After having written about the upcoming projects from the independent film studio, FutureDude Entertainment, I have been eager to watch their first short-film production, Oceanus: Act One.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down and watch the approximately 34-minute feature in its entirety. The film itself serves as a prelude to a longer movie, Oceanus: Odyssey One, which is currently in pre-production.
Within its short running time, Act One introduces viewers to Marine biologist, Erin Kendall (Megan Dodds), and her engineer husband, Sam Jordan (Sharif Atkins). It also establishes the aquatic setting and the Oceanus Research Facility which houses 300 underwater explorers. The film opens with its two lead characters beginning their journey to a specific site near Hawaii where they hope to deploy a whale communications pod – the culmination of their research and experiments since they applied to be a part of the Oceanus Research Facility.
It is the thrill of discovery and the excitement of their potential findings that consumes Kendall, while her husband continually wants to address their burgeoning marital issues. At the deployment site, while Jordan addresses some unexpected repairs on the pod, a tsunami generated by an unknown global catastrophe separates the couple.
What follows is a personal journey, in which Kendall seeks to find her husband and reconcile her feelings for him, while trying to attribute meaning to the cataclysmic event that separated them.
In the banner above, the Oceanus tagline reads, “The human adventure begins.” This directly mirrors the famous quote from Gene Roddenberry in which he says, “It isn’t all over; everything has not been invented; the human adventure is just beginning.” Using a quote that pays homage to Roddenberry is quite poetic for this specific film as it is evident that director and co-writer, Jeffrey Morris, took inspiration from some of the ideals and themes set forth in the original Star Trek. Not only does Morris convey a sense of natural exploration and wonder, but within the film he eloquently juxtaposes it with a much more personal style of exploration and introspection as well.
Being a lower-budget, independent science-fiction film set underwater, I wondered at the overall scale that the film would attempt to convey. Many similar productions are set in space; in this regard they have the benefit of a completely foreign landscape and an immeasurable amount of area to play with. Oceanus: Act One had the challenge of depicting an underwater setting while, quite alien to most of us, exists within the confines of our own planet. In this challenge, the film succeeds immensely. Through a grand direction style and impressively detailed visuals, the underwater world of Oceanus presents a massive, ambiguous, and unfamiliar milieu that begs to be explored. This serves as a stark and important reminder that we humans have really only explored less than 5% of the world’s ocean environment. On top of this, the film makes a point to get the look and feel of everything as scientifically accurate as possible by enlisting the help of planetary physicist, Dr. Kevin Grazier (known for working on the Cassini/Huygens Mission to Saturn and Titan), and aerospace scientist/engineer Dean Davis as science advisors.
Apart from the look and feel of the film, I was impressed with the acting and character portrayals as well. The two leads do a great job, particularly Megan Dodds who had to depict a complex array of emotions including confusion, longing, hopelessness, fear and determination with little to no dialogue as her character searches the ocean for her lost husband. Rounding out the cast, we also see (and hear) Bruce Davison and Malcolm McDowell in bit parts, as the base commander and voice of the ship’s computer, respectively.
I believe it is also important to recognize what Megan Dodds and Sharif Atkins represent as the two leads. According to the 2016 Hollywood Diversity Report, minorities and women remain stagnant in their under-representation as not only film and television leads, but as directors and writers as well. It’s evident that Morris (who was interviewed by Wilson Morales at blackfilm.com for “making strides in sci-fi and diversity in film making,”) and his team at FutureDude are actively trying to buck this trend and infuse more diverse perspectives and progressive thought into the industry, just as Gene Roddenberry set out to do with his original vision for Star Trek back in 1966.
With all of this working for it, Act One has succeeded in generating interest, establishing characters and a setting to be further explored, and crafting up the overall mystery and plot themes to be developed in the upcoming, full-length feature film, Oceanus: Odyssey One, which I look forward to seeing!
Oceanus: Act One is available to own on BluRay from amazon.com.