I see a lot of promise…but it doesn’t quite seem ready for widespread release.

Starship: Rising is a very, very difficult film to review…and I should explain why.  In some ways, it’s a bad film–with poor writing and terribly shallow characters.  I am not going to gloss over these problems–and they are serious.  However, at the same time, the film appears to be amazingly good looking and professional–an odd combination, I know.  To me, it has all the look of a fan production–a movie made for sci-fi fans and not intended for general release.  And, if this was the case, you cannot really compare the film to a traditional movie.  But, apparently it is being released on DVD and Amazon, for instance, is planning on releasing selling it in September.

So while I like some of the fan films, it’s because I don’t mind when the film has some rough edges–I expect them.  And many of the best Star Trek and Star Wars fan films are very rough but also very enjoyable.  As I watched Starship: Rising, it appeared to be a fan film and thought the editor had sent me a fan film.  A fan film, by the way, isn’t intended for the average schnook out there–just the ultra-devoted sci-fi folks who might pick up a copy at a convention or pass it among themselves.  Starship: Rising, however, must be held to a higher standard if it’s being released to the general public.

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Neil Johnson wrote and directed the film and despite its many problems, it’s also kind of amazing.  Well, The CGI, while not up to the quality of a big-budget Hollywood film is surprisingly good and at times sure comes close to what you’d see in a big-budget theatrical release.  I remember years ago when Babylon 5 was the first TV show that exclusively used CGI for its outer space scenes and they were cool but rough (though the excellent writing more than made up for these shortcomings).  However, Starship: Rising has graphics that are light-years ahead of those–and I was blown away that a relatively inexpensive film could look this good.  And, it’s not all looks–the soundtrack is very nice as well.  It doesn’t sound cheap at all and works well, though I’ll admit that it is, occasionally repetitive.  Together, they make a film that has a very professional look.  As for the story about a dystopian galactic world where an insane leader is bent on destroying Terra (Earth), it has its moments and the various planetscapes look good.  So, you have a film that is awfully rough and yet awfully good.  I don’t recommend it for the casual viewer but for hardcore lovers of sci-fi or folks who like fan pictures and have modest expectations, it’s well worth your time.  The casual viewer, on the other hand, will no doubt have serious problems with the writing and acting–they just didn’t seem polished or ready for a full-length film.  A nice try…and perhaps with experience Johnson will be able to pull it all together.

By the way, if you want to see a micro-budgeted sci-fi film that manages to have the great look you expect from a sci-fi outer space film AND great writing and characters, try to find a copy of Hunter Prey.  It is exceptional and packs a lot into a tiny budget…and you’d never notice the small budget when you see it on the screen.

Grade: D+

by Martin Hafer