Watch Tyson Wade Johnston's Sci-Fi Short Film 'Lunar'

Here's a new sci-fi short that features some solid world-building. Lunar, by Tyson Wade Johnson, jumps off from modern concerns about an intrusive surveillance state and reliance on drones to create a future America in which a faceless police force holds civilians under its thumb. It's a place where walking down the street with your face covered is illegal; even wearing a hood is enough to have the robo-cops on your ass.

All that is just setup for a story about a man convicted for basically nothing, after which he's sent to a lunar prison that turns out to be not quite what the public thinks it is. So add the privatization of prisons and some Judge Dredd-style paranoia to the mix of influences.

Check out the 7-minute short below.

LUNAR, Short Film from Tyson Wade Johnston on Vimeo.

The first half of this short, which sets up the sort of hyper-scrutinized dystopian state we expect to see in a Neill Blomkamp film, is pretty great. The law enforcement network, with surveillance drones, enforcer bots, and presumed humans at the end of the line, is chillingly effective. The animalistic communication between 'bots is a great idea that makes them fearsome and impossible to relate to, while still getting across that there's an intelligence at work that is more primal than pure machine.

The rest of the short, when acting becomes necessary, and the story really has to go to work, is far less effective. In fact, it's kind of a disaster. After that great setup, the second half speeds through something that, in a different telling, could easily take up the whole running time of the short. It feels cramped and almost dismissive of the world-building that went before. Why spend all that time setting stuff up only to ditch those concepts for a half-baked run through corridors? Why cram it all in at the end?

Still, the first half is good enough that I came away willing to see more; merge this world with an actual story and you might have something worth watching.