Somnio is a new independent film project from writer Travis Milloy. I recently came across this project through an unfortunately unsuccessful kickstarter campaign, and was instantly drawn to the intriguing ideas, premise and the philosophy behind the endeavor.
“The story involves one man held captive in a fully automated prison. He is kept alive and interrogated by a computerized jailer and his only means of psychological escape is to live in an imaginary world with the woman he loves. He suspects something has happened to the outside world and the computer is continuing to follow its fail safe protocol. He is forced to outsmart the computerized prison in order to escape, in hopes of returning to a world and a woman that may already be gone.”
Travis Milloy, the man behind Somnio, is most known as the writer of the Hollywood film, Pandorum, staring Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster.
Pandorum is an excellent little science fiction/horror film that unfortunately fell flat in the eyes of the box office, most likely suffering from a typecast as a generic copy of of the Alien franchise along the lines of the similarly unsuccessful film, Event Horizon. However, in my opinion, Pandorum succeeds where many similar films suffering from this trope fail.
The story revolves around two members of a flight crew who wake from cryogenic hibernation chambers. They quickly find themselves suffering from a temporary memory loss – unsure, aside from slight glimpses of their past, of why exactly the are aboard a massive human transport ship, traveling through deep space. The main plot begins as Corporal Bower (Ben Foster) starts a journey through the bowels of the ship to reignite the engine core before it resets effectively paving the way for the deaths of everyone on board, while Lieutenant Peyton (Dennis Quaid) stays at a command station to help guide him via communicator.
The film quickly delves into its horror/thriller element as Corporal Bower quickly is introduced to a large group of somewhat LotR style orc-like creatures (except slightly more cannibalistic…), that seem to have taken over the ship, living a tribalistic lifestyle and eating people.
What sets Pandorum above other films with similar concepts is how the plot evolves along with the characters. The two main characters slowly regain their memory throughout the film, coming to the realizations of differing perspectives on reality and learning of the possibilities of Pandorum (kind of like Cabin Fever in space) within themselves. The rag-tag band of surviving humans Corporal Bower assembled to journey with him to the ship’s engines evolve from everyone-for-themselves badass action heroes to teamwork-driven badass action heroes with interesting skills, attitudes and contributions to the team. Without giving too much away, the final act is of the film takes the viewer through a well-thought out and unexpected plot development, while still retaining elements of what make science fiction great; deep space exploration, wonder of the unknown, and hope for a better future.
If you haven’t seen Pandorum I highly recommend it. It is this that drew me to search around for more of Travis Milloy’s work. I was disappointed to learn that Pandorum was meant to be the middle piece in a planned trilogy – each exploring a different aspect of science fiction; a prequel revolving around a dystopian Earth and the beginning of a mission to a new world, Pandorum serving as the horror/thriller sequel in space, and finally an explorative science fiction tale on a new world – and that, due to the poor box office results, the idea was ultimately laid to rest.
However, coming upon Milloy’s new project, Somnio, I regained hope. This independently created and funded project represents the best in film arts; attempting to succeed despite the strong base supporters and funders of the much more generic science fiction stories, mass produced by Hollywood and chalk-full of CGI. Somnio looks to take science fiction back to its roots as an exploration of the mind, and a mystery-driven plot that takes the viewer into the unknown – a step away from big budget scifi that solely relies on action and special effects, and a step back towards the more thought-provoking science fiction such as Moon, Sunshine, and Gene Roddenberry’s original vision of Star Trek.
This is why I choose to support Travis Milloy’s efforts in bringing Somnio to life. I hope it not only paves the way for new ways of filmmaking, but inspires aspiring filmmakers to craft good stories despite some of the drivel that seems to rake in much of money.