Director – Matthew J. Avant, Producers – Matthew J. Avant & Hal Maynor IV, Visual Effects – Hal Maynor IV, Flying Car Special Effects – Adam Hofmann. Production Company – Media Savant Productions/Confidence Bay Inc.
Matthew J. Avant (Matt), Hal Maynor IV (Sonny), Dave Potter (David James), Ray Blum (Dr Orin Raymond), Nathan Avant (Nate)
December 2012. After a clip of a mysterious paranormal event recorded in a mall turns up on news channels, people piece together documentary footage of the events leading up to that. It began when the fringe science radio talkback show of George Larson received a call from someone claiming to be a dismissed Area 51 employee who then sent in a package of photos that were found to date from well before they should have done. Matt, Sonny and a camera crew went to track down the GPS coordinates written on the back of one of the photos. This led them to a shack in the middle of the Louisiana swamps that contained an elevator leading down to an industrial area beneath. They were pursued but managed to get away with a strange backpack device. In examining the device, it was found to emit strange energy readings and contain a large green crystal of non-terrestrial origin. Their trail led them to the Church of Lunology, founded by J. Ari Hilliard, who believe in a society of people who live in hidden cities on the Moon. Pursued by the church members wanting back the crystal, they uncovered the church’s strange doctrines, including belief in time travel and alternate timelines. The church believed that NASA would send a mission back in time to 3000 B.C. where, armed with foreknowledge of the future, they would attempt to erase all the wrongs that have caused humanity to go astray and that history is in a constant state of flux as a result of these corrections. It was also believed that the church’s founder J. Hilliard became immortal and had been waiting the whole of human history for the time when he can meet himself and erase his own existence. As the date neared when this event would occur, the church increased their efforts to get the crystal back from Matt and Sonny.
Lunopolis is a debut film from director Matthew J. Avant. Avant and his producer Hal Maynor IV shot the film on a $15,000 budget. The two of them also play the paranormal investigators through whose eyes most of the story takes place.
Lunopolis is an odd beast. It starts out going in one direction. At the outset, it shows investigators trying to solve a mystery – a news clip of two people disappearing in a flash of light after touching in a mall; a call to a fringe science radio talkback show from an Area 51 employee who sends a file that seems to show Polaroids and photos taken before they should have been; the discovery of a shack in the middle of the Louisiana swamps with a vast underground area that contains a mysterious device that causes reality disjunctions when turned on; encounters with a sinister church who pursue them in an ordinary car that suddenly takes off into the sky like a rocket – that all looks highly promising. The film adopts a Found Footage approach during these sections and we get the potentially promising idea that what we are about to see might be the Found Footage equivalent of an Area 51/UFO/alien conspiracy type film.
However, Lunopolis then mutates into something different. The Found Footage mystery/investigation is largely dropped about half-an-hour in whereupon the film develops out a quasi-documentary approach with a series of talking head interviews in which various supposed academics offer up speculations about time travel and multi-dimensions. One interviewee in particular (Dave Potter) expounds most of the film’s thesis that unites all fringe science and conspiracy theory into a vast interconnected hypothesis. The film only sporadically returns to the investigation but mostly seems to want to act as a quasi-documentary and deliver its thesis. It is this uncertainty between being a work of dramatic fiction and a fringe science documentary that eventually unwinds Lunopolis. During these scenes, the investigation of the mystery sputters out and most of the film’s ideas are simply delivered by people telling them to us rather than their being dramatically unveiled.
Certainly, Lunopolis works up a head-spinning concoction of ideas where it seems that Matthew Avant is willing to throw in every fringe science and conspiracy theory that he can think of – cities on the Moon and the faking of the Moon Landing; an explanation for UFOs; the JFK assassination – even the assassination of John Lennon; Atlantis; Mayan 2012 prophecies; a rational explanation for ghosts; the Roswell crash; time travel and alternative dimensions theory. In fact, Avant becomes so fascinated with tying in every idea he can and coming up with a grand explanation for everything that the film becomes rather entertaining. On the other hand, it becomes somewhat insulting to human aspiration when everybody from Plato to George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Susan B. Anthony are regarded as time travellers – the implication seems to be that humanity cannot come up with any original ideas of its own therefore any social changer and innovator has to be of extra-normal origin. The most amusing sections are those that offer up a parody of the Church of Scientology – where the connection becomes direct in the naming of the key personnel L. Ron Hubbard/J. Hilliard and the church’s current leader David Miscavige/Daniel Muscadine.
During these scenes, you have to applaud Lunopolis for the epic canvas of ideas that it manages to bring together. If this were a science-fiction novel, you can bet that any writer would have leapt at the grandness of the concepts that the film casually tosses about – time travel, hidden bases on The Moon, the editing of time by time travellers leading to history being in a state of constant flux due to micro-changes in the timeline, a secret society manipulating the curtain of historical events and especially the idea of the group’s near-messianic leader who has been thrown back in time and has waited the entire length of human history as an immortal recluse until the day when he can strangle his infant self and prevent all of this from happening. The film arrives at a moderately effective twist ending as everything comes together and we discover the identity of J. Hilliard and the source of the mystery Polaroid photo.
On the other hand, the plot feels often stitched together in a contrived way designed to get the film to the pieces of exposition that it needs rather than anything that seems dramatically interesting. The team of investigators venture into the hut in the swamp and discover the underground labyrinth where the crucial device and the all-important crystal that the church wants to bring about/prevent the end of the world is the first thing they come across, with neither it nor the complex guarded by any type of security device or alarms; while visiting the university, a church member passing by on a bicycle gives them a flier and this chance coincidence gives them an immediate fascination with going off and investigating the activities of the Church of Lunology who just also happen to be the group hunting them for the crystal. There are some dubious aspects – like the idea of Ray Blum who plays a ‘Professor of Alternate Sciences’ – a chair that does not exist at any university anywhere in the world.