When you watch an Indie film, you never quite know what to expect.
Case in point: Destroyer of Worlds, a film which ran at this year’s Miami Sci Fi convention.
When Samual Dawes, its director and co-writer sent me a screener, he asked me to keep in mind its low budget and that his crew were all working full time jobs elsewhere, and it was a first film for many of them.
So you can imagine my surprise when I found an elegant, polished and very professional film which showed few signs of its limited budget.
Now, if you’ve seen as many Indie films as I have, you know just how difficult this is for first time filmmakers, and I’m sure it helps that Sam had a crew of professionals working with him — not to mention his own experience in creating visual effects for films as diverse as Inception, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and The Last Jedi.
But the real test of any Indie feature — or of any film you watch — is not the technical skill that went into it, but what it has to offer. Which, in this case, is an intriguing time travel thriller, where discovering the theoretical basis for time travel leads to a series of unexpected events which may mean the end of the world.
I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for a good time travel thriller and I enjoyed this one, which is by parts action thriller, time travel weirdness, and father/son relationship drama. Too often modern science fiction filmmakers fail to develop their characters, or to create this sort of very human drama at the heart of their stories. Some one needs to remind them that this can breathe life into even the most well-worn ideas.
I particularly like the idea of the mysterious — and rapidly approaching — time barrier which no time traveler has been able to cross (which reminds me of some of the “Centuries” in Isaac Asimov’s The End of Eternity which were mysteriously closed off to their manipulations). Also noteworthy is a surprising side effect of discovering time travel which I’ve only seen in a few other time travel films (offhand, only I’ll Believe You and some short film whose title escapes me come to mind). I consider it a sign of our times that one of the inspirations officially acknowledged by the plot summary on IMDB is the cult hit videogame, Time Splitters 2.
…Remember when SF films used to be inspired by older SF movies — or, curiously enough, if you go back far enough, by actual print stories and novels?
IMDB considers this one a “short film” because it is 43 minutes long — and their cut-off point for features is, well, 45 minutes. However, the film definitely does not feel short, nor does it seem rushed, and the story is at least as complex as the average big budget blockbuster (even if it does make rather more sense). I suspect the sort of people who play Time Splitters 2 regularly might even describe the film’s deliberate pace as “slow.” The rest of us, however, will have no trouble with it. I particularly liked the beautiful university setting, which is used to great effect in the final sequence, as a main character has to elude the team of commandos pursuing him across the campus.
And it hardly seems worth noting, considering Samual Dawes’ background, but yes, the effects are well done and used effectively. What’s more, they’re used sparingly, a decision few directors are wise enough to make these days.
All in all, this is an impressive first film for any young director, and I hope it won’t be his last.
He might even have to give up his day job.