Science fiction is renowned for its pessimistic tales of dystopian malaise and post-apocalyptic horror.
With "dark" science fiction series like Black Mirror and motion pictures like District 9 being popular in the cultural zeitgeist, the genre's ability to inspire wonder and hope can be lost in the noise.
Then along comes a project shining like a beacon, piercing the shroud of existential angst.
The award-winning sci-fi short FTL (Faster Than Light) is a stirring example of science fiction awash in unabashed optimism.
Written and directed by visual effects master Adam Stern for his Artifex Studios, FTL is the story of astronaut Ethan Kane, the first human being selected to attempt to travel faster than light.
Read our exclusive interview with FTL writer and director Adam Stern
Under the watchful eye of friend and colleague Sarah (Karin Konoval) at ground control, Commander Kane is the sole mission specialist aboard Longshot - a spacecraft outfitted with an experimental faster than light engine designed to transport him from earth to Mars and back again within minutes.
The journey to Mars is successful, but an engine malfunction during the return trip hurls Kane further than anyone could imagine.
While there have been sci-fi series with similar premises such as Farscape and Buck Rogers In The 25th Century, what makes FTL standout is its focus on the intimate human relationships at the heart of its grand outer space adventure.
Veteran Canadian actor Ty Olsson (Supernatural, Battlestar Galactica) is perfectly cast as Kane - astronaut and devoted family man. Olsson brings to the role his unique mix of gravitas and charisma that is enormously appealing.
Actor Aliyah O'Brien (Bates Motel) as Abby Kane serves as the film's emotional anchor.
O'Brien turns in an affecting performance as a woman grappling with being married to a man whose profession is extremely dangerous and often requires enormous personal sacrifice.
The chemistry between O'Brien, Olsson, and John Torrance (who portrays Ethan and Abby's son Jack) is electric. You quickly become invested in the fate of this family.
By the way, look out for sly shout outs to Star Trek: The Next Generation, the short's spiritual predecessor in terms of tone.
Make no mistake, FTL is a sci-fi adventure story boasting impressive production as testimony.
Unlike most dystopian and post-apocalyptic films which tend to revel in drab, monochromatic color palettes, this short has a vibrancy stimulating to the eye.
The cinematography and visual effects are gorgeous, which is to be expected considering the impressive credentials of Stern and the uber-talented group of artists who comprise his Artifex Studios.
Artifex Studios has done visual effects work for many notable genre projects in film and television, including: Travelers, Continuum, Childhood's End, Wayward Pines, Descendants 2, Zoo, The Core, and more.
Those talents are certainly brought to bear in FTL, making it a singular viewing experience.
Watch FTL in its entirety here...
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