| July 28, 2020
Ben Griffin’s Ji is a short film that aspires to be something much bigger. In a dystopian future, the Earth is dying after millennia of pollution, warfare, and exploitation of the planet’s resources. The population is divided, as half of the population hops in a spaceship and travels lightyears in search of a new world to inhabit.
In space, a new society was born called Nilo, and over the generations, the citizens were told of the devastation that was once Earth. One of its high-ranking officers, Ji (Lewis Tan), grew tired of the sterile, monotonous life on Nilo. Feeling drawn by some inner-yearning with him, Ji goes AWOL and embarks on a search for what he thinks is the dead planet Earth.
Before you know it, Ji crash lands on Earth and becomes overwhelmed by the lush green countryside, the smell and feel of Mother nature, and a beautiful woman (Eva De Dominici) tending to a horse. The two beings fall in love are Ji finds his new paradise, but good feelings can never last.
“…half of the population hops in a spaceship and travels lightyears in search of a new world to inhabit.”
It still amazes me the quality of special effects that are available to filmmakers today. Science fiction has always been the genre that was out of reach and unaffordable in the past. In Ji, writer/director Ben Griffin shows he has what it takes to tell a sci-fi story and world-build. The computer-generated sets and visuals are stunning, and his use of CG in a well-choreographed fight scene shows he has a keen eye as to how to construct fight scenes involving CG enhancements.
I will say that Ji is all over the place in that the story, you think he is telling, shifts constantly. It starts as a dystopian future of a dying Earth, then an alien discovering his ancestor’s home planet. It shifts into a love story and ends with a big fight—which is a lot to pack in a 15-minute short and the tonal shifts are jarring. Which is why I think Ji might be a pilot or proof of concept for a feature or episodic.
The acting is good but tends to come across as soap opera performances. There is a heavy emphasis on the emotions of the lines creeping into melodrama terrain, and the villain of the piece plays it extra villainy.
When it comes down to it, Ji is just fun to watch. Writer/director Griffin manages to build a vast cinematic world, setting the stage for a possible war between two ancient factions with a Romeo and Juliet twist. I could easily see this expanded to a feature film or an episodic for television or web.