'Paradox' Comics to Film — Review
Currently being shopped at the AFM by American World Pictures, PARADOX is a fun little B-Film with a comic book/TV movie vibe.
It doesn’t feel exactly original, reminding me strongly of CAST A DEADLY SPELL (1991), and is perhaps too true to its comic book origins.
PARADOX is based on the three-part Arcana Studios graphic novel mini-series of the same name, written by Christos N. Gage. Gage has written for TV and for other comics, including Union Jack for Marvel and Deadshot for DC.
On an alternate version of Earth that has a technology powered by magic, police detective Sean Nault (Kevin Sorbo), is investigating murders that seem impossible, as the murder weapon used wasn’t powered by magic, somehow embedding a lead pellet in various bodies—including his partner. This weapon is of course a handgun, a .44 magnum revolver that eventually winds up in Nault’s possession.
With the aid of Lenoir (Steph Song, THE THAW, SMALLVILLE) a “scientist” who prefers the term pragmatist, as science is both ridiculed and reviled, he hopes to hunt down the killer(s).
One of the problems I had with the film (which seems to be shot on HD video) is that their technology is very close to 21st century devices; often absolutely identical, down to current makes of cars— in a world in which we are told that iron and other metals are supposed to interfere strongly with magic.
Science fiction, and the best kinds of fantasy, pick a set of fairly consistent rules for their fictitious worlds, and sticks closely to logical extrapolations of these premises. Audiences tend feel a little frustrated by obvious violations of the internal logic that’s been implicitly or explicitly set up, and unexpected “cheats” are usually disliked in both mysteries and SF. Both kinds of story transgressions can be found in PARADOX.
However, specific mentions of a few illustrative points would bring me further into spoiler territory that I care to venture, as the film is not yet in general release. Suffice it to say a character says that he/she can’t do something, and later uses that thing to get out of a situation—and no further explanation or mention is given to the subject. A simple line saying “I finally got that to work” would have covered this little annoyance. What we get is a “Huh?” moment and a smirk. Other quibbles, such as the cars, can be forgiven due to the lower budget nature of the production.
The look of PARADOX is generally very standard TV show in style, which is understandable, as director Brenton Spencer has helmed episodes of ANDROMEDA, STARGATE ATLANTIS, and SANCTUARY.
Perhaps trying to give the movie a different look and feel, Spencer (or the editorial staff) has used a great deal of still frames painted-over to look like comic book panels, including transition shots with text captions that ruin jokes before they’re sprung or contain information that characters will shortly repeat. One scene seems not to have been filmed and is awkwardly represented by some comic book panels instead— if I am interpreting the sequence of events properly. (There are other odd shortcuts, repetitions and ommisions that suggest both editorial padding for length and a lack of footage.)
Occasionally, the screen is split into several comic book style live-action panels, though this is not used in any consistent manner. This entire comic book approach is, in my opinion, a misfire. It’s not well handled, and gives the production an unwanted air of campiness.
FX vary highly in quality, some are quite good, others—particularly some simple green/blue screen composites, to my surprise—are rather unconvincing.
PARADOX is also being developed as a TV series, and I think that’s where the idea has the most potential. The idea is fairly interesting, the story serviceable, and the actors are likeable in their roles. With a little more time, money and attention to detail, I could easily see PARADOX filling a slot on SyFy’s schedule.
PARADOX (2010) Bron Studios, American World Pictures.
Starring Kevin Sorbo, Steph Song, Christopher Judge, Alan C. Peterson, Ailsen Down, and Jerry Wasserman.
Directed by Brenton Spencer, screenplay by Ruth Fletcher and Christos N. Gage. Produced byAaron L. Gilbert and Deborah Gabler. Executive Producers Nicolas Bonavia, Bernie Melason, Sean O’Reilly. Director of Photography Curtis Peterson, Edited by Nicole Ratcliffe, Music by John Sereda and Paul Michael Thomas, Production Design by Michael Nemirsky, Motion Graphics and Design by Jeremy Unrau.