Monday, August 11, 2014

Dark Planet = Dealt Prank

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

WARNING:  I am going to give away details, such as the ending.  If you’re not into spoilers, you might not want to read the review before watching the movie, assuming you can stand watching the movie.

I blame Epinions for a lot of the bad movies I’ve watched.  Go back and look for the reviews of really crappy movies I’ve done.  If there are a lot of them, chances are there was some sort of promotion going on that month.  This month, we have a promotion for first reviews.  How do you get an easy entry into this contest?  Easy.  If you have access to movies, such as On Demand or Netflix, you should have access to lots of movies.  (Your on-demand selection should have a category for free movies.  Netflix has hundreds of movies streaming for members to watch.)

Many of these movies are probably unreviewed.  (The bad news is that you’ll have to check each title manually.)  Just this month, I’ve submitted first reviews on five movies and two Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine episodes.  (It looks like all of the episodes from The Next Generation are already reviewed.)  To be honest, I’m surprised we’re not drowning in movie reviews.

This is how I came across Dark Planet.  I was looking through the selection of movies Netflix has available in sci-fi.  Since it seemed like a b-grade movie, I bookmarked it for later reference and got around to watching it the other day.  I knew it was going to be a stinker since the blurb says that Earth has just gone through its sixth world war.

The premise is that after wiping out a good chunk of the population, two groups are left:  The Alphas and The Rebels.  The Alphas are genetically enhanced and tend to rule things.  As you might expect, The Rebels are mostly humans that either are unmodified or are mutants.  A truce is quickly called so that a joint mission can be dispatched to this mysterious Dark Planet.  The ship is under the command of an Alpha captain, one Capt. Winters.  His second in command is a Rebel, Col. Liz Brendan.  There’s the genetically enhanced Alpha Helmsperson Salera, but only one person has gotten through the wormhole/black hole necessary to reach the dark planet:  Anson Hawke, war profiteer.  (That alone sounds like the name of a bad TV show.)

Mr. Hawke has made it through, but he’s not really sure how.  His wife was killed in the attempt and he somehow mysteriously got back, so he’s not in any rush to try again.  The Captain promises him a nice life in some vegetable farm if he agrees, which sounds, a lot better than Alpha prison, so Hawke comes along.  Anyway, neither side trusts the other and Hawke seems to be distrusted by both sides, except by the women, who seem to come to like him, but that’s a whole other story.

As you might expect, a few random barriers are put up for the crew.  They first have to go through a minefield to get to the wormhole.  (I’ve always wondered why they can’t go over or around.)  After spending a good chunk of the movie floating through the minefield, they meet the pirate ship that probably put it there.  The ship makes it through, but it’s discovered that Capt. Winter has been hiding something.  He has some sort of probe that will restrict access to the planet.

As you might expect, the crew pretty much divides between Alpha and Rebel with Capt. Bad Guy not getting his way.  Hawke, Brendan and Salera all make it to the planet and send a message back that only those willing to come in peace will be welcome.  (How they can tell or what they’ll do about it is unclear.)

My biggest problem with the movie is physics.  We see the crew thrown around.  It’s understandable if someone ends up leaning against a wall.  However, it looks like the artificial gravity shifts and stays askew for a few good seconds.  Also, Hawke has to leave the ship to draw the attention of the mines.  His ship explodes, but he’s able to get back to the ship.  To do this, he’d either have to jettison himself at just the right angle or spend the rest of his life drifting in space.  Add to this that he has to climb the side of the ship to get in.  He’s climbing the ship as if there were gravity pulling him down.  Why would you put artificial gravity on the outside of a ship like that?

The effects look crappy, even by 90’s standards.  The acting is at least someone decent and the script is just good enough that we can follow the story.  However, I wonder if Michael York looks back on this and wonders why he took that bet in the first place.  I am so glad I didn’t spend money to buy or rent this.  I was also wondering what ‘dark’ meant in the title.  I couldn’t find any military parlance that made sense.  I’m assuming it’s dark in the sense of being unexplored, that no one has actually seen it yet.  That’s how this movie should stay. 

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