Jordan Butcher, Jacob Chattman
The end of everything is definitely not a new concept. It's an idea that provides endless possibilities for writers looking to create the how, the why, or the when. An idea that never grows old because quite frankly, it scares the hell out of us. Perhaps scarier than the actual end of humanity, is what happens just before we all collectively close our eyes. The search for hope, science, and relocation. Even the possible downfall or reversal of life as we know it, and of course, our faith. What happens when we know the end is coming but are given the time to plan for it? What then happens, if our escape plan doesn't go exactly as we had hoped? "Solus" follows along with these concepts somewhat, but focuses more on the reversal of civilization and science. A world of angels, faith, and a dark sickness affecting a steampunk-inspired population. Although this pilot episode ends up being framed in humanities future, the focus is on a dying medieval society. A society where technology is an ancient mystery - but not quite scarce enough to be considered magic. A society that generation after generation is dying out - and the only possible answers or solutions seem to be with the angels.
That's correct reader, I did write angels - and meant angels in the very sense you are probably guessing. In "Solus" we are introduced to James and David, embarking on a trek to find and discover the secrets behind these mysterious beings. James is far from a believer, but is talked into the journey by David, who has faith the two will discover the truth. The two estimate they'll have five days before they themselves are hunted down for leaving - and not by human foes, rather from flying machines called "hawks." The two set out on their adventure and as you might suspect, find a little more than they were bargaining for - including a strange woman named Hope. The kicker? Hope is from a land called Earth and upon being woken up, is just as confused as James and David. I would go on, but this is a spoiler-free review - and the truth is that "Solus" is worth the watch to find out for yourself.
So, let me get right into it shall I? Technically speaking, "Solus" is pretty impressive for a micro-budget film. I know, I know, it's actually the concept pilot episode of a television show, but lets not split hairs. For myself, deciding on a rating for this show was tough - and here's why. The first half of "Solus" felt a bit slow to me, and as much as I hate to write it, it seemed to drone on a little more than I had hoped. I remember pausing to refill my coffee, and being completely blown away that only eighteen minutes had gone by. With that written however, the second half flew by at lightning speed. I mean... by the end of the film I was completely engrossed in what I was watching! If I were to split up my rating, it would be three stars for the first half, and four stars for the second. Since I can't really do that, I settled for the middle ground.
The exact reasons why I thought the first half was a little long? I can't say for sure, it's not something I can put my finger on exactly. If I were to guess, I would say it had something to do with the edit itself - yet I can't really think of anything wrong with it. Maybe, the cutting is a little standard when in fact, "Solus" would have benefited from a more action-styled edit. Giving more emphasis on action shots instead of following the standard "cut to motion" style. Much like the original "Star Wars" film, where the edits watched alone make no sense. If you pay attention to the cuts in that film, you'll notice that people, actions, and events are all over the place. Luke could be mid-jump and the very next edit, his arm is fully extended and swinging his lightsaber. In a very linear sense, it makes no sense - but man, it sure makes things exciting.
I remember a scene specifically where our heroes are climbing a rocky mountain and come face to face with a mechanical hawk. The edit makes perfect sense, the two are alerted and prepare to avoid detection. A quicker edit, such as no warning at all - and the hawk just appearing beside David would have been awesome. Aside from that? I also believe another aspect that kept the pacing slower during act one, was the excessive amounts of walking shots. It's safe to write that most of the first act is James and David walking around. A few minutes could probably have been shaved, quickening the pace a little. The only other thing that struck me as not feeling quite right, was the entire ending sequence. Having closed off the episode with that excellent panning shot of James, David, and Hope felt like the perfect place to end the episode. So, I was quite surprised by the final sequence. Let me be clear, I didn't think it was bad in any way - it just felt a little extra. Like something that should have been included in the next episode.
When it's all said and done, nit-picking aside, "Solus" was actually really great. A little slow off the mark, but not so much that I wanted to shut it off. And believe me, once you're into the second and third act, you'll be hooked. Even the acting, something oftentimes less than stellar with indie flicks, is really damn good. My advice to anyone thinking of giving "Solus" a try? Go for it. You'll not only be glad you did but like me, you'll be joining all of us on the bandwagon, praying another episode is produced. Three and a half stars - well done.