Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

This one here, ‘Battle Planet’, is one strange bird. For starters it’s a Sci-Fi Channel original which all by itself makes the movie strange, then it’s a Sci-Fi original that I have never even heard of, which I didn’t even know was possible. There are a bunch I haven’t seen, which I am trying to rectify, but to have never even heard of one? Unthinkable. Then there’s the subject matter which doesn’t feature one single mutated croc, gator, elephant or abominable snowman. It’s actually a sci-fi movie. Is it a good sci-fi movie? Well… no… not really, but this mix of ‘Enemy Mine’ meets some sci-fi conspiracy movie I can’t remember, with a touch of Master Chief’s suit from Halo tossed in did hold my interest a little bit.

It’s the future… duh… and there is a war going on. I forget what folks called themselves in this movie but there are these real ugly cats running around with fishbowls on their heads causing a ruckus and the Earthlings, along with their allies the Fish People, are trying to stop them at all costs. There is a shootout, the bowl head aliens are stopped though we gotta admit that walking around with a bowl on your head filled with water is a helluva weakness, and most of the damage to these aliens was done by hardcore marine Captain Strider (Zack Ward). Note the he was just a lieutenant before he showed massive heroism in this skirmish, though he couldn’t save that hot Asian chick, but regardless he has received a promotion. Yay him.

So the newly minted captain has a brand new mission. He’s fitted with this awesome bio suit and sent off to retrieve some spy on some far off planet by his commander and best friend Commander Thaine (Stephen Settgast). Unfortunately his ship crashes a number of kilometers before he makes it to the rendezvous point so he has to hoof it, the suit activates, takes command of his body functions and proceeds to talk Strider near to death. Strider gets hungry, the suit shoots him with nourishment. Strider wants to rest, the suit shoots him with adrenaline. Strider learns his woman is dead on earth, the suit floods his brain with YouTube clips of this woman telling him how much she loves him. This suit, I tell you.

Eventually Strider will meet Jun’hee (Monica May) a former general of the Fish People hanging out on this planet for some unknown reason. Maybe she’s the spy that Strider is looking for or maybe it’s something else altogether. Regardless, one thing that is for certain is that somebody back at command hasn’t been given all the info about this alleged mission of his, but guess what, Jun’hee knows what’s up. She also knows a few extra things that she’d prefer that Strider never find out about. Then there’s the duplicitous midget. Needless to say, Captain Strider’s life is about to get way complicated in the next forty five or so minutes.

Written and directed by Greg Aronowitz, there are some admirable things about ‘Battle Planet’, such as the fact it’s an actual science fiction movie on a channel that calls itself the Sci-Fi Channel, or some special effects which are better than what we are accustomed to from the Sci-Fi Channel. Probably still not something we can call good special effects, but you know we grade on a curve over here. And while Zack Ward might not be the second coming of Russell Crowe, he was more than up for the role of the beleaguered Captain Strider, and Monica May did a fine job behind a ton of makeup as General Jun’hee. The majority of the acting by the rest of cast was slightly below the Mendoza line, but since Ward and May made up the bulk of the movie, the other actors and their deficiencies weren’t as oppressive. The story Aronowitz wrote had just enough originality to it to avoid being completely derivative, and the longer ‘Battle Planet’ moved along, the better it got.

Of course it did have to get better considering how slow it started out. Probably the main issue with ‘Battle Planet’ is that it did suffer badly from some pacing issues since we did spend an awful lot of time watching Strider walk in the desert arguing with his Halo suit which didn’t make for the best cinema. To the director’s credit he did try to make these scenes relevant to the proceedings since the banter between the Halo suit and Capt. Strider was important and all, but it was still slow. Then there was the wildly inconsistent tone of Aronowitz’s film which was a serious conspiracy drama one moment, then descends into bouts of inane buffoonery the next moment (i.e. midget), before eventually transforming itself into a Shakespearean tragedy. And while we did think the story was interesting, without giving anything away, the ultimate goal of the powers that be in this film was puzzling, almost bordering on the pointless.

Pacing issues and inconsistent tone aside, though those are some important issues, ‘Battle Planet’ wasn’t all that bad. Again, we grade on a curve over here.

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