Based on an epic poem by Harry Martinson, Aniara follows thousands of passengers and crew members as they embark on an interstellar journey to their new lives on Mars – with problems ensuing after the ship is knocked off course and effectively prevented from reach its destination. It’s an intriguing premise that’s employed to sporadically compelling yet predominantely underwhelming effect by Pella K├ągerman and Hugo Lilja, as the filmmakers have infused Aniara with an often excessively deliberate feel that’s compounded by an ongoing inclusion of less-than-engrossing elements – with, especially, the midsection’s heavy emphasis on the shipboard society’s tedious breakdown (ie the picture essentially transforms into High-Rise in space, although, to be fair, Aniara never sinks to the abysmal, abhorrent depths of that Ben Wheatley trainwreck). It is, as such, progressively difficult to work up any real interest in or enthusiasm for the surviving characters’ exploits, and there’s little doubt, as well, that the K├ągerman and Lilja’s meandering sensibilities drain the impact of even the movie’s few legitimately effective sequences (eg the crew spots a probe that might spell rescue). The movie, it becomes increasingly clear, would’ve benefited from a much more conventional take on the material, as Aniara is at its best when focused less on the existential worries of its characters and more on their more practical, real-life concerns – which, when coupled with an impressively grim final stretch, ultimately confirms the film’s place as a missed opportunity that could (and should) have been so much better.

** out of ****

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