October 08, 2010

Seres: Génesis (2010)

Almost since its humble beginnings, Mexican science fiction films have been a territory populated by the exploits of mad scientists, sexy space invaders, schlocky robots and wrestling monsters of all kind; building up a filmography that has seen movies with definitely more heart than budget, and a naive charm that makes up for its notorious lack of production values. Certainly, films like Rogelio A. González' "La Nave de los Monstruos" or René Cardona's "Las Luchadoras vs el Robot Asesino" were not aiming for hard science fiction but just for an entertaining mix of adventure, comedy and the occasional robot. Of course, there have been serious sci-fi films in Mexican cinema, but unfortunately, most of those attempts tend to be, at best, exercises of involuntary humor (there are exceptions of course, such as 1958's "El hombre que logró ser invisible"). In the year 2007, Mexican filmmaker Ángel Mario Huerta decided to make another attempt at serious sci-fi with "Seres: Génesis" and finally, three years later, the final result of that attempt is released.

In "Seres: Génesis", Gonzalo Vega plays professor Owen, recognized scientist and head of Owal Technologies, a leading industry in the development of technology, which has been collaborating with the United States government in a secret project. This project involves archaeological research in the Mayan region of Mexico and is being coordinated by Section B, which is Owal Technologies' secret division. Graco (Manuel Balbi) is the archaeologist in charge of the investigation, but his efforts are interrupted when a series of strange paranormal phenomena begin to take place in the city, forcing him to stop the work and return to Owal, where he'll be reunited with his old flame, Mariel (Alejandra Barros), whom is now Section B's Director. At the headquarters, professor Owen informs Section B about the situation, the presence of extraterrestrial beings on Earth, and presents the new member of the team: seasoned hunter Vega (Arturo Delgado). Now, Graco will join Vega, mathematician Martin (Humberto Busto) and biologist Emma (Liz Gallardo) in their hunt for the extraterrestrial beings.

Written by Armando Guajardo and director Ángel Mario Huerta himself, "Seres: Génesis" is a tale of mystery, adventure and science fiction pretty much in the vein of "The X-Files". Taking as basis the popular concept of ancient civilizations being visited by extraterrestrial beings, Huerta and Guajardo chronicle the efforts of Section B for uncovering the secret behind a recent increase of alien abductions and UFO sightings. Unfortunately, what seemed to be a good chance to explore classic themes such as conspiracy theories, alien invasions or close encounters; ends up being a half-baked mix of those elements that feels unpolished as it doesn't seem to go anywhere with them. while there could had been room for mystery and suspense within the story, any chance for that gets wasted as things are solved easily with scenes of poorly written dialogs. One big part of the problem is that there is barely any character development at all (some characters, such as Emma, are even irrelevant), so it becomes difficult to get involved with the adventures of Section B.

At the helm of "Seres: Génesis", director Ángel Mario Huerta feels focused more on displaying the special effects of the film instead of building up a consistent narrative. The problems in the screenplay are carried out to the film's narrative and the movie ends up having an inconstant rhythm that goes from frantically quick to dully slow and back. Huerta's handling of the cast also feels really lacking, as the performances vary from good to downright bad; although it must be said that his action set pieces, while unfortunately scarce, are quite well done. Cinematographer Alejandro Cantú's work is appropriate, but nothing really spectacular, though he makes good use of the digital technology. Nevertheless, praise must go to the visual effects team that, for the most part, do make the most out of the budget and create some of the best effects seen in Mexican cinema. Probably Huerta lacks in narrative style and the directing of his cast, but the director truly made good use of the special effects for the film.

As written above, the performances in "Seres: Génesis" are pretty much sub-par, with two notable exceptions. Experienced actor Gonzalo Vega as professor Owen truly captures the sober image of dignity and power that the intellectual character requires. With talent Gonzalo Vega manages to make a clichéd ridden father figure into a believable, realistic character. Young Humberto Busto is the other exception in the film, playing mathematician and passionate ufologist Martin. With a very natural delivery and charming attitude, Busto truly gives life to the eccentric mathematician, despite the poorly written dialogs his character recites through the film. Certainly, one of the highlights of the film. The rest of the main cast is pretty much average, with Manuel Balbi and Arturo Delgado fitting the roles of action heroes without great impact. Alejandra Barros and specially Liz Gallardo have little to do, given their poorly developed characters that barely appear.

While a highly ambitious project done probably with very good intentions, "Seres: Génesis" suffers of a major problem that prevents it from being the science fiction it aims to be: its lack of an engaging storyline. While director Ángel Mario Huerta does achieve for brief moments that magic of capturing the imagination, for the most part the film feels tiring and even boring. The interesting concept of ancient civilizations making contact with extraterrestrials feels shallowly explored. Being the beginning of a trilogy, it would be expected that "Seres: Génesis" wouldn't show everything in the first installment, but Huerta went completely to the other extreme and the movie ends with the feeling of it being incomplete. Not with the desire of wanting to know more, but with the void of having seen something edited or unfinished. Ultimately, "Seres: Génesis" commits the sin of failing to properly introduce this universe, to captivate with it, or making it interesting. This could prove to be problematic for the next installments in the story. Perhaps a little more care in the development of the screenplay would had saved the film from feeling lost without direction.

Aiming to capture the look and style of Hollywood's big budget science fiction, "Seres: Génesis" also captured the worst of Hollywood's flaws, specifically the related to the storyline, as it clearly favors the display of its amazing visual effects over any try at character development. Since "Seres: Génesis" has more dialog than action scenes, this flaw is even more noticeable. With the release of "Seres: Génesis", Francisco Laresgoiti's "2033" and other Mexican sci-fi projects, year 2010 seems to be the year where science fiction once again attempts to rise in a national filmography that historically has neglected it and relegate it to low budgets and precarious production conditions. Nevertheless, the lack of heart in both "2033" and "Seres: Génesis" makes one wonder if those schlocky contraptions, seductive aliens and cardboard monsters of old Mexican films may have had more soul than their modern counterparts.



Anonymous said...

I think the style is more reflective of Mexico's national style it's typically soap opera style never give everything on the first showing. however I'm surprised that Gonzalo Vega would even take this job seems more destined for a B movie actor. But I'm grateful he took it. It was on the cine latino channel today on time warner.

J Luis Rivera said...

Unfortunately yeah, it can't escape from that style, which I'm told it also plagues Huerta's previous film, "Inspiración".