Written and directed by Eddie Alcazar.
Starring Stephen Dorff, Moises Arias, Jason Genao, Karrueche Tran, Bella Thorne, and Scott Bakula.
Centers on two mysterious brothers, who abduct a mogul during his quest for immortality. Meanwhile, a seductive woman helps them launch a journey of self-discovery.
Sci-fi is so, so hard to pull off on a svelte budget, and while Eddie Alcazar’s (Perfect) new dystopian thriller Divinity – executive produced by his mentor Steven Soderbergh – touts some creatively resourceful visuals, ideas are key and it simply lacks many of its interesting own. Set aside its sometimes-diverting style and this feels too often like a listless grab-bag of superior genre touchstones.
Divinity unfolds in an ambiguous future on a barren planet where scientist Sterling Pierce (Scott Bakula) has devoted himself to conquering death, eventually concocting an immortality serum of mysterious origin named Divinity. Following his death, his son Jaxxon (Stephen Dorff) carries on his work, manufacturing Divinity to the masses, but in light of death as we know it being wiped out, society has collapsed. Yet everything changes when two otherworldly brothers (Moises Arias and Jason Genao) show up at Jaxxon’s compound with violent designs in mind.
The concept of striving for immortality is a fairly familiar, warmed-over one in sci-fi, and though Alcazar’s script occasionally hints at some unique existential considerations – namely how abolishing society’s collective fear of death would redefine the human race – genre fans are likely to be left wishing this had a little more meat on its conceptual bones.
Divinity broadly touches on myriad subjects, from the power of the media to capitalism in a digital society, the meaning of pleasure in an immortal world, environmental crises, population decline, and bodily autonomy. Yet while tinged with an over-layer of satire, so much of what we see here feels like diet Cronenberg or Verhoeven, which for a filmmaker evidently working with a limited budget perhaps isn’t quite as harsh a criticism as it might at first sound.
Even so, the Solyent Green-esque mystery of the serum’s origin doesn’t muster too much intrigue, and when the pic finally diverges into some body horror shenanigans later on, the results lurch sporadically into goofy territory.
With several duelling subplots of wildly varying interest, it falls to the film’s visuals to do the heavy lifting, and to their credit they demonstrate nothing if not a heft of effort on the part of Alcazar and his crew. Presented entirely in contrast-y monochrome – though sometimes taking the film grain a little too far – Divinity feels like a secret bootleg film which made its way from 1980 to 2023, its retro production design touting giant CRT TVs, blocky computer consoles, and arcane voicemail machines. Hell, at one point we’re even shown what appears to be a bulky, “high-tech” fleshlight, because why the hell not?
For what we can assume is a tight budget, Alcazar’s film makes a more-than-fair effort to distinguish itself, while roping in a decently distinguished cast to help out. Stephen Dorff gives perhaps the goofiest performance of his career here, playing a very un-Stephen Dorff-like bleach blonde-haired mogul who spends most of his screen time stripped to his underwear. If nothing else, you can’t fault his commitment to the part. Elsewhere Moises Arias sadly feels rather wasted on one of the mostly silent alien interlopers, and Bella Thorne appears for a surprisingly small role as a female leader with her own plan for salvation. It’s at least fun to see Bakula playing Jaxxon’s scientist father for a few scenes, largely through old experimental tapes he left for his son.
Even at just 88 minutes, Divinity starts to feel languorous long before it wraps up, and it’s unlikely that many will be rapt enough by what it presents to re-examine its tangled narrative web. I came away from the film suspecting it might’ve worked better as a short half its length, for though Alcazar’s final set-piece offers a genuinely impressive homage to the stop-motion brilliance of Ray Harryhausen, it ultimately feels like it comes far too late to win the audience over.
The ambition is laudable, but despite some occasionally neat visuals, Divinity lacks sufficiently original ideas to sustain its feature-length runtime.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film rambling.