In high school, Reed (Teller) and his friend Ben (Bell) present their invention at a science fair, and even though their demonstration of it ruins a light board and causes the lights to go out, they get a curious visitor, Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey), accompanied by his scientist daughter Sue (Mara). Storm offers him a scholarship and a chance to collaborate with him and Sue in bringing his dream to fruition at his private company. Sue has already been working on a similar project.
They make progress after Dr. Storm brings in a cynical scientist, Victor (Kebbell), who had become disillusioned with corporate management and was working alone until Storm brings him back into the fold. He also forces his errant son Johnny (Jordan) to work on the project; and although Johnny is resentful, he takes to Reed, and diligently works alongside him. The operation is a success when they send a chimp out and successfully bring him back.
Enter one of the corporate suits who is now interested only because he sees something in it for him, and immediately sees that bringing in NASA and the government will make him look really really good. This makes the idealistic young scientists who are thoroughly committed to their work antsy, and they decide to take a flight on their own so it’s their names written in lights. Reed wants his old friend Ben to be a part of the rewards, so calls him up and insists he come with them.
The four take off, unbeknownst to anyone else, even Sue or her father. The men are supposed to spend only a few minutes away, plant a flag and come back. However, once they get there, their curiosity gets the best of them and they go exploring, three of them barely making it back. Open Pandora’s box and…Yes, the three, along with Sue who discovered their venture and was helping to bring them back, return, but radically changed.
This is where I think the story derails. When they arrive back they have special powers, but are in the hands of the U.S. government, which is using them for its own purposes, namely war. They’re kept separated from one another, so can’t work together to disengage themselves and regain control of their lives. If you see the film, you’ll know if and how they work that out.
I was on board for the first half of the film, which is interesting in considering what going to another dimension might be. Although I’m not totally in sympathy with the corporate world or government, I did not appreciate how they’re portrayed here as completely uncaring, self-serving, warmongers who would not even respond to the explorers’ questions about what happened to their teammates. This is unnecessary and irresponsible on the filmmakers’ part in my opinion.
There are also some plot holes or gaps that don’t make sense; for instance, the one who was left behind does eventually get a chance to come back, but he immediately wants to return to the other dimension. So why does he express relief that he is rescued and then immediately want to return? He gives an explanation, but that doesn’t answer the question of why he returned in the first place if he was happier elsewhere.
I also have the perennial problem in action movies that they must always contain two features: car races/crashes and fistfights. No matter how many advanced scientific tools they have at their disposal, we must always have one of each of these, and usually many more.
The four main actors, Teller, Mara, Jordan, and Bell, are top-notch, and it’s too bad the script, direction, and production let them down. I did appreciate their value in loyalty and collaboration and their commitment to science for its intrinsic value.
An adventure that comes up low on fuel.