MTI // 2007 // 80 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // June 13th, 2008
A dead world. Ten survivors. They are not alone.
This UK import tells the story about a gaggle of hard-ass space mercenaries stranded on a barren planet. They have guns too.
When the spaceship that belongs to said mercenaries is attacked in mid-flight, the soldiers of fortune are forced to evacuate. So they blast off to the nearest planet, an arid, desert-filled rock that doesn't appear on any of their space maps. Finding a way to get rescued becomes the least of their problems when an invisible Martian man materializes and starts punching them in the face.
Perhaps this phenomenon is related to the prisoner that these guys were hauling, an oddball cultist that wants to bring about the apocalypse. It's not what they signed up for and one by one the mercenaries get offed, but did I mention they have guns?
This isn't a bad slice of sci-fi. It borrows some from Pitch Black, but innovates within the genre enough to get noticed.
Things started off a bit shifty with the opening space battle. I liked the energy of the sequence and the quantity of explosions was welcome, but the low-budget visual effects -- far less impressive than even the effects work on television shows like Battlestar Galactica and Firefly -- were distracting in their lameness. When the action shifts to the planet, the action, still effects-heavy, succeeds because the CGI is less ambitious.
What is ambitious is the serpentine plot, a sometimes convoluted frappe of mysticism, horror and science fiction. As confusing and overly-wacky as the story sometimes got, I can at least appreciate the gumption writer/director Mark Stirton sported to make this sci-fi/action bonanza unique. I won't give too much away, but the secret behind the mysterious inviso-creatures is kind of cool and its relation to the "prisoner" represents a solid plot twist.
The first two-thirds of the film are devoted to the mercenaries grabbing a bearing on where they are, and trying to devise a way to blast off of the planet. These are the moments that were reminiscent of Pitch Black, but The Planet never encroaches on the creative license. Also, star Mike Mitchell is a hulking guy who barks his lines, so there's that Vin Diesel connection, as well. The final third is pretty much all action, and its rewarding stuff. With our heroes determined to go down fighting, they opt to bring the pain to the creature and a lot of shooting and explosions and lightning and even swordplay (?!?)
That's what I got for you with this disc. It's not genre-bending, but The Planet does enough things interestingly, and with fine execution, to maybe make a sci-fi geek not lament spending 80 minutes with it.
The picture quality is decent, but the non-anamorphic widescreen is a major downer. For audio, the 5.1Dolby Digital does its job fine, shining most in the climactic firefight. A well-made documentary, trailers and bios are your extras.
Worth a peek, cosmonauts.
The accused is given clearance for lift-off.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated R