Reality-based science fiction and fantasy movies have been a long time coming in Hollywood and the world in general, and they really are having their moment in film history right now. Though it’s easy to hate them because there are so many and because they often seem to bleed together, they truly are cinematic accomplishment.
Beginning with Bryan Singer’s terribly dry albeit well-intentioned first X-Men movie in 2001 and hitting a glorious stride with Christopher Nolan’s amazing and unmatched The Dark Knight in 2008, the sci-fi/fantasy genre is no longer stuck where it used to be in the public’s mind, in a special and separate corner right next to horror where the only loyal fans you find are nerds and children. Exponential growth of computer technology has given it an extra boost, expanding the potential of realism even further and making the grand worlds of Transformers and Inception look wholly and wonderfully life-like. And yet, as wonderful as all of these majestic and appreciated stories are, it is nice to have current sci-fi movies to watch nowadays outside the realm of orgastic CGI blockbusters that are not enigmatic art house flicks. The History of Future Folk is such a movie.
General Trius (Nils d’Aulaire) is a great soldier from the planet Hondo on a mission to save his home from destruction by rogue asteroid. As you do, Trius comes to Earth with intentions to wipe out the resident population with a flesh-eating virus so his fellow Hondoians will have a new place to live until he discovers something overwhelmingly wonderful that halts his plan: music. Flash-forward eleven years and Trius is now Bill, an average New York guy married to a beautiful wife with an adorable daughter who moonlights as a folk musician. But his life is upset by the arrival of fellow Hondonian Kevin (Jay Klaitz) who is supposed to assassinate Trius until he too has a change of heart, becoming friends with Trius and joining his folk music gig. While Kevin is just beginning to enjoy Earth life as he pursues a beautiful cop named Carmen, disaster looms as Bill begins to realize with Kevin’s arrival that Hondo has not forgotten about usurping Earth and that he is the only one who can save the populations of both planets.
Originally, General Trius and the Mighty Kevin were part of the d’Aulaire and Klaitz’s New York City-based folk music comedy duo called simply “Future Folk.” After participating in an off-Broadway show together, d’Aulaire and Klaitz wrote a few songs together around the concept of being two humanoids from a planet called Hondo and performed together in their now signature red costumes in the East Village. After that, they started expanding the back-story of their characters as their performances grew more and more popular, and after six years together they filmed The History of Future Folk with writer/director John Mitchell and director Jeremy Kipp Walker based on those stage personas.
This is a movie lacking in so much of what is now commonplace for sci-fi adventure movies, namely a ridiculously large budget, a round-up of ogle-worthy famous actors, and a hugely intricate origin story full of unneeded explanatory minutia. It is true that the cogs of Future Folk are transparent, but that is all part of the charm of this movie (If you can’t suspend your disbelief for 86 minutes, then you are a seriously jaded moviegoer, and you need some cinematic detox).
The film is loaded with wonderfully original music by the eponymous duo that serves as the centerpiece of the film, with the three basic sub stories built around it. Mitchell and Walker show great levels of resourcefulness with the construction of the overall story, making time to show case the movie, foster believable character relationships, all the while never pressing their luck within their monetary confines; never too little, never too much. Their attitude and approach to low-budget filmmaking has a cleverness in it that is very reminiscent of Kevin Smith’s Clerks. Klaitz and d’Aulaire are naturally funny and easily to fall in love with, not to mention being badass musicians, especially d’Aulaire picking the hell out his banjo. But the best part about this movie is that it isn’t meant to be taken seriously – it’s a movie about aliens that form a bluegrass band, for heaven’s sake. It is weird and adorable and hilarious and high inventive. There was nary a greater day than when it became available to watch on Netflix.