There’s been an interesting trend in Indie SF lately.
If you look at films like Yesterday Last Year, Lea: Light Engineering Android, Young Ones, Melocotones, or The Infinite Man, you will note that, despite their SF elements, they are primarily movies about people, and the science fiction is part of the human story.
Naturally, the sort of people who think SF should be about the latest claims made by today’s researchers (you know, the ones that will make your film terribly dated in a year or so, when the next set of scientists prove that they were wrong) aren’t exactly pleased with this notion. However, while film, as a medium, is reasonably good at dealing with human emotions and drama, it isn’t very good at dealing with abstract scientific concepts. If you consider these films as movies first, and SF second, then you will find that the complications that a science fictional problem can bring to human relationships are definitely worthy of attention. It opens up a world of interesting possibilities: the effects of time travel, or alternate realities, or a genetic copy of a loved one are all guaranteed to mess up our everyday lives.
The Gateway fits this pattern quite well. We have Jane Chandler, a driven young mother who it trying to keep her scientific work from taking over her life entirely. She hasn’t been that successful because she knows that she is remarkably close to unlocking the secrets of teleportation — and because of the pressure from her backer, who wants results quickly or he will take away their funds.
And then the apple they are trying to teleport vanishes.
When they attempt to learn what has happened to it, they learn that they have done something far more remarkable than merely transporting matter…
I’ll confess that this one caught me a bit by surprise, partly because I thought this would turn out to be yet another Primer-style time travel film, but more because Writer/Director John V. Soto suddenly took the story in a completely unexpected — but very human — direction. One knows that things aren’t going to work out, but at the same time, it is easy to understand why Jane would take the risks she does. The end result is solid and entertaining — and I’ll admit I regret the fact that I’ve had this one waiting for me for some time and I never quite got around to it.
Now one might note a few minor glitches. I’m not sure that the time factor on this film is right — Jane is given a deadline for her project, and yet the personal events in her life seem to be taking a lot longer than that deadline — and the project is still continuing with the fear of that somewhat distant deadline. Nor does it make much sense that they would accomplish such an incredible breakthrough and yet not inform their backers of their success. I also tend to agree with those who felt that her children come across as a little flat. Mind you, I’m not sure if that’s simply a question of their acting as the parts are a little undeveloped. The worst goof, though, is that her project is supposedly using petawatts of power, an amount so large that her experiment most be using nearly all the power generated in the whole world: I suspect that it is one of those errors where someone said, “everyone talks about gigawatts of power, let’s take that up a notch” without realizing just how much of a leap that was!
(All right, all right, I know some of you out there won’t consider that last one “minor”…)
Those of you familiar with Independent film will know what to expect here: a modest film, made on a budget that is somewhat less than modest. But, like so many modest Indie films, it knows how to make the most of that small budget, and does so by focusing on the human drama inherent in the story. John V. Soto does give us a bit of action and a few effects, but he knows better than to try to make his movie look like a Hollywood blockbuster.
But that doesn’t mean that The Gateway doesn’t have its share of thrills, scares, and surprises.
After all, no one needs a big budget for those. Just a fair amount of imagination, a bit of skill…
And lots of hard work.
(My thanks to John V. Soto for proving a screener)
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