I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
Apparently few films have ever been made entirely in the Maori language… and this one, set in New Zealand at a time before Europeans arrived, would seem to promise a sort of story we haven’t seen much of before, if ever. And so it is an enormous disappointment that The Dead Lands is nothing more than a tediously clichéd, overblown, badly acted action flick full of bloody movie violence dressed up in Maori drag. It starts out promising, with a confrontation between two tribal princes — Hongi (James Rolleston) and Wirepa (Te Kohe Tuhaka) — that speaks to a universal tendency toward manufactured wars egged on by men who itch for battle. But soon it’s nothing but lone Hongi pursuing Wirepa and his small band of fighters through the Dead Lands, a realm haunted by the ghost of a tribe that disappeared overnight… and a flesh-eating monster who takes out anyone who dares to invade its territory. The soulless emptiness of Glenn Standring’s script reduces the spiritual aspects of an ancient civilization into something Avatar-lite (not that Avatar was deep, but it felt more authentic than this, for all that it was about invented aliens, not a real culture), and director Toa Fraser completely fails to capture anything transcendent in his New Zealand locations (The Lord of the Rings did a far better job of making the land look mystical, or even merely beautiful in an earthy way). As warriors line up to fight like they’re in a 1970s kung-fu flick and do some shouting about honor and glory, glory and honor, this becomes yet another cartoon celebration of men’s bullshit justifications for vengeance and murder.
viewed during the 58th BFI London Film Festival