Able Edwards (2004) – By Duane L. Martin

 Able Edwards has the distinction of being the first movie ever shot completely in front of a green screen.  For those who don’t know, the green screen process involves shooting scenes with your actors in front of a flat green backdrop.  Then during the editing process, the green backdrop is replaced with whatever background footage or effects the film makers want to throw in there.  While the process was used before this film, this film is the first to be shot in front of a green screen in its entirety.  This process allows the film makers to create magnificent worlds with computers instead of having to build huge elaborate sets, and is much more cost effective.  This process has also allowed independent film makers with small to no budgets to create scenes and effects that were previously relegated only to big budget Hollywood films.

Able Edwards is the story of a man, oddly enough named Able Edwards, who’s basically a Walt Disney-esque character.  He created an animated character that became very popular, built family oriented theme parks and generally brought happiness to the world while building his corporation into a huge, money making empire.

That was all in the past though, and now this new world of the future is very different from anything he could have imagined.  Contagions had been released in the world that made it inhabitable to any form of animal life, including humans.  The humans, in an effort to save themselves, built a massive space station, which now contains all that is left of humanity.

Life continues on as normal in this new habitation, and the Able Edwards Corporation is still going strong.  Only now, instead of making animation and building theme parks, they build and sell androids, and everything has become very corporate with no real heart.  Unfortunately, their profits have plateaued, and in an effort to bring some heart back to their company, a plan was hatched to take bio material from the frozen body of Able Edwards, and use it to clone him, with the intention that he be raised in as similar an environment as possible to the original Able, even duplicating many of his life experiences.  He would be told what he was and what his purpose was and know that his destiny was to take over the corporation when he turned 25, but otherwise, up until that point, they would do their best to create an environment that would shape his character so that he would be similar in nature to the original.

Long story short, he did take over the corporation, got married, had a kid, created theme parks on the station, ran for the senate, had an accident at the theme park, which killed his son, and was then ruined after all his parks were shut down and his political career went in the toilet.  It took all of this to make him realize what was really important in life.  In the end, he takes one of the company ships and goes down to the Earth, where he finds himself standing in front of a statue of the original Able holding the hand of his famous animated panda.  I suppose this ending was supposed to be rather Citizen Kane-esque, but having never seen Citizen Kane, I can only speculate on that.

This film actually was a remarkable achievement and did look really nice throughout most of it.  There were a couple of scenes that were a little hokey looking, and something really hokey that I do need to mention, because it was the result of the way this film was shot.  There were some scenes of Abel walking down a corridor with a small group of his employees walking with them.  It looked absolutely ridiculous because it was blatanly obvious they were all just standing in one spot and moving their feet up and down, pretending to walk.  It really stuck out like a sore thumb in a film that otherwise looked really sweet.

The acting in this film ranged from good to really good, but never really making it to excellent.  I think the reason for that is also a result of the way this film was shot.  It has to be really difficult for an actor to feel their character and act appropriately when they aren’t in an actual setting.  When there’s nothing all around you but green screen, it has to be really difficult to feel the situation and the character.  I can’t really fault the actors for this, but I will say they did a pretty good job under the circumstances.  There was another film called Mirrormask put out by the Jim Henson Studios in the UK I believe that was also shot completely in front of a green screen.  It was an absolutely gorgeous film, and didn’t suffer from any of the slight acting awkwardness this one displayed at times.  I guess it just depends on the actor and how they’re able to deal with that particular kind of a shooting environment.  Since this was the first film shot completely on green screen, I can see how it would have been easy to have not taken the acting issues into consideration before hand.  Again, the acting was good, it was just a little awkward in spots.

The story generally was well written, but I think there were some issues with the Able character in that once he took over the corporation, he became very dualistic in his personality.  He could be really nice to some people and then turn around and cold bloodedly fire people for very little reason.  He was all for creating these fantastic wonderlands for families to enjoy, and then had this whole other corporate side to him that was very much the opposite.  I’m sure this was supposed to be because of the fact that he was raised in a very dualistic way, being given many of the original Abel’s life experiences while at the same time being prepped to take over the corporation.  Still, I didn’t feel that it played out very well.  The two sides of his personality crossing over each other should have been a little more subtle.  There were harsh jerks this way and that that just didn’t seem realistic.

The lighting, sound, editing and camera work and animations in this film were excellent.  The film was done in black and white and looked really phenomenal.  The scenes of the theme park Able created on the station were extremely imaginative and like something you’d have seen in an old 50’s sci-fi exploration of what the theme parks of the future might be like.

All in all, this was a very good film with just a few minor problems and glitches.  There were some moments of slowness, but otherwise, it was a memorable film that will provide you with a good 85 minutes of quality entertainment.  Aside from that, it’s just generally interesting to see how the first ever fully green scene movie plays out.

If you’d like to find out more about this film you can check it out on the Heretic Films website.