraying a missing character, suggest a life of endless hardship. But because The colony fits so firmly with Blake’s point of view, it doesn’t make much room for anyone else. The film suggests a class analysis with this caption “ruling elite”, but does nothing. And while Arnezeder and Boussnina have incredible chemistry, The colony doesn’t allow any queer subtext and doesn’t really care about person-to-person human emotions like romantic love.
His considerations are higher: is world peace realistic between people who may have left a dying planet and those who are forced to stay put? What about the “coming home” that might trigger physical changes? Especially recently, as we passed the deadline for preventive measures to tackle climate change – with the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change from August 2021 describing climate change as “”widespread, rapid and intensifying”- almost every science fiction movie seems to revisit the end of Earth as we know it. But similar to Chaos march, Settlers, and Travelers, The colony avoids the hard work required to repair or reverse the devastation we have caused. These characters operate in a surprisingly visualized but superficially designed world, and The colony embodies a genre that seems – perhaps like humanity itself – unable to step forward to imagine a different future.
The colony opens on August 27 in theaters, on VOD and on digital rental platforms such as Amazon and Seen.