“Have a blessed day”
Ever want to know what a mixture of The Fourth Kind, without the re-enactments, and Primer would look like? Well, neither did I. That doesn’t mean I was turned off at the prospect, however, especially since both those movies are highly recommended by me. So, sitting down at a Buffalo Niagara Film Festival screening of Lunopolis was one I looked forward to. Listed in the program as a Feature Film, but categorized as a Documentary on IMDB, its synopsis confused me into wondering whether this was a real or faux doc. The premise being about a secret society of humans from the future, capable of traveling through time to correct the errors of our history while living on the moon, would cause you to speculate it’s all a ruse, but there are some crazies out in the real world who may have conspiracies like that at their disposal. It didn’t take long, though, to find out the truth—an early caption onscreen says “December 9, 2012 < 12 days until the event”. I could now breathe easy and let the story wash over me, delving into this fictional yarn from the mind of filmmaker Matthew Avant, knowing it wasn’t the ravings of mentally imbalanced members of the public.
What struck me early on was how natural the actors appeared. Both Avant, as Matt, and Hal Maynor, as Sonny, are completely believable as two documentary directors chasing a conspiracy that began with a Polaroid. Sent to a radio station from a supposed escapee from the government looking to expose the truth about the moon, the photo contained GPS coordinates on its backside that led the men to a drowning house in the middle of swampland. Through all the craziness to occur as a direct result of this trip to see what’s there, the guys never fall into artifice, probably improvising most of the dialogue while playing off other actors and events cooked up for the film. Discovering a body harness time machine, contained within it a moon rock of unknown origins and power, the filmmakers soon find themselves on the run from a church of zealots called Lunology, people who follow the word of J. Ari Hilliard and his works of science fiction posing as first-hand fact. We are then brought into a world of heavy conspiracy, explaining how our own existence is the second go-round after our previous 2012 selves restarted everything to fix the wrongs that left our world in utter chaos. Yes, the world was even worse off then it is now.
A blatant chiding of Scientology and its founder L. Ron Hubbard’s tax-break inspired cult religion turned phenomenon, Lunopolis is not only intelligent and thought provoking in its mythology and scientific backings, but also a humorous take on the question of whether something as absurd as sci-fi based religion could be true. The crazy idea of humans living on the moon at Lunopolis, a city painted over in every lunar photo taken and a sister of the lost Atlantis on Earth, is taken at face value with expert opinions to prove the hypothesis. And it all does make sense. What is more plausible after all—finding alien life at Roswell and covering it up or finding actual humans from the future? What would scare the general public more? Of course the government would cover the truth and create stories of extra-terrestrials, a subject that more than most officially reject without a second thought. UFO sightings are actually travelers from the future, able to redo past transgressions, but not vault forward. That is why the Mayan calendar ends on December 21, 2012; no one has ever lived past that date. It’s not because the world ends, though, its because it resets and begins anew centuries earlier, this time with the knowledge of having to kill Abraham Lincoln and even John Lennon. If Chapman didn’t go back in time, you don’t want to know what Johnny was about to do.
And then in comes David James (Dave Potter) to swoop in and enlighten the boys on what is actually happening to them. He tells the story of parallel dimensions and the different levels of ‘Awake’, the highest being where you can sense every level at once, even knowing when a change has occurred in real time. He also posits the conspiracy of Lunology founder Hilliard and his achievement of immortality. Utilizing the secrets he was privy to and the Luna Stone, he cracked the genome code for ever-lasting life, only to find how horrible that gift actually was. Desperate to go back in time and kill his doppelganger before he finds the key, Hilliard has tried and failed and at present fallen off the grid. The story is so far-fetched that it actually holds some water and captivated me even more into what it all was leading towards. Avant has created a completely original take on world history that is equal parts comedy and historical possibility. By entering the world with his two fictional filmmakers, skeptical of it all themselves, we are able to suspend our disbelief and soldier on.
I give a ton of credit to all involved for some really awesome effects to go along with the plot. The flying car scene is so abrupt and quick-paced that it works; the creepy Polaroid of a bald man with sunglasses, buried for decades yet having 21st century clothing, fascinates; and the test-run of the time machine is fantastic, from the noise of turning it on, the static of the digital camera feed, and the split-second disappearance of its wearer. However, the effects are also where the film fails. Some of the Photoshopping work of archival material is really bad cut and paste, taking any sense of realism away and, as a result, taking you out of the conspiracy. There is also the acting quality of Lunology’s muscle, treading very close to caricature, and the plethora of actors parading in and out during the ‘factual’ portion of the film. I believe it was a mistake having a different scientist arrive onscreen with each sample of evidence supporting or refuting time travel. It makes it appear everyone knows the joke, something that could have been avoided had they picked four or five professionals and kept going back to each.
The payoff supercedes any missteps along the way, though. In a “Battlestar Galactica” ‘all of this has happened before, and it will happen again’ kind of way, Lunopolis runs full circle. The amount of precise care that went into the orchestration of everything is very impressive—putting all the characters together on the day of the event, causing the biggest moment of déjà vu the world has ever known. Complete with a twist that works because of its appropriateness rather than its surprise, I couldn’t have been more satisfied with the conclusion. This thing could have the kind of legs that propelled Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity into blockbuster hits, but with such a tough subject like time travel, I don’t see it happening. Unfortunately, there are too many people confused with more mainstream examples such as Terminator and even The Time Traveler’s Wife to allow an indie gem like this see huge success. However, Primer saw its day in the spotlight, so there is always a chance. I wish Avant and company all the best in hopefully finding theirs.
Lunopolis 7/10 | ★ ★ ★