Virgil Films // 2009 // 98 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // September 30th, 2011
There Are People On The Moon. They Are From The Future. And They Changed History.
Lunopolis opens with a news report showing footage of what we come to know as "The Event." The exact nature of the footage is hard to ascertain, but appears to show some sort of paranormal encounter. The authenticity, not to mention origin of the footage is unknown, though it has apparently caused some to believe it marks the coming of the apocalypse. From there, the film goes back twelve days to Dec 9, 2012. Following a bizarre call-in to a conspiracy theory based radio show, a team are tasked with investigating claims of a secretive society living on the moon, who it is said are controlling events on Earth. Lunopolis follows the team on their journey over the twelve days leading up to "The Event," and their encounters with The Church of Lunology.
Writer-director Matthew Avant's Lunopolis is a fine example of ambitious low-budget filmmaking. Presenting a tale of conspiracy theories and cults, this is a sci-fi movie incorporating everything from time travel, parallel universes, space exploration, Roswell, secret underground bases, and immortality. That Avant manages to cram all of these things, and more, into his film without it feeling overcrowded or becoming impenetrable is a massive testament to his talent. In many ways, Lunopolis reminded me of Shane Carruth's Primer, in that it doesn't feel the need to dumb itself down to still appeal to audiences, and presents interesting ideas that rarely get treated seriously in modern cinema.
Avant's approach is also quite novel, and one should be wary of discussing it in too much detail as giving away vital information will only spoil the movie for others. Lunopolis begins by adopting a Cloverfield-style approach of using found footage, before incorporating documentary style analysis of the footage being presented. This juxtaposition of formats allows Avant to ensure the ideas he is presenting are put across to the viewer in a manner in which most should grasp. It's a wise decision, too, as the exposition-heavy narrative contains dense dialogue-driven scenes that are sure to see some viewers lose track. In particular, a scene during the second act delivers revelation after revelation, and incorporates so many ideas it could cause nose bleeds.
The found footage angle used in Lunopolis works better than most films of its ilk, as the reason given for the characters' filming of events (they're a team sent to debunk myths and conspiracy theories) is plausible. These sequences really bring a sense of adventure to the film, too, as the group stumbles upon hitherto secret bases hidden amongst swampland, and discover machinery that goes way beyond the realms of human science. Despite the film getting into some fantastical areas, it remains grounded thanks to the performances of the cast, who, to a man, deliver natural performances that lend the film a level of realism.
In dealing with cults/religion and conspiracy theories, it was perhaps inevitable that Lunopolis would draw comparisons to The Church of Scientology. Rather than shy from this, Avant clearly revels in it-perhaps suggesting his intention all along was to take a swipe at L. Ron Hubbard's teachings -- after all, he does name the leader of The Church of Lunology J. Ari Hilliard. Hardly subtle, is it?
Lunopolis comes to DVD with a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer. The varying styles of footage mean the picture quality is intentionally inconsistent, but it's fair to say that on the whole it impresses. The 5.1 audio also does well, with clear dialogue and excellent (though subtle) use of sound effects throughout. Along with a trailer for the film, director Matthew Avant provides an audio commentary.
It's easy to see how, with just a little tweaking, Lunopolis could have been turned into a generic Hollywood blockbuster, as it contains so many elements found in movies like 2012 or The Core. No doubt it would have entertained in such a format, but Avant's chosen direction has resulted in a far richer film, and one that will hopefully find an audience on DVD, much like Primer and Donnie Darko before it.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Virgil Films
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated