Apr 22, 2009, 12:00 AM by Jeff Jensen
Do filmmakers really need hundreds of millions of dollars and the resources of a major movie studio to make a super-cool science fiction movie? The answer is...well, yes. But maybe not for long, judging from the quality of "What's in the Box?," a viral video currently lighting up the web that many admirers suspect may have a connection to the TV series Lost. (It doesn't -- but more on that in a second.) The nine-minute short -- created by a computer-savvy Dutch dude name Tim Smit for "150 Euros and a pizza" (at least according to this interview) -- combines the video-camera perspective of Cloverfield with a conceit reminiscent of any number of videogames (example: Half Life) involving mad scientists tearing holes in the fabric of reality. The title refers to a mysterious cube that's used to shoot an energy beam into a whirling anomaly in the sky. (I love writing sentences like that.) Smit hopes to turn the short into a feature and has already received inquiries from Hollywood, including Twentieth Century Fox. Is he worth their interest? Judge for yourself:
So why do Lost fans suspect there could be connection? For starters, Smit's test film makes use of Michael Giacchino's Lost score. Moreover, there are two affiliated websites that make clever use of the show's mythology. One of the sites -- which includes credit info and a mysterious copyright date of 2018 -- asks you to enter a code to access more content. Bad guesses get you a standard response (“uh uh uh, you didn’t say the magic word”), but if you input Lost's famous numbers -- 4 8 15 16 23 42 -- you get a different message. Then, there’s another website named after the science lab from the video, The Babel Group, which includes a link to The Hanso Foundation, the mysterious philanthropic entity from Lost mythology that finances The Dharma Initiative. (Thanks to Doc Jensen reader “W Wyatt” for tipping me to all this.) (Also, I've just a found a guy as obsessed with all of this as I am, who's cracked all the codes at both sites. Check out his work if you, too, become fixated.)
As of this writing, I can’t confirm if either of these sites are really connected to Smit’s short or if they are expressions of a creative fan culture that’s cleverly expanding the video’s reality-blurring mythos. I dig the latter possibility. But the fact that “What’s in the Box?” has either intentionally or inadvertently crossed into Lost's orbit is a bit more complicated, as I see it. On one hand, I think it’s fun. On the other hand, if there is no official connection, then what we have here is an aspiring entertainment franchise leveraging Lost arcana -- not to mention the voracious curiosity of Lost fan culture -- in order to generate interest (and therefore equity) for itself. I could see how some might find such marketing moxie pretty clever -- and how some might find it ethically suspect. Today, I find it pretty clever.
And so does Lost executive producer Damon Lindelof. No, folks, there isn't an official connection between the two entertainments. But Lindelof says he's pretty impressed by the vision and execution of “What's in the Box?,” although he recognizes that it exists within the provocative gray zone of today’s media world. “I think it's really cool we live in a day and age where 'intellectual property' is rendered pretty much moot,” Lindelof tells EW. “The fact that anyone with talent and a video camera -- or maybe just the video camera -- can tell a chapter of any story, whether it be their own or a continuation of someone else's, is pretty cool to me. But what's even cooler is when the fan-generated content becomes indistinguishable from the content generated by the creators themselves. The quality of "What's in the Box?" is secondary only to its mystery. And the fact that a first-person run through an urban center set to the occasional piece of Giacchino music and a few Hanso logos thrown into the corollary site makes people even ask whether or not this is officially attached to the Lost mythology is pretty damn spectacular.”
Please check back on Friday for a new Doc Jensen column. In the meantime, you can find all sorts of fun Lost stuff at EW.com's Totally Lost hub.