Video game movies have never done well. They always feel cheap and poorly acted, and they never follow the nature of the game in any wholesome manner. When THQ announced–through a partnership with the SyFy network–that they would be releasing Red Faction: Origins, a made-for-TV movie premiering at 9 PM on June 4, eyebrows raised.
At a screening last week, we were given a glimpse of Red Faction: Origins, and it’s probably one of the better game adaptations out there. Why? First and foremost, the film doesn’t take place during Red Faction: Guerilla or the upcoming Red Faction: Armageddon. Those two games follow Alec Mason and his grandson Darius respectively, leaving Origins to follow Alec’s son, Jake, right in the middle of this family timeline.
Honestly, this is probably the best decision for the movie. It has plenty of small cameos from the games, but it can follow its own narrative within the Red Faction universe. By allowing for previously ignored characters like Jake and his sister Lyra, SyFy and THQ have made something halfway decent.
And halfway decent it is. Don’t flick on your TV ready to watch something that is cinematically groundbreaking or especially well-acted. The actors do give a good effort, and nothing feels particularly half-assed. The Terminator himself, Robert Patrick, does a fine job as the aged and moody Alec Mason, who lost his wife and daughter in the time after the game’s events. His son Jake (Brian Smith) is now a lawman himself, working with the colonists to deal with the constant Marauder threat, lead by Battlestar Galactica veteran herself, Kate Vernon.
Of course, there’s Jake’s spunky side-kick and potential love interest Tess (Danielle de la Vega), and Jake’s long lost sister Lyra (Tamzin Merchant) is quickly brought forward. Seems she had been kidnapped by the dastardly Earth-based White Faction, who had been hiding out on Mars for twenty years, and her reunion with her family provides the main story arch. The plot is fairly predictable, but for a TV-debut movie things are certainly not bad. The special effects are actually quite good, and the film does a great job of nodding to events in the games, including establishment of Armageddon’s main villain.
Now, if you’re expecting the movie to lay the foundation for everything that happens in Armageddon, you’re going to be disappointed. Origins is a pilot, meaning it may lead into a TV show should the movie prove popular. It is for that reason that the movie leaves some questions unanswered, but it certainly feels self-contained and is satisfying for what it does.
Should Origins become a show, however, I feel there is a ripe opportunity for something special. The film is about as high in quality as Battlestar Galactica, which isn’t too bad at all. Those expecting a Sharktopus-esque experience will be disappointed, but for everyone else needing a solid science fiction fix, they could certainly do worse than Red Faction: Origins.
In the end, THQ and SyFy did a solid with this one. Red Faction: Origins doesn’t feel like a cheap, slapdash film, and it certainly fits the feel of the franchise. Fans of the games should definitely take a peek this Saturday when Red Faction: Origins premieres on the SyFy network.