Postcards From The Future (2007) – By David Stephenson

 Life has been hectic these past couple of months. The usual bollocks – up to my nipples in work with both of my jobs teaming up to kick my ass with the kind of force not seen since America and the UK held hands to beat the shit out of the Nazis in the 40’s. To say I was snowed under would be the understatement of the century, like saying Brett Rattner films are a bit crap. But now I’m back reviewing again. Did you miss me? I didn’t think so.

As you can probably imagine I’ve got a backlog of films to sift through that’d give the likes if Roger Ebert the boner of a lifetime. All of a sudden I’ve got movie directors tracking me down on Facebook asking to send me stuff, I’ve got guys from Australia sending me screeners, basically with half the indie scene kissing my pale white arse business is good. So with all that going on, imagine how good a film must be for me to get off my lazy, limey buttocks and actually go out of my way to watch a film. Such is the reputation of the piece.

Let me paint the picture for you – there’s a computer graphics guy out there called Alan Chan. He’s the big cheese, having worked on so many of Hollywood’s top pictures that he may well own the title of Grand Mac Daddy of CGI as well as being the Senior Technical Director at Sony Pictures Imageworks.. Ever heard of Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers? That was him. Polar Express? Him too. Titanic? Yeah, you guessed it – Alan whipped that one out without even having to stop for lunch. Not content with a Godzilla-like domination of the big screen, however, Chan has enough enthusiasm left over to have hobbies too. One such demon in his closet is this piece I lay out before you – Postcards From The Future. Starting off as something of a personal fanfare in a basement somewhere and ending up as a 4 year mega-project involving breathtaking effects and an H-Bomb cast of promising actors, Postcards is really one to keep an eye on. I read about this tenacious project on Wired Magazine’s website. Imagine the hard-on those guys had over an event like this… and rightly so.

So what’s it about? Imagine a scene set in the not too distant future, in a time where space exploration really ramps up (as it promises to do in reality thanks to some rather imaginative legislation from George W) and a colony on Mars is on the cards. In steps our valiant narrator and main character, literally named Sean Everyman – an engineer supreme who is given the harsh decision of staying Earth-side with wife and kid or jetting off into space on this magnificent scientific adventure. Understandably our Everyman is on a rocket faster than you can say ‘Neil Armstrong was a sissy.’

And so our epic adventure into a CGI galaxy begins, as we are treated to a glimpse of the mission via a series of interactive video postcards that Everyman sends back to the wife. Here he charts his personal experience on this barren, desolate and lonely planet, through dust-storms, explosions and all kinds of funky shit you’d expect from a high-tech space voyage such as this. The poignant thing about this piece is that where once this would be Sci-Fi of an unreachable, far-out kind, this is now possibly just a glimpse into our future. With the explosion of space-tech funding, the increased interest in all things galactic and the might of the world’s biggest corporations wanting a bite at this low-gravity pie, it may well only be a matter of time before Everyman’s electronic postcards transfer from fiction to reality. All this makes the film yet more riveting.

So is it any good? Let’s take this bit by bit. Firstly the computer generated effects are (mainly) spectacular, especially considering the restraints involved. Whether it’s inter-stellar dust storms, cratered Martian surfaces, or breath-taking spacecraft, all are rendered with an awe-inspiring attention to detail to the degree where you can’t even tell that you’re staring at something puked out of a computer – this is as good as real life. Made with real human actors against blue or green screens with computer-cooked backgrounds, this film is a rollercoaster ride for the eyeballs – the kind of flick that has you just sitting back and thinking ‘holy shit.’ I’d even go on a limb and state that to date this is the 2nd most visually spectacular film I’ve ever seen. And from such a petty, whiney, picky little bastard like me that’s high praise. (The best by the way is Asian epic Casshern, which is so beautiful it may well melt the very fabric of the space/time continuum.) All credit then for Mr Chan and his excellent work. Truly is he the master of the mouse. When it comes to vis-effects, this one really is the Big Kahuna.

The second element to consider then is those pesky humans Chan dragged into his basement of horrors to be puppets on his stage. Generally they do a decent, albeit uneven job of portraying the emotional aspects of this film – and there are many – big shiny things explode. People die. Missions come under fire. All the family favourites designed to keep your arse nailed into your seat for this film’s sadly short runtime. All the more important then to find a cast that can pull out the goodies despite having no props or set to work off of, and nothing to base their emotions or experiences on; hell it’s not like these people can land themselves a time machine.

Everyman, played diligently although sometimes woodenly by Robb Hughes does his best with a reasonably good script and restrictive high-tech costumes. The all-American macho Dude-In-His-40’s type, he at times resembles a less cheesy Peter Weller (shudder) as he delivers his lines with the kind of pout and flag-waving patriotic swagger you’d expect in a film about America’s conquering of The Great Unknown. This guy breathes apple pie and shits Bald Eagles. And in a film such as this, he’s perfectly placed – the few scenes where he does drop the ball are easily overlooked, especially against such a gorgeous backdrop as that painted by Chan.

Indeed such is the very fabric of this short movie – the characters are mere pawns; a device for moving the plot forward and bringing a realistic human element to what would otherwise be a mere demonstration of the CGI arts, not a film per se.

As the film blasts along, Everyman is joined in space by his now grown up (and pleasantly attractive) blonde daughter, played here by Coriann Bright. (Should we call her Everywoman?) The acting here is less convincing than the performances Daddy brings to the table. On her own, her performances – while passable – lack any kind of polish, falling short of being natural. There’s just something about watching her on screen that seems… forced. Like a dancing bear on stage being forced to dance for food, she roars forward with fluctuating levels of skill.

It is their father and daughter scenes together, however, that really set this piece alight. Combined with the breathtaking venire and backdrops, their time on-screen as one makes the film the highly enjoyable and extremely satisfying ride that it is. Given a fellow artiste to bounce lines off, the pair clearly feel much more comfortable, and therefore bring out the big guns to play. Where as sometimes Bright and Hughes on their own seemed like fish out of water, on this more familiar ground they shine – their performances are strong, emotive and… dare I say it without puking all over my jeans… warming to the heart too. There really is an aura about this film that makes this whole affair seem somehow… life affirming.

Therein lies Postcards’ biggest draw – the ability to kindle the imagination – to set the viewers brain on fire with the challenges and possibilities of an entirely possible future. As I mentioned earlier all the exploration that goes on in Chan’s remarkable little film is based on current evidence, science and funding which together could bring mankind into a whole new reality (let alone that breathtaking possibility – sex in Zero G?)

Chan’s little film kicks more cinematic ass than most Hollywood ‘epics’ and given the unavoidable budgetary restraints looks amazing. To the un-initiated, this film really does look like it cost more to make and acquire than a 15th century Scottish castle. And yes, this film could kick the ass of Armageddon.

You humble readers can catch your very own Postcard From The Future* by checking out the official website at: http://www.postcardsfromthefuture.net.

* (Yes, that really is the cheesiest closer to a review ever. This is a proud day for me…)