Midlands Review - The Rockman
By midlandsmovies, Oct 1 2017 10:55PM
The Rockman (2017) Dir. Glenn McAllen-Finney & Tommy Bee
GM Finney Productions
“Like a Dr. Who Christmas Special,” says one character halfway through the Leicester-made sci-fi The Rockman. Yet there’s far worse to be compared to, as this new Midlands film takes all the good hallmarks of the classic BBC show to create its own unique low budget time-travel film series.
The film’s b-movie sensibilities are worn on its sleeve from the start however, with a fake BBFC title card setting up its tongue-in-cheek charm before a CGI asteroid hurtles towards the earth in the opening shots.
The story sees Andrew J.F. Morgan as Duncan Fairbanks, an ‘everyday Joe’ whose dull domestic life is rocked by the arrival of a future visitor (a crazy wide-eyed Sam Winterton channelling Doc Brown into his Dr. Sebastian Kramer) who’s leaped back to the present day from 2050.
From the obligatory “What year is this?” introduction to labelling those in the past as “primitives”, Dr. Kramer shakes up Duncan’s unhappy relationship to explain his journey from the EITS (Eye in the Sky) laboratory to prevent the world being ruled by an alien life-form known as the rockmen.
Colour graded in metallic and steely cold blues the filmmakers are musicians and music video makers by trade and the film is filled with a cool punk/hardcore/ska soundtrack. The movie shines a spotlight on local bands, cobbling together regional artists English Guns, Burnin’, Smokin’ The Profit and Mia and the Moon amongst others, which along with the accents and locations, keeps the production comfortably Midlands made.
And as the film is structured into ‘chapters’ that will eventually be split and released online as a web series, that unique route is actually the perfect platform for its punky sensibilities. This should allow their fans to follow the episodic nature piece by piece whilst adding more dramatic cliffhangers as well. In the busy online world of low budget releases, a change in marketing such as this can certainly help a project push through to a wider audience.
The film’s technical aspects get better as it goes along which shows how the film has been broken down into these “episodes” but the feel and tone are generally consistent. It is great to see an attempt to ADR the dialogue which mostly works as well. Although some more background sound was required to avoid the pitfall of feeling like a studio track from another time. And whilst some of the interior shots are a little under-lit and dark, this does work in its favour at times to hide the home-made special effects and monster costumes.
That said, the film mixes up some interesting explanation of time travel – using the creatures pulsating molecules – and fans of twisty narratives will be pleased as the pacing moves like a rolling stone, swiftly jumping from location to location without ever being confusing. And whilst the acting is broad and OTT, it's the right kind of style for a schlocky sci-fi although I wouldn’t hold your breath for any Oscars just yet!
On a script level, the film is well constructed with dialogue and visual set-ups and pay-offs plus lots of quirky Dutch-angles certainly keeps The Rockman in the b-movie genre. From animated maps to green screen via SFX and drone shots, the filmmakers also don’t shy from away from trying new techniques within each chapter too.
The jokes fly thick and fast with the filmmakers including a big slab of comedy into their story. Two colleagues (Katie Terese and a brilliant Anthony Wright as Jess and Jaime) escape their boring office jobs and their “dick head” manager at Frank Bennett Insurance (FBI) for an escapade into the countryside which makes up the majority of chapter two. Subsequently, the seemingly random chapters one and two eventually crossover in a clever narrative parallel towards the end and chapter three draws the strands of the stories together in a satisfying conclusion.
Overall, there are some very minor technical missteps in The Rockman but that shouldn’t detract from the enjoyable hand-made feel of a low budget gem. The chapters are a great way to engage your audience and the filmmakers clearly have a huge passion for the genre. In the end, less like a pebble than a big boulder, The Rockman crash lands into the Midlands with plenty of humour, heart and science fiction monster fun.
Midlands Movies Mike