Despite its strenuously portentous title, which some might mistake for a herald of wink-wink satire, “The Osiris Child: Science Fiction Volume One” is a straight-faced and serviceable sci-fi action-adventure set on a distant planet where corporate overloads exploit hard-bitten convicts as slave laborers for colonization efforts — and human guinea pigs for bioengineering experiments.
From her vantage point in a floating headquarters high above the wild world, Exor company executive General Lynex (Rachel Griffiths) appraises the progress of settlement construction — and encourages the mad-scientist activities of Warden Mordain (Temuera Morrison), who’s been charged with transforming part of his prison’s population into monsters programmed “to kill or assimilate indigenous species.” Evidently, Exor plays by the same rule book as the Umbrella Corp. in the “Resident Evil” franchise and Weyland-Yutani in the “Alien” movies.
When things go wrong, as they always do in pulpy scenarios such as this one, and the monsters are inadvertently freed during a prison riot to devour (and/or transform) any human in their path, General Lynex begins a 24-hour countdown for a devastating nuclear blast that will destroy any evidence of corporate misbehavior.
This does not sit well at all with Lt. Kane Sommerville (Daniel MacPherson), a fallen-from-grace war hero turned military contractor who took the Bring Your Daughter to Work program a tad too far, and had Indi (Teagan Croft), his 11-year-old child, come along for a visit to the place where dad claims to be “building an entirely new world from the ground up.” Trouble is, Indi is down below on the about-to-be-nuked planet, forcing Kane to attempt an unauthorized rescue flight from the floating Exor headquarters.
Working from a script he cobbled together with Brian Cachia, who composed the relentlessly emphatic musical score, director Shane Abbess somehow manages to maintain an acceptably brisk pace even while time-tripping between individually titled “chapters” in the narrative. (A not entirely unexpected reveal in one of the later chapters cleverly lays the groundwork for what can only be described as a fairy-tale twist.)
“The Osiris Child” borrows freely from several well-known dystopian sci-fi dramas, and cribs a thing or two from lesser-known ones as well. (Hardcore genre fans, take heart: Someone besides you actually remembers 1977’s “Damnation Alley.”) But most of the recycled bits and pieces are the right bits and pieces to recycle, and the production values — including Steve Anderson’s CGI creatures, and Carl Robertson’s inventive lensing of Australia locations that double for the “entirely new world” — indicate the filmmakers made the absolute most of a limited indie budget.
In addition to the first-rate contributions of McPherson and Croft, there’s a solid performance by Kellan Lutz as a prison escapee who joins forces with Sommerville, and some amusing scenery-chewing by Isabel Lucas and Luke Ford as a pervy pair of reprobates who join the rescue mission for fun and profit. Morrison and Griffiths have relatively little screen time, but that’s all they really need. It is meant as the highest praise to say both actors make you believe unquestioningly that their characters really, really enjoy their dirty work.