Tides just aches to be a waterborne Blade Runner crossed with Mad Max, but instead emerges as even more waterlogged than Waterworld. A soupy, post-apocalyptic Europudding that needed more action, greater imagination and a star of some magnitude in the leading role, this tale of an investigation into the possibility of restoring life to a mostly decimated Earth is all dark, grim and clammy. Premiered in the Berlinale Specials section of the Berlin Film Festival, and exec produced by Roland Emmerich, this is a lumbering piece of very heavy metal that might achieve lift-off as acceptable generic fare here and there but not in more demanding markets.
The wee bit of requisite backstory is that, upon the occasion of an Earthly apocalypse, some humans were able to resettle on the colony of Kepler. A couple of generations on and after an initial failed attempt at a return, a handful of humans are sent back to Earth to determine if life is once again feasible there. Among them is a gung-ho young lady named Blake (French actress Nora Arnezeder), who survives her spacecraft’s crash landing and begins making her way toward what may or may not be worthy of being described as civilization. A colleague makes it this far with her but ultimately can’t manage it and commits suicide.
The part of the world in which Blake finds herself is wet, sandy and bleak, hardly a hospitable environment. In fact, she’s along the German Tidelands, a seldom remarked-upon stretch along the southern coast of the North Sea with enormous wet beaches. Almost by default, this area emerges as the star of the film, as its strange beauty and misty changeability is eerily captivating.
By rights, Arnezeder, who is little-known in the U.S. despite having appeared in such films as Maniac and Safe House and even moreso in Riviera, Origin, Mozart In The Jungle and Xanadu on TV, should have been the star of Tides. But Swiss director Tim Fehlbaum, whose previous feature was Apocalypse (Hell) a decade ago, doesn’t seem to know how to use her to maximum effectiveness in a role that, under ideal circumstances, could have served as a breakout part along the lines of Alien for Sigourney Weaver.
As it is, Blake sneaks into the compound along with others amidst the rubble, which includes an old aircraft carrier along the beach, and eventually finds her way in to see Gibson (Iain Glen, as in Jorah Mormont in Game Of Thrones). This gentleman was a colleague of Blake’s father on the original expedition to Kepler years earlier.
Knotty mysteries soon develop concerning both Gibson and Blake’s dad, but the question of the hour — or more correctly, of the millennium — is whether human procreation is now possible, or soon will be, on Earth. There is a bit of downtime as we get to size up the competition among those who might become new Adams and Eves on the planet, the ones in a position to represent the future of humanity on Earth. The possibilities at hand look none-to-promising.
It’s clear that Fehlbaum and company had Mad Max: Fury Road, in particular, on the brain, but second-hand goods are not what were needed here. The concept of reimagining human life on Earth from scratch represents a tempting and exciting sci-fi challenge that has unfortunately not been embraced by the filmmakers here in any seriously creative way. They thought small when large was the way to go.