Saturday, March 9, 2024

Space Wars: Quest for the Deepstar (2022)


Death is reversible, but at what cost?



In 2980, death is reversible using a blue liquid called Essence. Space scavengers Kip Corman (Michael Pare) and his daughter Taylor (Sarah French) seek to bring back Kip's deceased wife by transplanting her essence into a cyborg body. After a scavenge transaction goes bad, the pair flee leaving them on the run from the evil Elnora. Running on fumes, the duo decide to embark on one last adventure which is when they encounter a scientist who holds the key to finding the legendary Deepstar - a lost ship supposedly full of treasure. Soon Kip and Taylor realize that they aren't the only ones searching for it as Dykstra (Olivier Gruner) and his rag-tag team of space pirates give them chase.

So, what does the hunt for the Deepstar have to do with mysterious blue liquids and dead wives? Kip and his daughter are flat broke, that’s what, and they hope that whatever is in the Deepstar can pay off their debts to Jabba the- I mean, fund the resurrection of Kip’s dear wife and Taylor’s mother. The opening monologue of the film briefed us on the future-year and the Essence and how it’s infused with a cyborg body, but I have many questions on the mechanics: how long after death do you have before you can extract the blue goo? Is it like brain death; get them within the first six minutes or it’s a big bust? What state is dear mother in when in the vial of liquid – is she sentient like a brain in a jar, or just in a dream state? These answers require a sequel, or more preferably, a prequel: Space Wars – The Essence of Life (email me to discuss purchasing this title).


If Kip is our Han Solo, than Dykstra is our Greedo. Gruner is great in the role and has a suitable array of henchman and henchwomen to assist him. On top of both of them is the evil Elnora played by Sadie Katz. She is peak Star Trek villain and chews up and spits out her dialogue with glee. Her character is ruthless and happily dispatches her own underlings to make a point (and because they can just be resurrected anyway, I guess).

On the side of the good guys is Jackie, a stowaway that Kip and Taylor pick up on their journey who happens to know the location of the Deepstar. Unfortunately Dykstra knows this too, which is why he’s giving the team chase. Much of the film is either Dykstra or Elnora gaining the upper hand on Kip and Taylor, but as you would expect, he finds a way out each time.



Let’s talk about the action. We have Pare as the good guy and more to the point we have Gruner as the bad guy. So, do they fight? Well if you are looking for an all out brawl between them, you won’t get that. Gruner does roundhouse an alien on a desert planet which was cool, and there are a couple of tussles in the film – Taylor actually gets a good punch up in – but this is really more a sci-fi adventure than explosive action. Nothing wrong with that, but don’t expect Angel Town. What you do get is lots of space battles!

Which leads me onto the effects. I was actually pretty impressed with the CG effects in the film, for the most part. Lot’s of stylish looking ships and space battles, colourful laser bolts and gigantic alien monsters. The quality reminded me of an episode of Stargate SG1 or Battlestar Galactica the reboot. If SyFy Channel were still making stuff like this, it would look on par I think. Where it falls down compared to those shows is when reality mixes with the CG. There can be rough greenscreen edges around people at times, or a lack of depth when they stand in front of a CG backdrop. It’s a minor thing really and the production works around this as best it can, particularly by utilising strong lighting. We even get a couple of old school aliens in rubber masks moments that I wish were seen a bit more.



I have to mention the pre-opening credits scene in the film, as it is such a fun setup. Kip is about to be executed in an elaborate way by an over the top cartoon character bad guy who is surrounded by scantily clad women with guns. Of course he escapes in an seat-of-your-pants fashion but I had to applaud the execution method used, and the glee on the executioners face. It really set the tone of the film for me as ‘comic book’ but not in a dark, depressing DC universe way. Everything is so brightly coloured in Space Wars.

You know what this film reminded me of? Space Chase, from 1990. I am probably one of four people who has seen that classic but the similarities are there, mostly because it all stems from Flash Gordon and of course a certain famous George Lucas film that isn’t American Graffiti. I don’t know why I’ve never reviewed Space Chase, but I should do that at some point.

As for Space Wars, this is a good time. It’s 90 minutes of space opera’ing and space adventuring, with plenty of lasers shot, fists fought and acting over’ed. Sure, some of the lines don’t land well (“I killed my mum. Now I’ll kill yours!”) but the air of fun in the film never dissipates. This air of fun can be seen in the bloopers feature on the DVD – the cast and crew are all having a great time, and the obvious budgetary constraints are shown in this reel with sets falling over and costumes failing the actors.

Space Wars feels like a passion project for Director Garo Setian and clearly the cast enjoy working with him, as many of them were involved in his previous picture, Automation. Recommended Sunday afternoon viewing.