First, a clarification — “Parallels” (2015) is absolutely not a feature film; it’s an undisguised attempt at a pilot for an ongoing web-based series. I think it’s pretty cruddy of Netflix to market it as a standalone film, as viewers expecting a conclusive story will doubtless be disappointed. Its parallel universe-hopping premise also seems so similar to “Sliders” (1995-1999) that it just might approach the boundary between inspiration and ripoff.
With that said, however … dear LORD!!! “Parallels” was frikkin’ FANTASTIC. What we’ve got here is a far edgier, grownup version of “Sliders,” with a first episode introducing the same type of show-spanning mysteries as “Lost.” But where “Sliders” was milquetoast primetime family fare, this looks like an excellent serialized thriller with plenty of pathos.
What a shame this thoughtful series never reached fruition. I was hooked. It’s smartly written by Christopher Leone; he’s visibly well acquainted with string theory, and has a hell of a lot of clever fun with it. “Parallels” is a face-paced 80 minutes that follows a tragic, dysfunctional modern family embroiled in the mystery of the plot-driving “Building.” The Building appears to be the nexus of countless parallel universes, a bit like the “The Dark Tower” links them in Stephen King’s multiverse. The cast is uniformly good; the standouts were Eric Jungmann as the comic relief and Michael Monks as an understated but terrific bad guy.
I had only a few tiny quibbles. Some of the family melodrama and the mysteries were a little forced and heavy-handed. The ending (?) here, while really intriguing, also borrows a page or two from “Cube” (1997) and one particularly good episode of Ron Moore’s “Battlestar Galactica” (2004-2009).
I’m not sure how to rate this. It fails as a standalone film, I think, because it simply doesn’t have an ending. I suppose I’d give it … a 4 out of 10? If you can forgive that fatal flaw, however, and want to enjoy some top-shelf science fiction, then I’d easily give it a 9 out of 10.
Dammit. Why wasn’t this show made?