• Interplanetary

    Released by: Shock-O-Rama
    Released on: 3/15/2011
    Director: Chance Shirley
    Cast: Mia Frost, Kyle Homan, Michael Shelton
    Year: 2008
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    The Movie:

    Retro-style sci-fi throwbacks don’t usually work for me. Far too often they’re forced, trying to recapture an age that’s long since passed and won’t likely be back again anytime soon. Big budget fare, the kind that Hollywood churns out, tends to be lifeless, devoid of soul or character and instead overly reliant on fancy computer generated effects. There are exceptions, of course. Sci-Fi/Horror/Arthouse hybrid Moon is a perfect example of melding sci-fi with low-fi and making it work, and then there’s Chance Shirley’s Interplanetary, a very low budget labor of love made by a man who very obviously ‘gets it.’

    The set up is simple enough – set in the future, we meet the inhabitants of Mars Base Two, a station set up on the red planet run by a faceless corporation with the same kind of monotony as anyone else’s day job. Day in, day out, the people who live and work here are obviously interested in the paycheck and it doesn’t take a genius to see that in this future, the sex appeal of space travel has long since diminished.

    Here we meet Wil (Chuck Hartsell) and Ed (Nick Crawford) who discover a fossil, which is obviously some sort of proof that there was life on Mars at some point. This discovery gets them pretty excited as they figure they’ll be able to cash in on it, but the same cavern that they find the fossil in contains… something else, something intent on violence and then heading towards the only signs of civilization on the planet for more of the same. While this is going on, mechanic Steve (Michael Shelton) picks up some phantom radio signals that he thinks might be coming from Mars Base One. Cue the requisite attack scenes and some fun effects work, and voila, you’ve got Interplanetary.

    Fast paced and plenty of fun, Interplanetary has a good sense of humor about it but never comes across as obnoxiously campy or as a send up of any kind. This was made by a man with an obvious love for genre films and that comes through not just in the attention to detail, set design, costumes and effects but in the ‘spin’ as well. By combining traditional sci-fi trappings with the monotonous day job aspect of the film, the humor winds up fitting in perfectly.

    The performances in the film also fit the material well. Cast with a rag tag crew of actors from his native Alabama, Shirley’s film could have easily played to southern comedy clichés for cheap laughs but doesn’t need to. The film throws in enough effective gore and decent enough special effects to satisfy the more sensationalist wants of genre buffs and is shot well enough to ensure that it always looks good. The picture stumbles a little bit in the opening fifteen minutes or so but once the set up is out and the way and we’re off and running, this turns out to be a clever, funny, and wholly entertaining low budget feature that stands out from the crowd and deserves a wider audience.


    The 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is about as good as the source material will probably allow for. Detail is okay, considering the film’s low budget roots, and color reproduction looks nice and accurate. There aren’t any compression artifacts of note nor is there any obvious dirt or debris. For a film made without huge financial resources behind it, this one looks pretty spiffy.

    The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix is, likewise, just fine. There’s some nice left to right channel separation here and there and the levels are always well balanced. There are no problems with hiss or distortion to complain about and the dialogue is always easy to understand.

    The extras kick off with a commentary track from Chance Shirley and his wife/producer Stacey Shirley, who do a fine job of explaining how and why this film got made. Chance, who dominates the conversation more often than not, approaches it with a very ‘down to earth’ sensibility, acknowledging obvious missteps but also giving us a good bit on information and insight into the low budget filmmaking world. He talks about what the cast and crew did to help get the picture finished, various ideas that didn’t’ quite materialize, effects work and more and he keeps the pace strong throughout making this one a good listen. Aside from that, the disc also includes a batch of trailers for other Shock-O-Rama releases, menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    A really enjoyable and well made low budget film, Interplanetary is a Hell of a lot of fun and comes recommended to anyone with an interest in the material. Shirley may wear his influences plainly on his sleeve but he hits all the right notes with this picture, putting entertainment value first and definitely delivering. Shock-O-Rama’s DVD is also quite good, and if it doesn’t have any featurettes, the excellent commentary more than makes up for that.

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      How come you didn't mention the big arrows on all of their equipment? That's an important point. :D