Directed by Ohio filmmaker Chad Kapper, starring his son Christian and written by four hobby drone enthusiasts. Rotor DR1 feels a little like “A Boy and His Drone” but this experimental community film is entertaining despite its slow pace and awkward acting by some of the cast. Christian acquits himself rather well, as does his romantic interest Maya (played by Natalie Welch).
The setting is an indeterminate time in the future after a virus has decimated the world’s population and stopped the clock on many modern conveniences. This post apocalyptic world has energy pellets as currency and the only technology that seems to still work are the pilotless, and programmed, drones that fly through otherwise quiet skies.
Kitch (Christian Kapper) is a lad whose father worked on a cure for the virus and who the boy believes is dead at the start of the film. Finding a drone that is different from any he has seen before, leads Kitch to believe his father is still alive somewhere.
Maya (Welch), whose uncle 4C collects energy pellets, goes with Kitch on his journey to discover whether his father is alive or not. The two youngsters meet several interesting people along the way and also get caught by two of 4C’s thugs. They enter DR1 in a drone race, escape the thugs and eventually learn the truth about the virus and Kitch’s father.
Rotor DR1 began life as a 10 part web series that was, in essence, written by fans of hobby drones. As the webisodes progressed the makers asked the community for feedback every step of the way. Input received from the drone community and fans of the series influenced the storyline, character arcs and the show’s finale.
After the web series ended it was then edited into a feature film format and distributed via Cinema Libre Studio. In many ways the final product feels like an overlong student production, or like a film version of the old Andy Hardy, “lets put on a show in the barn.”
While this may make it sound like the production is amateurish, it is not. Granted many of the actors feel wooden and not a little stilted. This does not, however, detract from the story or its conclusion. Rotor DR1 is a family film where the action has no gore or needlessly explicit violence, sex or unacceptable language.
There is no attempt to give the drones, not even DR1, a “Wally-ish” type of interaction with Kitch or Maya. The drone prototype does have a very limited interaction with the boy, but that is facilitated via a camera attached to the machine along with an amped-up power supply and A.I. capability.
What helps to sell the film and enable the viewer to overlook any shortcomings, is the voice over narration by Christian Kapper. His “internal” monologue with himself feels genuine and sincere. We believe his musings to be true because of his underplayed delivery.
Both Kapper and his costar Welch, have a good onscreen chemistry as the two disparate youngsters thrown together by their mutual interest in the mysterious drone. Their shared journey is made more interesting by their “genuine” interaction.
The biggest complaint about the film has to be that patchwork quilt feel as the movie was cribbed from a “group effort” based upon fan feedback. That said, this is a fascinating experimental take on filmmaking. Certainly the boy and his drone feel to the film keeps the audience watching in spite of the slow pace and somewhat discordant storyline.
Kapper is not a young Don Johnson and his drone cannot “talk” to him like the Harlan Ellison inspired 1975 film A Boy and His Dog (the dog’s voice provided by Jason Robards). The boy’s search for his father and his travels are interesting though and this film does not rely upon a largely misogynistic theme or sex to maintain interest.
Rotor DR1 could almost be described as bargain basement Disney. It is family friendly, has a tiny budget and contains nothing that is remotely controversial. This is standard fare with an interesting storyline and just enough action to keep the interest piqued throughout. A 3.5 star film, out of 5, that is well worth the time spent watching it.