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[Fantasia ’15 Review] ‘Orion’: A Taxing Fantasy/Sci-Fi Hybrid

Civilization has crumbled. The last vestiges of the human race scavenge and fend for themselves by any means necessary. People dress in rags and culture has been reduced to a primitive, mythology-steeped landscape. It’s like a Renaissance fair on crack.

This is the backdrop for writer/director Asiel Norton’s new fantasy/sci-fi hybrid, Orion. The world he has created is rich with detail and combines astrology, the tarot, and symbolism into an orgy of comparative mythology. The story itself is simple and unfortunately leaves a lot to be desired. It ultimately feels like the shell of a movie with a lot of detail rather than depth.

David Arquette stars as the Hunter, a man who roams the post apocalyptic wasteland alone, living off rats and mumbling esoteric passages to himself. He keeps his eyes peeled at night for the Orion constellation, which as legend has it, will lead him to a city where he’s to fulfill his destiny. While he camps out in a crumbing parking garage, nearby Magus the magician (Goran Kostic) keeps the Virgin (Lily Cole) captive. When she gives birth, Magus buries her baby in accordance with a ritual that’s supposed to bring about the savior of mankind. This is all explained in whispered narration and chapter cards with old timey font.

The story is essentially this: our hero Hunter comes to Magus’ well defended home and attempts to rescue the Virgin, our damsel in distress. It’s Hunter’s destiny. Along the way he’s helped by the Fool (Maren Lord) and goes through one hell of a trial. With the story’s rather straightforward hero stuff, there’s a potential for more complexity that’s never fully realized. Orion feels like the basic outline of a film with nothing emotionally substantial to actually engage the audience.

The world the film presents is ripe for a more engaging story than the one Norton delivers. The costumes and locations are fantastic and the mythology is interesting enough, there just isn’t much else there. He uses the shaky, hand-held approach a lot and when the camera isn’t jostling around, we’re treated to long shots of Arquette pondering his destiny. I really like Arquette and feel like he’s underrated a lot of the time. So I was excited to hear he was doing this bizarre little indie film. If only he was given more depth to work with here rather than just repeating abstruse dialogue for 90 minutes.

Like the Hunter’s journey, getting through Orion is an arduous task.

Orion had its world premiere at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival.



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