Jan 30, 2024
Javon Simmons, Donald Barre, Junior King
Markus Bixby (Simmons) is off to college after the Summer, but for now he is still working at the Catalina Seaview Company, where he takes paying passengers out on tours of the bay in his glass bottomed boat. Markus loves his job and also loves working for Richard Carson (Barre), who has to be the most positive and understanding boss that has ever existed. As Markus will be leaving the company soon, Mr Carson has decided to hire a new employee and it’s going to be Markus’ job to show him around and settle him in along with fellow boatman, Junior (Boma). So far, so normal.
One of the perks of the job for Markus is that he gets to take the boat out himself on his downtime, and so he regularly heads off into the surf to relax, read a book and bob about on the waves. One day, whilst doing just that, something strange happens and through the bottom of the boat Markus witnesses a glowing object gliding along beneath him that to all eyes would look like a stingray or some other flat fish. To Markus though, the object definitely has the look of some advanced submersible craft, and while relating this to his (again very understanding) girlfriend he is resolute in knowing what he saw, as well as in his determination to get to the bottom of the situation. So, while Markus goes about his daily life, he also hatches a plan using his keenly honed MacGuyver like skills to see if he can catch another look at the futuristic underwater technology, which he is sure is real. Then the bonkers bit really begins.
Until then though we have to sit through Markus’ daily life, watch as he initiates the new guy Dallas (Aragon) into the fold, and bear witness to any number of lengthy interludes where all he does is read a book for no real reason other than that the director seems to think it makes him appear interesting. It doesn’t. In fact the first two acts of this sixty-five minute film don’t introduce any sort of drama into the scenario at all, save for the one sighting of the alleged super-craft, and instead we are forced to sit through a bunch of banal conversations and seriously bizarre scenes where all that happens is that Markus and his work buddies all behave really awkwardly around one another. This obviously has a lot to do with the fact that the script is truly awful, with some scenes very definitely being ad-libbed with no real script at all, and that the acting is just dire.
Throughout all of this we are asked to put up with some truly shocking editing, which cuts the ends off some of the scenes, along with the correspondingly bad audio editing that can focus more on the wind and the birds in the background than it does on the dialogue, or can simply cut out altogether. It is fairly obvious that nobody in this debut production is yet accomplished in their craft, save for the drone operator Michael Zullo who captures some genuinely impressive shots which are then overused again and again, and nowhere is this amateurism more apparent than in the so-called ‘acting talent’. Markus and Junior are bad enough interacting on their own but when Dallas is then added into the mix everything becomes super weird and awkward along with some hard to hear dialogue. Then at the other end of the scale, Donald Barre as Mr Carson is uber-zealous and really decides to really show that he’s really acting with some pretty over-the-top hamminess. All of this though, seems to be in keeping with writer/director Cory Baxter’s vision for his project, as things take a seriously odd turn towards the end.
What Baxter has created for himself is a film based on his own series of books, complete with page for page 3D modelled illustrations, and yes, these books are a total trip in themselves. Without giving too much of the weirdness away, there really are advanced futurist things swimming around under the water, and only in the last 10-15 mins of the film do things actually get moving and any sort of ‘story’ is revealed. It’s a very short space of time to start introducing brand new concepts and hosts of new characters to an otherwise boringly plodding movie and none of it works.
With Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (2023) still struggling to make any coin at the box office, as well as being a terrifically bad film in and of itself, it should be obvious that anything revolving around superpowered underwater societies is already going to be a really hard sell. Markus Bixby does nothing to challenge that and if anything lowers the commercial marketability of such a premise to near zero. Markus Bixby is a film made for an audience of one and with all of its failings that’s the way it’s likely to stay. It can only be hoped that Cory Baxter got what he wanted out of this project, as he may be one of the very few who gets to spend time inside the fantastical world he has created.