John Morgan’s not-so-short short film, Apache – Episode 1: Against The Current, follows captain Presley (Lauren Ferebee) and her ragtag band of space mercenaries as they attempt to kidnap a war criminal (John Morgan) to fulfill the obligations of their latest job. While they succeed, the package they’ve been tasked with delivering turns out to be an alien with a complicated past, and now the Apache crew are stuck in the middle of an interplanetary conflict they didn’t even know existed.
My main issue with this film is that it feels like someone threw together a bunch of elements that have worked far better elsewhere (Star Wars, Firefly, Ice Pirates, etc), in the hopes that the familiarity alone will endear an audience enough to stay engaged with this newest flavor. To a certain extent, that can be true; sometimes you can watch the familiar out of sheer curiosity in how it might be subverted. There can be fun in that, but considering the length of this one, almost thirty minutes, that fun wears out fast without something else to elevate.
Mainly, the film does not establish any reasons to care about what you’re seeing. Most of the characters seem cut from the stereotypes of rogue space pirates or evil syndicate or corporation that we’ve seen in many a futuristic tale before. In its focus on telling us the bare bones of what is going on, and showing us as much action as it can fit in, the film offers little character development. Thus, you can follow along, but there’s nothing here to entice you to want to take the next step. If this is truly the first of a series of films, or even a show of some sort, then it fails in garnering enough interest to bring an audience back for the next episode.
Still, there is a charm to the lack of polish involved with this one. The use of green screen effects, stop-motion animation and other old school (though updated by today’s technology) filmmaking techniques makes for a fun twist on the classic sci-fi B-movie. I enjoyed how the film embraces the cheesiness of many of these methods, and makes the limitations of its resources a strange, awkward strength.
Well, not always. There’s one sequence that relies on crude, hand drawn imagery to flesh out a flashback, and considering how accomplished all the other effects in the film can be, it just feels tacked on and unfinished. It’s the one time where the film’s visual charm severely wears off, and instead appears lazy.
Overall, there are a few fun elements to embrace in Apache – Episode 1: Against The Current, but they’re often overshadowed by the missing character development and lackluster quality of the actual story. I want to care about what’s going on; this one throws a lot at you, but little actually sticks.
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