Friday, July 28, 2017

Lunar





Today's short film is called LUNAR.

Written and directed by Tyson Johnston, he's yet another in a long line of hard working genre short film creators that I've never heard of, nor have I even seen any of his work.

Well, that's gonna change today, people!

Here's the synopsis: Set in Los Angeles City, 2057, an outlaw is captured and sentenced to a lifetime of imprisonment on the Lunar penitentiaries. To reunite with his family, he must become the first convict to escape the corrupt system and return to Earth.

All right. That sounds cool. I'm interested.

Let's watch...



That was good.

Well, maybe interesting is a better word. It definitely wasn't bad, but it certainly wasn't great either. There wasn't really a giant glaring flaw either. LUNAR is a well made, good looking, nicely paced genre short film with decent effects and a pretty strong script. There was some really great dystopian looks and details too. I loved the facial recognition stuff, and they did a really good job hiding the restraints of the low budget with how shot the inside the shuttle, and how they used the Security Feeds to blur the actual crash. All of that kind of stuff was smart. I like that. The acting was good, the dialogue was fine. All in all, this was good. I enjoyed it.

But I have three complaints.

One little complaint, and two larger complaints, specifically. The little complaint is definitely little, but once you notice it, it's pretty actually pretty annoying, and kind of detracts from the film, at least it did for me. The larger complaints are definitely larger, more encompassing of the whole project, but they also don't really hurt the film that much.

They don't help it either.

The little complaint is about the robot police. They looked good, even though they were kind of a currently pretty familiar designer, but whatever, the point is... they looked good standing there. The problem was, after awhile, I couldn't help but notice that all they ever did was stand there. Maybe they moved a head, or a single arm, but that was it. Otherwise, they mostly just stood there. Did they creators run out of cash, and couldn't afford to animate the robots more, or did they animate the robots, but the final product looked bad, so they decided not to use it? Either way, even in the space of five minutes, by the end of the film, it stood out.

The two larger complaints are familiar ones when it comes to genre short films.

The first one being, for the most part, that even though this film was generally well-paced, it ended in the wrong place. The film did a good job imparting information and stakes. It covered a lot of ground and gave a lot of information, and all within basically a five minute run time. The problem is, I question the decision to run credits before the main character's actual homecoming. I assume a dark and depressing discovery awaited him at home, judging by the phone call, but that's the basic gut punch that these types of short stories/short films live off of. The escape from the moon is more notable when it's ultimately futile. The escape alone lacks any emotional resonance. Plus, that much narrative left dangling is not a good decision ever.

The second larger complaint is that a lot of that Narrative Dangle (tm) is due to a lot of open-ended world-building insinuation. Yes, I can guess what types of slavery and experiments are going on up in the Moon Prison, but why mention them and not make more use of them? To give the character a reason to escape? He already had one in his wife and kid still being on Earth, and sounding like they're in a bad way. Besides, the basic rule of short stories is always a good thing to keep in mind: With so little narrative space, you only have room on-board for directly relevant details and information. Extraneous bits should be chucked, and the whole experiments/slavery angle? The definition of extraneous here. All it did was take up time and space the film couldn't afford to lose, and in the end, directly contributed to us being left hanging as the credits rolled.

Cool. Good. Not great.
Jon


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