(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: After a deadly virus kills 90% of the human race the world returns to small camps of survivors frequently fighting each other. Kitch, the sixteen-year-old main character, together with a girl his age and an artificially intelligent drone, strike out across country to try to find Kitch's missing father. Making the trip more difficult is the fact that most of the world thinks Kitch's father is to blame for the devastating viral plague. This film is based on, and probably edited from, a web series and crowd-funded by the drone hobby community. ROTOR DR1 is directed by Chad Kapper and written by Steve Moses, Megan Ryberg, Scott Windhauser, and Seth Yergin. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

There is a great deal of controversy these days about the use of drones--unmanned aircraft--the technical descendents of remote controlled aircraft. Films like Andrew Niccol's GOOD KILL look at the downside of remote control warfare with drones. They are something powerful and new, and people are fearful that their capabilities will be used against innocents in warfare and to spy on our own population for government invasion of privacy. In situations where we would not want to risk the lives of our own soldiers we can send in machines while the humans remain safe. There is no battle armor stronger than a few thousand miles of distance. Drones are certainly a useful weapon. In stark contrast to the negative view, ROTOR DR1 is a film made by private drone enthusiasts.

ROTOR DR1 is based on and probably re-edited from a science fiction web series of the same name. Sometime in the near future a deadly plague has killed all people but one in ten. Civilization has fallen apart and scavengers and thieves run wild. The key to power may be the drones. They still fly around the sky like insects under no obvious control.

Kitch (played by Christian Kapper) is sixteen years old and lives by his wits since his father disappeared during the pandemic. When Kitch's father's heirloom watch is stolen from him, Kitch discovers the thief is a girl, Maya (played by Natalie Welch), who is his own age and whom he befriends. He also gets another friend, a drone controlled by artificial intelligence that seems to like Kitch. DR1 becomes for him a sort of an iLassie. The charters come to refer to DR1 as "he" and "him," though thankfully there are no attempts to make DR1 look nearly human like the robots in THE BLACK HOLE.

The film's funding was crowd-sourced from the drone hobbyist community. So it is in a sense an amateur production and the production values are only sufficient. The writing is variable. We hit moments when the writers overestimate the viewer's affection for the drone DR1. Within the workman-like prose there are a few unexpectedly well-written lines. The people we would identify as the "bad guys" have scruples themselves. Their leader finds out that one of his minions slapped a child he was interrogating and angrily responds, "We don't hit kids." You will not find a line like that in a James Bond film. I found the story a little padded at times and other times a little hard to follow. Also a quick check with a few experts could have avoided embarrassing technical mistakes like using the phrase "sciatica around the lips." (I have a hard time imagining that from even the most agile of contortionists.)

Tyler Clark's cinematography does not have a lot of flourishes, but it gets the job done. It is surprising how much this film does with so little resource. I rate ROTOR DR1 a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.

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					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2015 Mark R. Leeper