The idea of a “multiverse” is certainly nothing new; we’ve seen countless movies and books about alternate Earths and parallel universes, but in Parallels, a movie directed by Christopher Leone and from a story by Leone and Laura Harkcom, we are given a nice science fiction mystery that raises a lot of questions. Sadly one key factor in this is that pretty much none of them are answered.
Brother and sister Ronan (Mark Hapka) and Beatrix Carver (Jessica Rothe) have been estranged since Ronan left home after their mother died, leaving poor Beatrix to take care of their father alone. We learn that Beatrix is finally able to live her college dream of attending Princeton while on the other hand Ronan hasn’t made much of his life and barely makes ends meet as a mix martial arts punching bag.
Both the siblings receive a cryptic message from their father Alex Carver (Yorgo Constantine) telling them to come home. They arrive separately and are both surprised at seeing the other, but are even more put out that their father seems to be missing. Joining in their search for their father is Harry (Eric Jungmann). Harry has a not so subtle crush on Beatrix but his real motivation for joining the search is to get away from his demanding mother. The only clue they have to their dad’s disappearance is a strange device found wrapped in newspaper and hidden in the trunk of his car.
They try to report their father missing to Police Chief Stone (Davi Jay) but as their dad is an adult, and there is no sign of foul play, there is not much the police can do. Part of the cryptic phone message left by their dad mentioned a building address so they decide to check it out, Chief Stone warns them not to go there as it’s just an abandoned office building, but as it’s the only remaining clue our three investigators ignore that piece of advice.
In the ruined lobby they find strange graffiti stating such things as; “On my Earth terrorists flew planes into the Twin Towers on October 23rd 2001” and helpful tips such “Avoid Earth 33 the contagion has spread” and weird stuff like an “On this Earth all babies are born twins.”
Before they have a chance to dismiss this seemingly nonsensical graffiti as the work of a creative nutbar the quiet is broken by an alarm and flashing lights. Our trio panics and stumbles out into the street only to find that a missing dad and weird graffiti is the least of their worries as the city seems to have been destroyed. It’s clear that some kind of nuclear blast has occurred but that the building they were in is still completely undamaged, and that the ruins of the city are overgrown, all adds to the bizarreness of the situation.
The group spots a band of survivors who seem to be of the “shoot first asks questions later” variety so they flee back into the building to hide and it’s there that they run into Polly (Constance Wu) who is a traveler between worlds. She informs the gang that this building shifts from world to world randomly every 36 hours, and if you are not in the building when the shift occurs you better hope you like the world you are in because you’re stuck. Before they can get into the who, what, where and how of the building they are captured by that nasty band of survivors. Polly urges them to keep their mouths shut and follow her lead, but when they meet the leader they are surprised to discover it is Chief Stone and a slip of the tongue has Stone suspicious and he puts them in the hands of the resident interrogator Tinker (Michael Monks).
It’s from Tinker that we learn that this city was destroyed by a suitcase nuke and that his wife and kid died here. This kind of sent him around the bend which makes one wonder why this group of survivalists would choose an unbalanced man as your chief interrogator. Sure he is an amazing inventor; builds a gun that has a barrel that resizes to fit any bullet, which is pretty cool, but he also builds a nuclear bomb, which is so very not cool. Things take a turn for the worse when he shows Beatrix and Ronan footage of the man with the suitcase nuke walking out of “their building” and even worse, that man is their dad.
And this leads us to the main problem with this movie, the fact that it was never intended to be a movie; it was a television pilot. Fox Digital Studios just morphed it into a stand-alone movie and stuck it up on Netflix hoping nobody would notice that it’s unfinished work. This could lead to many viewers being decidedly pissed off as every question and mysterious aspect that is brought up is not answered; what is that weird device they found? Who is Polly and what is her real agenda? How many different worlds are out there? What is the “core world” and why did their dad nuke a city? Those and many more questions will never be addressed.
It’s really a shame that this pilot didn’t get picked up as it has some nice hooks and is kind of like Lost meets Sliders. So fair warning for all you Netflix subscribers, this is not a finished product and may leave you rather angry with all the unanswered questions, but if you go in knowing it was a failed pilot you may get some enjoyment out of this movie’s interesting concepts and characters.