Jeffrey Morris, “Parallel Man: Infinite Pursuit” (2014)
Based on a comic book series of the same name, the animated short “Parallel Man” takes place in a multiverse in which innumerable Earths at varying stages of evolution, and all of them having diverged greatly from one another, are gradually but inexorably being conquered by a parasitic police-state empire known as The Ascendancy. A very brief synopsis is given of how The Ascendancy arose from a United States that never developed nuclear power but instead shunted its resources into technology capable of breaking into many universes and then conquering the Earth in most of those universes. From then on, viewers are treated to an action adventure in which Agent Morgan (voiced by John Cho) of The Ascendancy retrieves a mystery object to which he has a personal connection – and is then pursued by five other agents led by Agent Cartwright (Ming-na Wen). With his trusty AI companion Atlas (Lance Reddick), Morgan tries to escape his pursuers in his super-speedy hover-car vehicle through different universes and onto different Earths: on one he is thrust into a mega-industrial hellhole controlled by Chinamerica; in another he must contend with ferocious theropod dinosaurs controlled and ridden by intelligent dinosaurs with Palaeolithic technology; and in a third he must land on a fungal Earth and risk being infected by dangerous alien fungal spores while he tries to do quick repairs to his vehicle. He explains to Atlas why he had to recover the mystery object and challenges Atlas to either trust him and accompany him on his secret mission, or to arrest him and take him to Cartwright’s posse, still stuck on the dinosaur-dominated Earth where the asteroid never crashed 65 million years ago – or is the asteroid still to arrive?
From its backgrounds to the details of its characters, the animation is well done. The characters are rather flat and generic to the point of blandness and not being very convincing. The plot may pander to the worst stereotypes about Chinese political and economic power, and every new Earth encountered always seems to have the most frightful if unoriginal horrors: acid baths of highly polluted industrial sludge, dinosaur warriors armed with spears and giant mushrooms waiting for new victims to infect with spores! At least though the action is fast-paced and exciting, and the entire short is shot full of energy and enthusiasm. The film-makers indulge their own passion for the classic 1960s animated action-adventure films like “Jonny Quest” and the multiverse superhero comics from DC Comics and Marvel – and viewers are more than welcome to tag along for a ride bouncing from one universe to the next!
The film serves as a pilot for what may be an animated series or a full-length film in which viewers may learn more about The Ascendancy and how its history mirrors the post-1945 development of the West from being the leader in scientific and technological progress and political freedom to its current degeneration in politics, culture and economy.