Somnus, a science-fiction film from Epic Pictures, is an unabashedly old fashioned flick. This is not always a good thing. The movie is a mixed bag of contradicting elements. It’s the kind of film you desperately want to love, full of practical effects, John Carpenter-esque music and even some game actors. However, all of these aspects are let down by some wonky scripting and miscalculated pacing. It’s not a complete waste, but it’s a letdown all the same.
The film follows three “astro-truckers” as they transport minerals across the stars. As their journey continues, it becomes clear that the on-board A.I. has ulterior motives for their voyage. Things begin to disintegrate as tensions rise and the secrets of the ship are revealed.
The biggest issue with the story is that the characters are never truly fleshed out. There’s the guy with a wife, the guy who loves space, and the guy losing his mind. That’s about as much as you ever know about these people, and it’s a shame because the actors turn in decent enough performances to make you want to care. Exposition dumps become heavy near the end of the film, with one monologue extending long enough to make the 88-minute run-time drag. There are interesting questions being asked here (what enables mankind to prosper in a universe that is hostile to its very existence?), but you never latch onto these ideas organically. The movie just sort of throws them at you.
Somnus scores big points for its use of practical effects. The depiction of deep space is marvelous to look at in a way that even some of the starry vistas in movies like Interstellar aren’t. However, the moment the miniature ships come onscreen, the visuals begin to falter. There doesn’t always appear to be enough attention paid to how those elements are lit and framed. Their design borrows from films like Alien, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Solaris, but you never get a good enough look at the models to accept them as real. There is some good puppet work near the end, however, that will no doubt charm lovers of practical creatures.
At the end of it all, Somnus is a film that just breaks your heart. There are so many great ideas here at the start that watching the film becomes especially painful as it goes on. One can’t help but wonder if the (clearly) low-budget was stretched just a tad too thin for such an ambitious idea. You have to give the filmmakers credit. The movie is in no way phoned in, but all that we’re left with is what’s on the screen, and the film just doesn’t cut it.