1 1/2 Stars
What can be said about director Neil Johnson that hasn’t already been said? Revolutionary digital film-maker? Yes. Great storyteller? No. It’s funny that most of the information that comes up in Google appears to be disseminated by Johnson himself, this includes his IMDb bio, accredited to Johnson, which puts it in just the right words. “While not well known in public spheres, he is regarded by a few people as a pioneer in digital film-making.” While I’m always amazed that anyone can get a film finished and released, a feat much harder than most realize, and while I love digital-guerrilla-film-making, I’m not reviewing Johnson’s methods, but the end product. Starship: Rising is a huge undertaking, shot back to back with its sequel Starship: Apocalypse. Unfortunately the story is far too ambitious and becomes impossibly laborious to hold any attention.
Starship: Rising plays like an expensive Star Wars fan film. The special effects are impressive for its reported $75,000 budget, but effects alone don’t make a movie worth seeing. The majority of the film takes place in front of green screens, and you can tell by the lack of well placed camera angles. The script is all over the place, jumping from character to character seemingly at random, never staying too long in any one scene. At many points during the film I thought wow another scene change. It feels as if scene setting title cards must take up at least 20% of the total running time. This movie gets lost in its mythos and prologue style of story telling. It’s as if we’ll never get the meat of the film. There’s two separate characters doing voice overs for crying out loud. Instead of telling an intriguing story Johnson has erred by giving us a history lesson of a fictional world that exists in his head. Maybe some people will like this, but the majority will no-doubt find boredom not creeping, but stomping in.
The unbelievable thing is, this is only half the story! If I had to describe Starship: Rising by using other films I’d say it’s equal parts Star Wars: Episode II, I, Frankenstein and Atlas Shrugged, all of which I consider too history/mythos oriented. Setting up a full fledged world is great, being sure we have a story to tell is better. The whole affair feels stiff and straight out of a high school history book, which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to connect with this artistic endeavor by any means. I will say that the acting, while sometimes stiff as well, is actually pretty good, especially from leads Darren Jacobs and the striking Emii (Emily Rose Morrison). With a better script this could have been a decent flick, as it stands now it’s fairly unwatchable and not worth setting through the entire hour and a half running time. Although I’ll reiterate it’s worth checking out for budding film-makers, or those interested in the craft to see just what’s possible with a little Robert Rodriguez-esque attitude.
Director: Neil Johnson
Stars: Darren Jacobs, Emii