Scraping off some of the windowdressing and kerfuffle dust, PROJECT ITHACA's underlying plot line is the old space-aliens-are-abducting-humans-for-some-nefarious-alien-purpose-of-their-own. Everything else is just implementation sugar.
Contributing to the impression that PROJECT ITHACA ain't such a great picture is a collection of thematic elements that were blatant storytelling sins when they were invented by some anonymous writer-slug and have been so overused that they're now classic hallmarks of bad workmanship.
The reason people are being kidnapped is so their emotions can be harvested as an energy source (oh please... not this again...). Then there's the use/overuse of "virtual" settings. In Star Trek, this idiocy shows up as the "holodeck" garbage where a set doesn't have to be created and there's an excuse for many scenes to take place in mundane, inexpensive, already-extant settings (such as present-day homes or cities) or period environments (old American West, Middle Ages etc.) that would all otherwise be incongruous or wild non sequiturs. With few exceptions, this kind of slop is just an excuse to save money and be lazy. In PROJECT ITHACA many of the scenes where the aliens are squeezing our heroes for emotional energy take place in virtual situations taken from the characters minds and memories. Ugh.
Because depicting action scenes is ALSO expensive, the vast majority of the movie is just talking heads. One of the primary thrusts of the movie is the idea that the abducted people around which the movie revolves were taken abruptly out of their everyday lives by some sort of transport mechanism similar to the Star Trek transporter. One moment they're in their lives, the next moment there clamped to the alien equivalent of a vertical gurney and held in place by tentacles. Much time is spent in the movie observing these people figure out where they are and what's going on and the significant history/back story of what's happening to them. Sadly, though we see it only rarely, it does look like some effort was put into creating the biologic-looking environment in which our abductees are being held captive. I say sadly BECAUSE we see it only rarely; the camera-work faux pas of an endless chain of close-ups, where literally all we see are talking heads, happens continuously. Usually this is done to avoid the expense of making a set for the context of all this talking. In PROJECT ITHACA it's just an expression of amateurish directing and camerawork. They apparently made the set and then didn't let us see much of it.
On the positive side, while there are very few "science-fiction-y" scenes featuring outer space scenery and wormholes and spaceships and suchlike, the handful that we DO get, although shown repetitively, aren't bad at all. The alien spaceship does have that pseudo-biologic look to it that so inexplicably popular to the point of being tiresome, but it is what it is. I suspect it's because the 3D guys enjoy getting jiggy with their organic spline surface drawing tools and the fact that they can draw any random curvy hooey they want and who's to say it ain't right?
However, within its limitations, PROJECT ITHACA did make a legitimate attempt at telling a complete story, and, overall, the acting was at least passable. Unfortunately, because so much of the movie revolves around the main characters "figuring out" what's happening and having their discovery process illustrated by flashbacks including time travel across decades, judging by the comments around here, many viewers find the story "jumpy" and confusing. Personally, I forgive PROJECT ITHACA this element because these were intrinsic fallout of the story they chose to tell and the visual limitations of trying to represent these story points. Representing these ideas in a low-budget picture is inherently going to be problematic.
My strongest criticism of the movie is the negative ending. PROJECT ITHACA commits the hackneyed plot sin of letting us believe that we're seeing a happy ending only to pull a cheesy gut punch at the very ending, thereby obviating the self-sacrifice of the young girl character. And then it puts some moldy topping on it by having a mid-credits epilogue scene that adds nothing.
To wrap this up with some random observations, my favorite line from the movie comes from the rockstar character who, as the situation soaks in, observes, "Oh #$*!, Oh #$*!, Oh #$*!, Oh #$*!.Now that's great writing.
My favorite "repurposed" prop from the movie is in a scene where they had to depict 1969 vintage US "technology" featuring some supposedly laser-esque device that had high-tech capabilities in a retro-futuristic package. I recognized it immediately. It was an ancient dentist's drill-and-workstation that was already ancient in 1968 when, as a terrified child, I sat in its chair and a dentist used it on me. Scared as I was back then, I still admired its appearance. Seeing it in this context and how it was being used as some sort of lasing device with nanites was nothing less than hysterical.
Lastly, part of my forgiving attitude no doubt stems from the fact that all the actors had to spend who-knows-how-many-weeks schmeered with slimy black goo from head to foot. Because, you know, to be held prisoner by aliens IS to be covered in black, slimy goo, right? Especially for the shirtless rockstar guy it had to be incredibly uncomfortable for EVER.
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