Impressions: Red Faction Origins

After reading the recent review for Red Faction Armageddon by fellow PSNation writer Jason my interest in the new direction of Red Faction franchise has diminished.  This includes the SyFy Original Movie Red Faction Origins.  Still, I had hope that this feature presentation would be good enough to generate a new SyFy Original Series similar to what occurred not long ago with the network’s adaptation and reinvention of Battlestar Galactica.  When that show was on it was, hands down, the best television offered week to week.  It had everything!  Incredible acting, intense drama, epic space battles.  I eagerly anticipated each new episode.  Sadly, BSG has been off the air for a few years now and SyFy has yet to come close to capturing that level of quality television since.  Therefore, it saddens me even further that after finally getting around to watching Red Faction Origins the network will undoubtedly be heading back to the drawing board yet again.

Intended to bridge the gap between THQ’s Red Faction Guerrilla and their newly released (and drastically altered) Armageddon, Origins tells the story of the Mason family.  Alec Mason (portrayed by the still capable Robert Patrick), hero of Red Faction Guerrilla, is an aging man and years have gone by since he last swung that great and powerful hammer of his.  The focus of the story is on his son Jake, a Red Faction officer who struggles with his families tumultuous past.

Roughly 12 years after the Martian Colonists won their independence Jake’s mother – a non-colonist Marauder – is murdered by what is thought to be a vengeful Marauder tribe.  On top of this tragedy Jake’s sister, Lyra, is kidnapped in the midst of the chaotic events that occurred when both were just children.  Now a young man, Jake is continually aiding his drunken father while still mourning the loss of his mother and sister.  As luck would have it the two siblings are reunited, quite by accident, during a mission Jake is sent on.  His sister, once thought to be long dead at the hands of Marauders, is in fact alive and a trained soldier recognized only by their white fatigues.

It’s all a fairly easy to follow story, and one that’s been told numerous times before.  It’s not that Origins was a bad movie.  The actors and director certainly should receive an A for effort.  Unfortunately, they all tried just a bit too hard and it was eventually at the cost of making an entertaining SyFy channel original movie as opposed to what we have all come to know as the typical SyFy channel original movie.  I think we all know what I’m talking about here.  If not, tune in any Saturday night for the latest and greatest and you’ll get a taste of what everyone has come to expect.

Red Faction Origins seemed to be trying too hard to be the next Battlestar Galactica and, as a result, they lost their focus.  The combat was far too scripted, the colonist were still wearing the dirt from when they first landed and the special effects were taken right from the 1980’s.  Even the audio representation of a future Mars was worked over too hard.  There wasn’t a single scene in that movie that the director chose not to include some sci-fi sound effect.  It was as if it was their goal to constantly remind us that this was a futuristic movie taking place on a far away planet.  It resulted in a more disruptive, than immersive, experience.

Had they focused their craft on telling a better story rather than try to appeal to the big budget sci-fi enthusiasts the end result would have been – potentially – much better.  If there was one thing Battlestar Galactica taught everyone it was that if the story is strong, if the actors believe in it, the rest of the production will fall into place.  Sure, BSG had some incredibly epic moments but it was the characters that willed me to tune in week to week.  It was the story that I couldn’t get enough of.  Everything else was just filler in my opinion – much appreciated, but filler nonetheless.

I was trying to avoid this comparison to Battlestar Galactica but, on the other hand, I was desperately hoping for another Battlestar Galactica-quality series.  What we got instead was a slightly better-than-average SyFy Saturday night movie.  It wasn’t half bad but it also wasn’t half good.  Robert Patrick proved to me that he still has what it takes but his limited time onscreen wasn’t nearly enough to carry the movie.

Between the drastic changes THQ made to the gameplay of Red Faction Armageddon and this half-hearted attempt at a Sci-fi movie tie-in, it’s quite possible that any future Red Faction stories – videogame or otherwise – may already be as cold and dead as the surface of the planet they represent.

Written by Bill Braun

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