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By Mark Bell | March 31, 2014

A mix between a ninja and a futuristic soldier, Harrison is on the run after stealing a flower of some vague importance. Waiting for him are two doctors, anxious about his late arrival. Can Harrison get to them before his pursuers catch up to him? And what’s with the girl who crash-landed alone on that Tatooine-looking planet?

When it comes to sci-fi shorts or webseries, I find that there are two major mistakes the filmmakers can make. One is front-loading their film with loads of exposition that would work wonders in a book, but just serves to overwhelm the audience. The other mistake is to go in the opposite direction, serving up so little information about the characters and context, that very little makes any sense. While the best outcome is a balance of pertinent context with enough mystery to keep the audience engaged, Brandon Wright’s feature film, Deadstar: The Motion Picture, based on his webseries, falls into the latter camp, delivering very little in terms of context or character.

Thus, the film is narratively frustrating. You get introduced to new characters and scenarios throughout, but you don’t get much insight into motivations or purpose, or why you should care about anyone. You know Harrison stole a flower, and he’s being pursued for that reason, but you don’t really get any understanding as to why the flower is important, or what the stakes are here. Much of the context is missing.

What’s also missing is any momentum to the story, as much action might occur within its running time, but very little actually happens to drive the narrative forward. By the end of the film, you are where you were when the film started, just as confused. This is less a complete feature story than it is a selection of moments stitched together that might add up to a grander narrative eventually, but they haven’t so far.

And considering that this is a film born of a webseries, that makes perfect sense. In that format, the individual snippets can exist in such a way to where you’re building something over the course of many small instances. But in a feature film format, where the pieces are placed side-by-side in a row while the context remains a mystery, it doesn’t come together as a cohesive whole. Then again, if this is a collection of season one, for instance, my criticisms would remain, as I feel the plot still doesn’t advance by the end, but maybe it’d be less obvious in spread out installments.

Another aspect of note is the voice acting. While most of it is solid, the glaring problem is with the main character, Harrison. Voiced by writer/director Wright, Harrison comes across as somnolent in almost every instance, which is a problem when you’re trying to stay interested in what’s going on. If the lead character sounds tired or bored throughout, it’s easy to follow suit.

Ultimately, while I found the animation quite adept and exciting in some parts, and quite stiff and uninteresting in others (it sometimes looks and feels like a video game cut scene from five years ago), it does do a solid job of remaining pleasing overall; it is the lack of narrative drive that most underwhelms. Maybe if this were a book, or comic book, where the context could be explained while the narrative is revealed in a more comprehensive manner, this would work better. As it currently exists, Deadstar: The Motion Picture makes little sense; a lot of flash and noise for little payoff.

This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.

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