There are a lot of negative connotations around the idea of gimmicks. Nobody wants to have their work be regarded as “gimmicky” but sometimes a unique ploy to create any form of impression is required. Especially in the continuing plethora of science fiction that’s released on an almost hourly basis; a twist or spin on generic tropes are a necessity in order to demand significant public attention. With Origin, an unremitting sense that something distinct is trying to be conveyed, but it’s never entirely clear what. Andreas Climent and André Hedetoft, the writers, producers, and directors of the film, have made something impressive within the constraints of a minuscule budget, but there’s nothing intriguing in the film itself to stick long enough in a person’s mind.
Origin is a retelling of the classic “Science Vs. Nature” stories with the oft-told moral that humanity playing god is a very, very bad thing. Except there are no accidental human/fly mutations in teleporters, nor are there any mad scientists reanimating sewn body parts with electricity. The only monster in Origin is cancer. Three young scientists, Erik (Rikard Björk, “The Sandhamn Murders” TV series), Julia (Emelia Hansson), and Rebecca (Sandra Redlaff, “Wallander” TV series) are on the cusp of a major breakthrough in cell research by slowing down the ageing process which would, in turn, extend human life. However, as Erik’s cancer resurfaces and becomes terminal, they begin experimenting with their slower cells as a cure to Erik’s illness. The results are beyond anything the trio have imagined, but this incredible breakthrough also has its devastating consequences.
The primary and insurmountable problem in Origin is that it never quite knows what kind of story it wishes to tell. At first, it begins to resemble an arthouse film akin to something by Shane Carruth, but then it feels like a “realistic” superhero movie only to become that typical science fiction tragedy that has been recounted many times before. It’s a bad form of genre and style mixing, with each element negating one another so that it never quite works. It’s too loose with science to be considered alongside “Primer” or “Upstream Color,” it’s too focused on the science to follow a superhero’s origin story, and it’s too busy with those other two elements to let its tragedy carry any emotional weight. It’s a genre film that lacks any core idea of what it wants to say or do and the whole narrative feels hollow and meaningless because of this.
Despite its script problems, some elements work quite well. Its three central performers share a lot of chemistry in each scene and indicate a lot of promise in future roles. Both Rikard Björk and Emelia Hansson pack a lot of emotional weight in their interactions with one another, while Sandra Redlaff helps convey a lot of depth to her character that is lacking from everyone else. Likewise, cinematography by Nils Croné helps elevate the film’s mood with excellent use of tones to create the atmosphere Origin so desperately wants so as to be of any interest at all.
It’s a depressingly mediocre outing that never transcends the feeling of a genre exercise. While it certainly can’t be considered an awful exercise, it cannot be considered a ingenious or thought-provoking one either. Origin is a typical middle-ground genre flick which will help pass the time but little else.