Australian cinema has its fair share of mavericks. From George Miller to Baz Luhrmann, our country produces filmmakers with big visions and the know-how to pull them off. Add Shane Abbess to that list, with his third feature film cementing his place as a filmmaker who marches to his own beat but still manages to pull off cinema of the highest order.
With Osiris Child, Abbess and co-writer (and composer) Brian Cacchia have concocted the story of a futuristic world where we find pilot Kane Sommerville (Daniel MacPherson) separated from his daughter Indi (Teagan Croft) and forced to track her down after the powers that be decide to unleash a true monster into the world. On his treacherous journey through a post-apocalyptic landscape Kane is joined initially by ex-convict Sy Lombrok (Kellan Lutz) and then methed-up kissing cousins Gyp (Isabel Lucas) and Bill (Luke Ford). These anti-heroes are up against the authorities led by General Lynex (Rachel Griffiths) and jail warden Mourdain (Temuera Morrison) who are messing with science to produce the ultimate killing machine.
Like his previous films (2007’s Gabriel and 2015’s Infini), this heightened world is grounded by a cast giving it 110%, which makes the drama and thrills compelling. Yes, this is a fantastic futuristic world but at its core are relationships and human connections. All of the cast are electric, with Lutz and MacPherson proving great leading men, and at the time 11-year-old Teagan Croft a genuine discovery, radiating innocence and experience beyond her years in different sections of the film.
There’s also a lot of well put-together action and seamless effects that rivals anything that Hollywood (and ILM to be precise) has to offer. This film is a real step-up for Abbess in terms of budget and scope, and he really delivers. The set pieces – and there are many – are directed adroitly, and should see Abbess on a short list for the next sci-fi franchise.
Unfortunately, as much as Abbess should be commended for taking on such an ambitious endeavour, it is also his downfall. The narrative ultimately proves unwieldly – divided into multiple chapters, going back and forth in time to tell the whole story, the whole doesn’t quite come together in the end. The father/daughter relationship at the story’s core isn’t as emotional as it could have been, mainly because the daughter is missing for too much of the film; and the introduction of Gyp and Bill halfway through the narrative is jarring – it’s as if they’ve stepped in from a different movie. And, although on paper the denouement is a classic one, it doesn’t quite land. Most disappointing, the monsters, which were created with real effects are not especially convincing compared to the slick CGI seen throughout the rest of the film. The faults really come down to the vision being much bigger than the budget. In previous films, Abbess has managed to transcend limitations with an energy and intensity that drives an essentially simple story, but here his universe is much bigger (in fact it’s even bigger than that – check out the title – with the hope that this is just the origin story of a far bigger franchise) and far harder to hide behind filmmaking tricks.
Criticism aside, The Osiris Child: Science Fiction Volume One is an eye-opener for what’s possible in Australian cinema when you have a maverick with filmmaking chops driving it. Shane Abbess has used much of his core crew and supporting ensemble from his beginnings, and they have grown with him. You get the sense that this is only the beginning of a very exciting filmography and potentially a kickstarter for a genre filmmaking movement in Australia.