The long awaited trip to Alien Planet

Original science fiction films are in short supply. Depending on how far back your exposure to the genre goes, by now you may have noticed the plots of films seem to be on rotation, or a never ending line of sequels and remakes now dominate what was once a virbrant and orginal group of plots and ideas.

One could argue studios have their favorite intellectual properties to work with, and mirades of creative people who attempt to write original plots with new characters are now often saddled with the empty husk of what was once an original franchise. Shackled to fanservice, these writers are restricted to rules laid down by studios or previous threads woven into a franchise which restrict character developement.

In this sense, it is the duty of the fans of the genre to protect the independant and endorse new creators. What products may be encountered along the way when taking up this stance may vary in quality, but one doesn’t need to ask themself if they are excited about the new James Cameron Avatar film because they love the world and the plot, or because it was simply the best new release among options prevented by the same 2-3 studios which produce major motion pictures.

So after this rather preachy prologue, we come to Alien Planet, an Indigogo sponsored film created by writer, director and motion capture actor Alan Maxson. The film has a fairly straight forward premise, two unfriendly sentiant alien speicies are at odds because of limited resources, in this specific instance, water. Along the way, choices are made which steer the course of not only the characters’ futures, but those of their species as well. But we’ll circle back to that later.

For those of you reading this, you may be aware we have had Alan on our podcast numerous times, and he is a lovely chap with a entaining vision. Whilst his own creative endevors may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it is hard to sit down with a group of friends to watch one of his films and not come away from it having not had a great time. You could see this as a thinly vieled attempt at hiding a poor review for the subject of this review, but I would like to make it quite plainly clear Alan’s films, despite being made on a low budget, have (gorey) charm, dry humor, and a message. But again, I would stress they are not everyone’s cup of tea.

Alan’s career has evolved, and he continues to evolve, we are excited to see how his film making developes. From the “So bad it’s good” Christmas with Cookie, to the short film turned dad joke Patina and now on to Alien Planet, “Monster Maxson” has shown growth as a creator without betraying his target audience. Who is that target audience? For those among us who delight in the original Evil Dead films, but still pick up books like A Princess of Mars, who enjoy schlocky sci-fi but gravitate toward the adventure of something orginal (I write knowing both had numerous sequels!) the vision, the vibe has not changed. This is great in a sense, because like great directors such as Wes Anderson and Tarintino, the plots may change, but the stylistic approach doesn’t. While some could agrue having a predictable tone as a director limits engagement from a potential audience, the opposite could be said regarding retaining a loyal audience. Spielberg and Rami may have branched out, but the loyalst cult following of Tarintino and Wes Anderson will ensure their films are not forgotten.

Returning to the film itself, and specifically the plot – this is your warning now for those who do not want the film spoiled. The film starts off with a prologue which details the history of the two alien civlizations and their interactions with eachother. One the hand we have the Kameen, which resemble a dragionish dinosauroids (anthropomorphised dinosaur). The Kameen are agressive and clearly have the upper hand in violent interactions, which have gotten them far it would seem. However, their inhabited planet is disasterously low on water with the entire population relying on only a few individuals returning with the necessary resource to rejuvinate their planet. The other race, the Lokkien have recieved the short end of the stick. Having a skull structure similar to a Predator-esque alien, minus the funky manibles, these aliens lead a more peace, rural existance and have wound up on a planet without much going on resource wise themselves. However, on this planet the fabled rejuvination vial is hidden, known only to a select few Lokkiens. A fact which leads to the death of some defining characters shortly after.

Enter Brocheet (Hunter C. Smith), who is every bit the enjoyable gruff action hero cliche you would expect him to be. A Kameen literally on a mission, he flies to the backwater planet to retrieve the rejuvination vial. For his sins, he encounters Lock (Alexandra Bokova), a Lokkien (I see what you did there Alan) who’s mate was killed earlier in an attempt by other Kameens to retrieve a map to the vial. On their quests which takes a major detour when both aliens are captured by the large, carnivorous and perhaps sentient (but still dull) dweller. The dweller ( Eric Prochnau) is something of a reptilian wampa, in it captures its future meals and takes them to its lair to be finished off later. In the scenes when both main characters are trapped in the dweller’s lair, an derelict crashed starship, perhaps the most significant amount of character developement takes place. As they say, shared trauma brings people closer. Lock however manages to escape, and after a poor attempt at reviving Brocheet, she makes her way to his ship where the ugliest pug-cat you have ever seen is there waiting for her. However, this little creature is a character in and of itself and “Giree” has the ability to vomit up a healing liquid which has the ability to bring being back supposely from death (so long as they haven’t been dead for too long).

Lock, after sustaining a wound in her escape from the dweller is healed by Giree and convinces the little creature she is willing to take it to its partner/owner despite the fact Brocheem seems for all the world to have passed on. On the way, she makes a side bid for the rejuvination vial which irritates both Giree and the freshly esaped Brocheet. Deciding the potential revival Giree’s vomit may allow her husband, Lock trades the vial for a promise from Brocheet he and Giree will do their best in bringing him back.

Following the trek of our heroes back to the site of Lock’s husband’s death, they revive him, only in a twist, he awakens to screw everything catastrophically up, and everyone dies in a way that only xenophobia could fashion. For more details, watch the film.

The film itself is one where you have to know what you are getting into. The decision was made to go with make-up and practical effects, and Alan’s token love of gore and a few choice one liners such as “I am trying to save my dead husband!”. To enjoy the film, you have to welcomly embrace these aspects or it is just not a film for you.

The make-up is well done considering the budget, especially the Lockien head props where the transition between prop and skin is blended beautifully. Some effects, such as killer plant tendrils may be wanting, but they end up providing a portion of the charm. The added gore effects are well over the top, and may deter some viewers, but the Kaiju Curry House gained knowledge some actors had cold spagetti thrown at their faces is one of those gifts which keeps on giving. There are also easter eggs which appear in the film which reference Alan’s past filmography – again, you are welcome to go hunting, but the details are confirmed in our dedicated podcast episode.

Something also must be said for the acting. Portraying facial expression and projecting the dialogue in the make-up and prop effects the actors had on requires a certain amount of finesse and tolerance. In addition, the static puppet of Giree required a level of inventiveness which is also noteworthy, especially since it was Naiia Lojoie‘s first appearance as a puppeteer.

The staging and locations are also well managed, remenicent of early Star Trek episodes and the lighting and color palet give additional mood and ambiance to each scene. It is important to note not all independant films go through this trouble, and doing this demonstrates the clear passion behind the film’s production.

So what is the end result, how does Alien Planet stack up? It is not attempting to be a great cinematic masterpiece, it is attempting to be an enjoyable film, a fun film. A movie you can watch with your friends. In this respect, it excells. It has quotable dialogue, over the top moments and a twist ending. It is also takes a familiar trope and spends the last 5 minutes of its runtime completely putting it on its head, so points have to be awarded for boldness and originality. However, it has a target audience. Your grandmother nor your hi brow cinephile will not likely appreciate this film, so considering it is a bit niche we need to take this point into our account.

Taking all of these factors into consideration, we would give Alien Planet a 3/5 star review. It tries very hard to give us fun, original spin on a tired trope whilst utilising full practical effects on a limited budget.


For a full debrief on the film, listen to episode 124 of our podcast “The One with the Cookie Cinematic Universe”.

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