Mar 22, 2023
Jackson Allen, Jack McAvoy, Richard Clements, Janine Walker
It’s so easy to get swept up in the beautiful visuals of Transmission that it takes another watch to really understand the story it’s telling. That isn’t a criticism against its narrative or anything like that, but more a huge compliment to something else that this film has achieved. Writer-director Carleton Rodgers is clearly a fan of Steven Speilberg’s work in the sci-fi genre, and a lot of the aesthetic signatures that we see in films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and ET are in this, but it builds upon them in such a sweet, subtle way.
Transmission starts with two kids playing in commando gear, pretending their dog is an alien that they’ve been tasked with neutralising. It feels like a very familiar set-up because we’re so used to all of the elements in it that amount to Americana. Any kid who grew up outside of the USA watching shows like The X-Files or films like Independence Day knows the feeling of otherness that comes with it. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you’re fully aware that you’re watching something that isn’t your story. Transmission uses some really interesting, really subtle tricks to play into that and to create something very surprising out of almost nothing at all. Without giving too much away, it brought a smile to my face that lasted the whole of its runtime.
Another trait that it shares with the Speilberg sci-fis is that it’s actually a story about family. The nucleus of it all is two brothers who share an interest in space and all things otherworldly. All of the conflict is driven by this interest that they share, both with each other and with their parents. When one of them goes missing, it turns into something even sweeter than it already was. It’s now one boy’s mission to save his brother in any way that he can, and the key is the sense of wonder that the adults in his life have long lost.
It’s so refreshing to see a modern film like this. In a time where the majority of sci-fi is dominated by either big franchises or stories about doom and gloom, this gives us a blast of nostalgia by taking the genre back to its more fantastical roots. It can certainly be accused of containing more than the odd genre trope, but they come across more as homages than just acts of laziness or a lack of creativity. What comes across in this more than anything is that it comes from a place of love, and when that can be said about a story like this, then it’s onto something special.
Transmission is a sweet story that wears its influences on its sleeve, and is a fantastic experience for a non-American sci-fi fan.