Author’s Note: Due to the controversial, Christian-religious nature of this film, please note this is a film review that addresses the creative art of filmmaking only, most importantly: what constitutes a “bad film,” why actors pursue “passion projects” (aka “vanity projects”), and the struggles of unknown filmmakers and actors wanting to leave a mark in Hollywood. This review also analogizes similarly-themed films, so as to reach an understanding regarding the creative development of the subject-film and its creator; it also examines the basis as to why streamers give ultra-to-low-budget indie films bad reviews based on said film’s narrative content and not craft in creating the film, itself. This review is not a sociopolitical dissertation intended to incense any reader regarding religious, social or free speech/opinion issues and was written in this site’s ongoing support of independent film.
Thank you for your time and understanding.
After stumbling into-watching the brotherly, Christian apoc sci-fi’er Mayflower II — concerned with a starship ferrying Earth-persecuted Christians to Mars — I decided to give this newly-released (November 2021), Tubi rabbit hole discovery a stream: a stream released, it seems, with no fanfare or promotion (the sign of a true, grass roots, self-produced/distributed indie) as, at the time of this writing: there are no reviews (at least via the popular IMDb and Letterbox’d links) or articles regarding the production or its makers. So we are going into this, so to speak, like the blind man from Bethsaida — with the first (we think) official review of the film, even though it’s been out for a year on pay platforms. (This happens often at B&S with new indies that we strive to support; everyone gets a fair shake, here; thus, we are usually the first reviewer.)
This time, the concern of the anointed sci-fi is the government using a pandemic — in this case, the corona virus — to instill the Revelations-foretold, new world order. Both of these films — Mayflower and 2025 — bring interesting (ultra-to-low-budget) concepts to my streaming platform. Both films — with this one, the debut release by the unknown brothers Joshua and Simon Wesely — are passion-swinging for the fences. As a film reviewer: I’m slipping on the glove to shag the team-Wesely fly at the 410’er inside PNC Park. Since we’ve never heard of them or the film . . . let’s see what this Tubi left-fielder has to offer.
The world is five years into the Corona virus outbreak of 2020 and politicians used the outbreak to instill a new world government. Christianity is outlawed. Constitutions no longer exist. Internet and cellphone communications are strictly monitored. Traveling is illegal. Gathering in social groups is prohibited. And many question if the virus is, in fact, a hoax created to control the masses. Dissident executions are the norm.
In Germany (where this was shot by Deutschlanders), a resistance group of young believers, led by a brother and sister (Joshua Wesely, Antonia Joy Speer), ban to start a revolution: to unite Christians around the world to overthrow the totalitarian regime. Part of the modus operandi is to symbolize the resistance (Does anyone remember the old Timothy Hutton film where he kept spraying “Turk 182” all over New York?) by spraying painting ichthys (Jesus fish) across the German landscape (since it’s on a budget and on-the-sly sans film permits, not effectively; but the viewer gets the “point”; more on that, later). Eventually, as the resistance grows, an ex-Marine helps the resistance fighters escape the authorities. A hacker-savvy government worker also joins the cause. But she may be the unknowing leak — or spy — that brings down the resistance before it begins.
Now, while the brothers’ debut doesn’t possess the scope of, we are reminded of the teen and twenty-somethings “rising up” exploits of the ’80s “Brat Pack” post-apoc’er, Red Dawn, as well as the glut of post-2000-era Young Adult post-apocalyptic films, such as The Hunger Games and Insurgent franchises (and Red Dawn, itself adapted into a box-office failed, Young Adult format in 2012).
Sadly, the many who streamed 2025 back in January were blinded by the mote in their secular, critical eye: the fact that this ultra-to-low-budget science fiction apoc’er is a “Christian” film — one with a deeper, spiritual message regarding faith and how far one will push the envelope preserve one’s faith. So, yeah, this isn’t your usual, A-List summer tent pole filled with Bayos, Bayhems, and perfectly-shed glycerine tears by the doe-eyed offspring of ’70s rock stars pushed to foreground — while narrative content rests in the background: a land where character development and plot logic are of no consequence.
If you’ve surfed around our little ol’ slice of the web for a time, you know us QWERTY-bangin’ farmers of the B&S About Movies cubicle farm in good ol’ Allegheny County love our regional and SOV filmmakers of the ’80s* — of which Dallas and Greg Lammiman (Mayflower II) and Joshua and Simon Wesely are the eventual, digital offspring of that VHS-era.
Scoff as one may at inventive (and secular), against-the-budget indie filmmakers**, such as Philip Cook, who produced Beyond the Rising Moon (1987) for $8,000, and William J. Murray with his shot-in-New Jersey, Blade Runner-cum-Alien-inspired Primal Scream (1988) for 10 Gs, but it’s a fascinating experience to watch young filmmakers tackle the hard-to-tackle-on-nickles-and-dimes science fiction genre. Other passionate, later-day, low-budget auteurs — working equally effectively and passionately — are Robert Goodrich with Ares 11 (2019), Anton Doiron’s $10,000 charming-wonder, Space Trucker Bruce (2014), and Monty Light’s recent, stellar-offering, Space, made from $11,000 in game show winnings.
And I welcome the Wesely brothers to the Salmon P. Chase club: for they made their felicitous feature film debut for a mere $10,000.
Let me say that, again, to the point that was lost on this film’s many negative commenters: this film was shot for $10,000, aka just over 17,700 German Deutsche Marks (since this is a German indie-production).
Ah, but this is a faith-based media endeavor, and disdain for all films or books based in religion is the rule. For Christianity = White Supremacy = Christians are inherently racist: all must be Fahrenheit 451‘d out of existence — along with any statues, if you got ’em.
Ironically, while streamers call out the film as “Christian persecution paranoia,” those streamers, in turn, justify that very “paranoia” by attacking the Wesely brothers for the very points the auteur duo makes in their film. In addition, those reviewers haven’t advanced beyond their first paragraph of their review to discuss the acting, screenwriter, or cinematography, all the while failing to address the Weselys imaginatively — and quickly — working our today’s pandemic fears into a science fiction film context. Hey, they’re Christians, after all: let’s put on our “racial injustice” blinders and just hate the Weselys for hate’s sake and slag their movie to ensure the ultimate, justified “right” is served.
Makes sense to me.
But that’s okay. For as much I praised the above referenced, ultra-to-low-budgeted sci-fi’ers — so as to give you an idea of the spunk we are dealing with in the frames, here — that’s how much others disliked those films and one, tossed the critical trope: “it was the worst-released film in over 25 years.”
Obviously, those purveyors tripping the cinema light fantastique have never partaken of an Alfonzo Brescia (Star Odyssey, if you’re wondering), Cirio H. Santiago (Stryker, if you care), or Bruno Mattei (Shocking Dark, if you dare) film — films made for considerable more money than any of the other films we’ve talked about in this review. One may not appreciate an uplifting, faith-based message mixed with their sci-fi in the frames, but there’s no denying this film — again, shot for $10,000 — looks great for a film shot for $10,000. This is not a “modern day” Manos: The Hands of Fate — which really is an awful film — by a long shot (and we’ve seen even worse than Manos).
An issue many have taken: the Wesely brothers shot their debut film on Smartphones *˟. (“I can to better on my own phone!” So . . . be like Tommy Wiseau, and “Do It,” then, already.) However, we’re not dealing with a bugged-eyed, saliva-spraying, red-cheeked, apoplectic TikTok-indignancy rant about Corona and Republicans that goes viral for humoresque jabs on a nightly talking heads cable not-news program. The Wesely brothers debut film is well-lit and properly framed: it’s obvious Joshua and Simon Wesely have an understanding of cinematography. That’s evident in the film’s opening car chase sequence — complete with gun fire — when we meet Roy (Joshua Wesely), our revolutionary-protagonist, soon captured by government forces. Again, for a car chase sequence captured on iPhones, it’s extremely impressive. The set-up of that chase, by the way, since we’re navigating a non-linear script, and flashing back, natch, returns at the end of the film, for some more, impressive iPhone-shot action.
That’s not to say there’s not some cinematic faux-pas in the Smartphone’d frames: most of the edits are solid, yet, some are awkward; the same for the camera movement: some shots are solid, even majestic (Roy’s inspirational speech in the middle of farmland, away from listening ears), while other movements are unfocused. The same fauxs apply for some of the acting; either the actors were simply not well-rehearsed or the Weselys painted broad, improv strokes and allowed their actors to free range scenes; so there are those awkward, benefit-of-the-doubt, thespian moments. Of course, when you’re working with only $10,000, everyone is volunteering in front of and back of the cameras the best they can. (And set designing government and military offices the best they can.)
After the initial, promising chase sequence, the action in the film falls flat and becomes expositional-heavy to forward the plot (if I had a nickle for every time an ultra-to-low-budget film shot-on-tape, iPhone, 16-mm, or 35-mm drowned in exposition). Also, at an hour thirty minutes, we experience a bit of narrative drag; a cutting down to a more streaming-acceptable hour twenty minutes (80 minutes), would be appreciated (or, even better: an extended-short format ˟*). There are, however, a couple of nice touches of computer graphics, and the against-the-budget soldiers and military officers decently-outfitted enough.
There’s a lot of great concepts at play, here, but those concepts may have been a bit too lofty to capture on a $10,000 iPhone budget (i.e., the spray painting of Jesus fish symbols that lacks the “scope” to pull the intent). But the brothers Wesely are certainly not incompetent filmmakers. Weak actors, sure, but they’re passion-trying their hearts out — and they’re mighty fine behind the lens (well, phone screen).
So, I’m hopefully the brothers Wesely raise even more funds, so as to allow them to secure the services of more self-assured actors for the next production. And when their next film hits the steaming platforms, I’ll hit that big red streaming button. The Wesely brothers are a pair of passionate filmmakers to watch. Make another film, guys. Like Tommy Wiseau says, “Do it.”*˟*
You can watch 2025: The World Enslaved by a Virus as a free-with-ads stream on Tubi. If you prefer an ad-free streaming experience, you can purchase streams via Amazon Prime, Vimeo, and the Christian Cinema platform via the film’s official website.
Here’s a list of more, inventive, against-the-low-budget science fiction films to enjoy.
* Be sure to surf around our reviews of SOV ’80s Films.
*˟ Here’s a few, well-made shot-on-iPhone films to discover:
˟* There’s yet more to discover amid our Short Film reviews. But we’ll call out these really special shorts:
Dear Guest (2020)
The Devil’s Passenger (2018)
Ghost in the Gun (2019)
The Ice Cream Stop (2021)
We Die Alone (2020)
Why Haven’t They Fixed the Cameras Yet? (2020)
Wicca Book (2020)
*˟* We discuss more, impressive first-time filmmakers with our “Drive-In Friday: First Time Directors & Actors Night” featurette.