For whatever reason, this last Friday I came home with a hankering to watch Alien 3 (1992), so my fiancé and I got comfy and fired up the Assembly Cut of the notoriously troubled flick. As the highly flawed but still worthy entry played out, she picked out a young Holt McCallany (Fight Club) among the cast of bald assholes making up the population of prisoners on Fury 161, as we had recently completed the slick and impressive season 2 of Netflix’s Mindhunter series, and she had become slightly enamored with the man (or more specifically, his voice *shrugs*), referring to him as ‘her guy’ (I AM secure in my relationship…I think ; ). Anyway, I remembered that he’d also recently turned up in an intriguing deep-space re-telling of Hermann Melville’s classic story Moby Dick, that somehow slipped under my radar and magically appeared on Netflix one day. So, on a stormy Saturday afternoon, I hit Play on Beyond White Space…
With my notebook in hand…
Ready for scribbling…
Beyond White Space follows a ship captain named ‘Bentley’ (Holt McCallany) who leads his motley crew of rogue ‘fishermen’ into an anomalous region known as ‘white space’, guarded by a massive…well…space dragon. It seems that back in the day, there were two of these gargantuan space whale thingies but ‘Bentley’s dad got himself perished in pursuit of claiming one of them as a prize, that he managed to grievously wound. So ‘Bentley’ is holding something of an unreasonable grudge against the Space Whale God, which pushes him as he and his crew try to land the ultimate score, while also contending with espionage, sabotage and motherfucking space pirates!
As usual, the following are the random scribbles that I randomly scribbled…
–Good intro. It eases us in with a dreamy montage of slick looking ‘outer space’ shots, as Holt’s soothingly manly voice sets things up. The CG was impressive right off the bat.
–Solid graphics. As mentioned above, the CG is MOSTLY of a surprisingly high calibre, considering that I have no idea what the budget was. Some work and imagination went into this US / Hungarian flick and it shows onscreen. I think this would’ve been a sweet one on The Big Screen, if it was ever given the chance…which it wasn’t…as far as I know.
–Unexpected fight scene. Short and violent. Didn’t expect it when a Jason Bourne-like fight scene abruptly cut loose during a dialogue scene. There looked like there was some ‘ouch’ in some of the stunts, which made it all the cooler.
–Slick production design. VERY ‘Alien’ inspired…not a bad thing. I make no secret about my favorite film of all time being Aliens (1986) and I support many of the clearly influenced flicks that have emerged since the original in 1979. This was one of those that paid homage and did it well, in my opinion.
–Total love letter to the Alien franchise. Me likes!! See previous statement.
–Nice! Sexy blond bad-ass! Always welcome. ‘Piper’. As played by some actress named Kodi Kitchen.
–Entertaining character intros. Characters seem to have ‘character’. This is where many of the Alien / Predator sequels and clones get it wrong. You need to give a shit about the main characters or there are no stakes to the story. Luckily I found that this one gave it’s characters interesting traits and quirky, often amusing interactions, which was conveyed right from the get-go.
–Deep space fishermen! Cool idea. Right there. The scribble says it all.
–I like these characters! Fun interactions. Yeah, yeah…I know…it seems that I’m repeating myself here. And I am.
–Nice ‘nod’ to Moby Dick. Plaque on wall. During a dialogue scene, a whale facsimile is strategically placed between the two characters, just to reinforce the Melville connection.
–I’m choosing to overlook the ‘sound in space’ aspect. While I totally understand why flicks like ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Star Trek’ would add sound to space scenes to spruce them up, I’ve come to recently embrace the use of no sound, to further enhance the realism. But here, given the fantasy elements already at work in the narrative, I cast my cynicism aside and just went with it. It was worth it.
–Awkward. Two hot chicks with a serious grudge locked in a tube. Ouch. So there is some drama between some of the crew members, namely that a crewman named ‘Harpo’ (Jocko Sims) has been banging the sexy brunette pilot ‘Ragsland’ (Tiffany Brouwer) behind his wife’s back. And the wife knows.
–Nice! The 1911 prevails! I’m a big fan of the .45 calibre 1911 model semi-automatic handgun, which had been around since…you guessed it…1911, so I don’t see why it’s simple, reliable and powerful design wouldn’t still be kicking around in the 2100’s. It’s proven…no need to change it.
–Ambergris? Nice! More whaling references. Just more ties to the source material. The ship get’s splooged by an ocean sized ‘money shot’ of space dragon ambergris and there’s a sequence where they try to recover some of it, due to it’s value.
–Some genuinely exciting action scenes. Says it right there. Going back to me saying that it looks like some care and effort was put into this flick also extends to the surprisingly tense set-pieces that play out.
–Effective score. The film score, by two dudes I’d never heard of, was solid and helped propel the action along.
–Who doesn’t love a good decapitation?!! Apparently there’s a good decapitation somewhere in this movie.
–Pinned! Haha! Good death! This particular demise was very abrupt and very satisfying. Just saying.
–Abrupt, convenient ending. A little cheap. As it says, the ending felt clunky and obvious, like they ran out of time or money (entirely possible) and had to rush to the Finish Line with a quick, A-B-C of an ending. It works, but it felt out of place with the effective pacing that had led up to it.
All in all, I was surprised by the unexpected quality of Beyond White Space. This is definitely one of those little genre gems you can occasionally stumble across where, despite a lower budget, it comes across as polished and ambitious, and results in a fun time at the movies. It has a good cast that makes most of the hokey dialogue work, a cool concept at its core, surprisingly slick visual effects and a production design that harked back to one of my favorite genre franchises. It’s not perfect, it’s budget does show around the edges at times, some of the dialogue is unintentionally funny and the odd wonky CG effect will rear its head, but overall this is a solid space adventure movie that should’ve gotten a chance with a wider audience, as this movie would be a Fun Time on The Big Screen. But as it’s sitting there waiting for You on Netflix, I urge all geeks out there who dig well-crafted outer space adventures with cool characters and concepts (think Moby Dick meets Alien meets Firefly) to give Beyond White Space a shot. Even if you’re not a ‘geek’ and might just appreciate a science fiction twist on a classic story, that can also offer up compelling character and tense action scenes, then this is a flick for you too!! Get blasted into the White Space!