Sunday, June 14, 2009

Star Runners

Familiar font.

Year: 2009

Director: Mat King

Cast: Connor Trinneer, James Kyson Lee, Toni Trucks, Aja Evans, &tc.

Format Viewed: Satellite Broadcast

Rating: TV-14 (LSV)

Premise: In a far distant future two "Runners", being cargo haulers who operate within the "gray area" of legality, are cajoled by officials of the U.P. (United Planets) into picking up a "crate" which turns out to contain something far more unusual, and sought after, than even these veteran smugglers expected.

The Reality: A quaint space opera throwback whose first few minutes has the feel of an episode of FIREFLY or STARHUNTER but quickly evolves into a laid back action-adventure hybrid of PITCH BLACK and STARSHIP TROOPERS.

Battling the bugs.

The Movie: This was the Sci-Fi Channel "original" movie for Saturday June 14, 2009 and stars Connor Trinneer, who played Trip in ENTERPRISE; and James Kyson Lee, Ando from HEROES.

Wandering dark corridors.

The plot of STAR RUNNERS is reminiscent of SERENITY sans the "Reavers" but retaining an shadowy corporate-government-military organization worried about maintaining the lid on one of it's secret cover-ups. .


Alas the background universe is not as well developed here as in either FIREFLY or STARHUNTER. There's mention of an "underground" though who or what they're fighting against isn't entirely clear. One assumes the 'verse STAR RUNNERS inhabits is supposed to be similar to that of FIREFLY and STARHUNTER but that's pure conjecture. There's mention of a "U.P." but it's never explained who or what this organization is, though at one point there is mention of a "United Planets" so one assumes they're the equivalent to the Alliance or Federation from Star Trek. There's also a mysterious female, Asta, found in a cryogenic shipping container- just like River from FIREFLY- around whom the story more or less revolves.


Nor do the similarities end there. Seems River, I mean Asta, is being hunted by shadowy corporate-military goons that want to keep her from spilling the beans about what happened on Miranda, er, Alpha Centari 3 or some such. However Asta was not victim of sinister medical experiments, rather she's more of a evolutionary mutation, a super human with preternatural ability ala Leeloo from FIFTH ELEMENT, so I guess that means she has the Divinity Cluster gene? (If you got that reference give yourself a Dr. Pepper!)

And that's just explaining the set-up for the characters! Long story short the Runners are forced to transship their "item" via civilian starliner. Said craft is attacked, the pilots knocked-out, our erstwhile Han Solo anti-heroes forced to take the helm and hyper jump into uncharted space where the vessel crashes on a planet. Here the plot becomes something of a crazed amalgam of PITCH BLACK and STARSHIP TROOPERS.

Asta looking bored.

Assessment: This is a Sci-Fi Channel original movie. Why it was labeled TV-14 LSV is beyond me as it seemed tame. The dialogue is suggestive of a good movie and nothing more, the only real violence was against CGI creatures that were about as realistic as the CGI critters in a FPS shooter from a decade ago, and there was no overt sexuality. That said I've been ignoring Sci-Fi original movies for a while. So I was rather surprised to see SERENITY listed on my menu as playing on Sci-Fi followed by a Sci-Fi original movie called STAR RUNNERS. It sounded like a space opera adventure. I was hooked!

There is a reason the Sci-Fi channel had SERENITY playing before this movie. And that reason, I feel, is because this has the feel of a fan boy's homage to that movie and the series it was based on. Alas the CGI is typical of a Sci-Fi Channel production. .

Get the windex it's a screen smudge!

Which is to say it's fairly bad. You can take a screen cap of a creature in a scene from any Ray Harryhausen movie and it will look like something. The above is just an amorphous smudge. But which is more embarrassing the above or the below. .

Battlestar Garbagescow?

How's that for a CGI knock-off of the Battlestar Galactica! It actually looks a lot better when viewed during playback. Don't worry. The movie didn't end with everyone getting killed off. Believe it or not the movie leaves itself open to a sequel, or potential series, though it's doubtful anything will come of it. Shame as Connor Trinneer does very well in the role of congenial yet no-nonsense space smuggler.

Verdict: There's two ways to look at this movie, kindly and with a hypercritical eye. The kind reviewer will note how this appears to be a homage to a number of series and movies and, while a bit slow at times, seems to be a movie made by those with a sincere love for the genre. The hyper-critical reviewer will note how the opening titles use the Battlestar Galactica font and use this as a launching point to rail against the director, producers, CGI/VFX. .

Blurry UFO.

And blame the post production team for lack of originality while lambasting the Sci-Fi channel for airing such clich├ęd yada-yada-yada. True, the plot may not have been any more imaginative than titling a movie BATTLE PLANET and while the dialogue was a bit lame in places there was also good dialogue and dialogue delivered lamely. However this is not a terrible movie. Yes, some things could have been handled better, like Asta's reveal, but a good critic will realize why it was done the way it was. To do it any other way would have people griping about the movie copying FIREFLY.

However the pacing could have been better but the movie didn't have me rolling my eyes and wanting to channel surf to see what else was on until about the one and a half hour mark when the "shaky cam" effect started to become annoying and the CGI started to get overused. STAR RUNNERS could have been an unused script for STARHUNTER or FIREFLY turned into a feature length film but it feels more like this was a fan boys love letter to the space opera genre. Otherwise, aside from the annoying vagueness of the back story, this is okay viewing for a evening in which you have nothing better to do. Those who aren't fans of sci-fi and space opera with a low tolerance for campy borderline lame drama should probably avoid this one.


# End of Line

Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan


Nato said...

Compared to the stuff from The Asylum production house (AVH: Aliens vs Hunter, I am Omega) and their own productions (Supergator, Sharks in Venice) which are usually aired on Saturday nights, Star Runners was pretty good.

The only thing I found quite bothersome was the shaky, cameraman in space, which was such a trademark of Battlestar Galactica.

cool_splash1 said...

I love The Asylum. They are cheese and make no qualms about it. If you see something that says The Asylum you know what you are getting yourself into. Same with UFO.

The only thing I found quite bothersome was the shaky, cameraman in space, which was such a trademark of Battlestar Galactica.

Oh hell yeah if that wasn't obvious I don't know what is. Actually Firefly did that before them, but still. The look of Star Runners as well. The lighting was so BSG it wasn't even funny. The whole shady government was so Blake's 7, Firefly, Starhunter, Pitch Black.

It was okay for a scifi original because we all know what codename scifi original on a movie really

John Merle Holes said...

I just got done watching Star Runners on SyFy On Demand because its stream is only available through 6/4/16. I was thrown by the date On Demand, which lists 2016, rather than the year the film was made, 2009. I enjoyed the Cosmic Cinema review of this film, and I'm also going to make it a point to bookmark this site.

The title, Star Runners, is what got me to watch the film. I'm thinking "travel to remote places in the universe, aliens, and interesting characters." This movie had all of that (e.g. criminals carrying money and who are a subplot that goes nowhere when they both die), but the writing falls apart around the time that we have a planet of super mutants who had to be wiped out for the greater good, according to the leadership of the United Planets. What I feel would have saved this movie from getting 2 out of 5 stars (I gave writer Rafael Jordan's later film Dragonwasps 1 star, also due to an even weaker plot wrap-up) would have been to have a sequel to the film.

The irony of this sort of film is that there have been lots of failed pilot films like this over the years that would have been interesting to follow through on. The background could be interesting, but the SyFy budget for these movies is nonexistent, as evidenced by the amount of United Planets military who are present in scenes. To make this movie as good as the original Star Wars, you would have to have the production budget and creator care of Star Wars, and these SyFy Original productions have never been about that. In my own mind, I consider a film like this a deluxe episode of a show like The Outer Limits due to it being feature-length. It's a pity that someone could not grab a film like this and attempt to reboot it years later (like now) with a sequel (or more). At least it becomes more self-contained than a discontinued SyFy series, several recent ones which come to mind. Sometimes the question is, based on the amount of time one invests, which leaves a better taste in one's mouth?