Producers: Lisa Shaughnessy, Jason Taylor and Kate Croser   Director: Seth Larney   Screenplay: Seth Larney   Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ryan Kwanten, Leeanna Walsman, Deborah Mailman, Sana’a Shaik, Finn Little, Aaron Glenane, Damian Walshe-Howling and Andy McPhee   Distributor: RLJE Films

Grade: C

Seth Larney’s ambitious but low-budget sci-fi movie might strike you as very like one of those old TV series that had big ideas on their mind but lacked the resources to dramatize them effectively—just think of something like “Space 1999.” “2067,” a title which unwisely invites comparisons to “2001,” has a few good effects—as might be expected of Larney, a visual effects specialist turned writer-director—but mostly it’s a talky, confusing and ponderously self-important time-travel tale. 

The subject it addresses in typically apocalyptic terms is environmental degradation.  As a result of man-induced climate change, by the titular year the earth has become virtually uninhabitable due to lack of oxygen, plant life having died off.  The synthetic oxygen produced as a replacement by a mega-corporation called ChroniCorp keeps the ever-declining population alive, but at terrible cost: some people react to it by coming down with “The Sickness,” a wasting condition that invariably results in death.    

Among those still trying to cope with the miserable situation is Ethan Whyte (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who works at ChroniCorp alongside his partner Jude Mathers (Ryan Kwanten), whom he considers his brother, at keeping an underground power source operative.

Ethan is a sad fellow.  His wife Xanthe (Sana’a Shaik) is slowly wasting away from “The Sickness,” and he’s haunted by memories of his father Richard (Aaron Glenane), a scientist who abandoned his family to go off on an unexplained mission when Ethan was a child (played in periodic flashbacks by Finn Little), leaving the boy to deal with the violent death of his mother Selene (Leeanna Walsman) alone.  Richard also left the boy with some abstruse words of wisdom and a mysterious electronic gizmo he still wears on his wrist. 

Ethan is surprised when he’s contacted by Regina Jackson (Deborah Mailman), the imperious head of ChroniCorp.  Her team has been working on a time portal (a structure inspired, it seems, by “Stargate”) to contact the earth of centuries to come and find a cure for the planet’s ecological collapse.   But they have received a message from the future instructing them to send Ethan, of all people, to their era to learn how the world was regenerated and restart the power at the other end of the time machine in order to bring the answer back with him.  Though reluctant to leave Xanthe as his father had Selene, he accepts the task.

What follows involves his experience in the future, which is none too happy.  Though the earth has in fact been reborn with ample forestation, Ethan finds a skeleton than seems to be his own, as well as a message from himself that does not bode well.  Jude also arrives from the past, though whether it’s to assist the mission or abort it is not clear. Richard is also involved in a series of revelations that while complex, are not terribly surprising.

One appreciates that Larney wants to keep us guessing about what’s going on in “2067,” but he doesn’t have the skill either to construct a tense scenario or to dramatize it efficiently.  As a result the film grows progressively irritating rather than suspenseful.  The sense of claustrophobia as Ethan and Jude run about through tunnels and passageways in a labyrinthine future complex is no help, and Ethan’s increasing anxiety as he tries to contend with the thought not only of his failure, but of his imminent demise, engenders not so much concern as exasperation. 

Larney does manage to tie things up by the close, after a fashion.  But while hopeful, the outcome doesn’t carry the sense of triumph that the lovely but obviously ersatz visuals are intended to elicit. 

On the acting side, Smit-McPhee is pretty much required to carry the film on his own, and while he gives a committed performance, he’s simply not up to the task; it doesn’t help that his character is often reduced to whimpering and woeful sobbing.  As his younger self Little is affecting, but the rest of the cast, including Kwanten, provide unexceptional support.  Larney’s craft team—production designer Jacinta Long and cinematographer Earle Dresner—have done yeoman work collaborating with him in fashioning both a dystopian present and a lush but empty future on a so modest a budget, but Sean Lahiff’s editing is slack, and the score by Kenneth Lampl and Kirsten Axelholm gets overpowering in an effort to suggest tension and awe.

One has to admire the ambition behind “2067” and respect the cautionary message about climate change it wants to convey, but the result proves a mediocre genre misfire.