Classic science fiction often involves filmmakers trying to portray what’s ahead for mankind, whether it’s the Empire versus the Rebel Alliance, the relatively near future of 2001: A Space Odyssey or a dark future as portrayed in Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green or Gattica. It’s rare for a modern filmmaker to try to create something with old-school verisimilitude, however, so while The Protokon might not stand up as much of a thoughtful cinematic experience, its retro 80’s look and style make it worth a viewing anyway.
In fact, writer director Anthony de Lioncourt runs the entire finished film through a digital “aging” process to add visual artifacts and even sneaks in a copyright in the opening titles that places it as a film from 1983. It also has the dark, over-saturated colors of its genre, along with semi-mystical elements, some of which are straight out of Logan’s Run and others from Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
The story revolves around James Tain (Mark Mattson), whose life is shattered when a band of thugs attack him and his fiancée, leaving him unconscious and her dead. His entire world focuses on revenge and when the mysterious Elijah (Jaiden Kaine) makes him the proverbial offer he can’t refuse, a chance to wreak his revenge in return for unwavering loyalty to The Order, the film becomes a choice between good and evil. Th real story then is the same as that explored in 80’s films like Rambo and the 70’s films Billy Jack and Walking Tall: what happens to a man after he’s wrought the revenge he’s so long imagined?
Elijah is part of Project Midnight, explained in the opening titles thusly: “… with a technology combining science and the dark arts a perfect soldier was created, enforcing The Order’s plan for population termination. This soldier was known as Project Midnight.”
Director de Lioncourt taps into much of the 80’s sci-fi zeitgeist with The Protokon‘s weaving of ominous science and technology — and at one point I’m sure I heard a sound effect borrowed from The Six Million Dollar Man TV series — with the era’s surprising prevalence of Satanism and the occult. Indeed, The Order’s leaders communicate with the top person in the organization (Satan?) through a computer system that features a glowing pentagram.
To be fair, The Protokon is not a great film. It’s not really even much of a good film. But if you enjoy your dark 80’s science fiction and are curious what an homage to a previous era of cinema can look like, you might just find this a great film to watch with a cold beer or two and a couple of mates who have a similar nerdy sense of movie history.