Shangri-La: Near Extinction: Great Story, Too many Flashbacks

My husband and I both love Science Fiction films and also happen to like Post-Apocalyptic movies. When we were approached by InFuse Releasing, we thought it worth checking out their new film, releasing May 28th physically and digitally. After watching this intriguing film, written & directed by Nick Wauters (Creator of NBC/UNIVERSAL’s THE EVENT), we found the story an interesting concept that plays with the theme of perspective. We also found the acting solid and the worldbuilding excellent.

Set in a post-apocalyptic future, mankind has nearly gone extinct after the spread of a plague and a human-made ice age created to combat the ice age. The film focuses on a group of survivors, led by Vargas (Eric Szmanda). They are trying to find their way to Shangri-la, a place where the species have supposedly begun rebooting but the group must face many dangers along the way, including a fanatical cult and a mysterious group labeled only “Green-eyes.”

One of the elements that pleased me the most is the plot itself. There is an incredible amount of detail and thought behind the story. The film contains a depth of information, almost too much for one movie. Half the story is told in flashbacks which the director transitions into well, providing a lot of the background for how the future was created and ties back to Vargas and his group. In addition, the story within the flashbacks is intriguing and kept us engaged. The characters have powers that are well introduced using action and dialogue. The idea of perspective is planted early on and is integral to the plot.

The acting begins rough, a bit stiff but once the characters begin engaging with each other, the acting is decent. Eric Szmanda leads the group as Vargas and he does a good job of depicting his character as being logical and focused on survival. Patrick Batiste as an ex-fanatical priest, Kalo, was introspective. Sara Malakul Lane as Pax is interesting, especially with how she shows her character’s abilities. The two brothers who join the group, Ewan Chung as Tai and Josh Shibata as Aisa are engaging and charming despite their willingness to shoot other people. Mykayla Sohn as Quent is among the best actors, her character mysterious and dynamic. Rocky Bonifield as Gyro is quirky and interesting. All of them kept me engaged with their characters and interested in the story.

All of the effects for the scenes set in the past bar one were well created. I like the octopus-like look of the creatures in their tank and how they escape. I love the depictions of their intelligence and I like the effects of the weather in the future. The equipment and facility that the group ends up at are well designed. What didn’t work as well were some of the special effects of the creatures when they are out of the tanks. I also found some of the graphics not as well designed when the group is fighting. Despite that, the effects work well for a lower budget film.

In addition to the effects, while the story is compelling, the execution could be tightened up. The movie begins with exposition which is entirely unnecessary since those portions of the film are told through the flashbacks as well as the dialogue between the characters.

The flashbacks of the creatures work well but the flashback of Kalo’s past could have been handled better as dialogue between the characters and through interaction with the fanatics. There are too many flashbacks in general but some of them work well to illustrate the movie and some of them are better written than the post-apocalyptic portions so I didn’t find them as intrusive as I’ve found in other films.

The pacing is slow and part of that is because the future parts don’t have enough plot to carry the full movie. The flashbacks are almost enough for another movie and the ending of the movie leaves me wanting a tighter resolution as several parts are left open for another film. I really wanted a more fleshed out story for the future elements and an entire first movie as a prequel with the flashback details. Despite that, I loved the characters, their abilities, and the worldbuilding. The world is rich and detailed with enough details to make me want more.

If you like post-apocalyptic films, the type some characterize as B movies, this one might interest you. The acting is good, the story is engaging, the characters are intriguing, and the effects decent. I liked the theme of perspective and would honestly watch more if there are sequels.

Rating: 3 out of 5 tentacles.

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