By Steve Anderson | April 17, 2007

One of those great rarities, the science fiction / western hybrid, comes roaring out of Heretic with “Planetfall”, a movie as good as it is rare.

“Planetfall” is simple enough at its roots–basically, a handful of factions are after the last known stockpile of Psylenol, a drug that gives people psychic powers. Enough of this drug–which there just happens to be in the stockpile–could give one of these factions control over half a galaxy. We’ve got bounty hunters, like the machine cultist Lux and her erstwhile partner Shark; we’ve got more hunters like the fallen-from-grace Wendy and wanted criminal Gorton “Ugly” Hex, and just for kicks, we’ve got a rogue unit of telepaths led by the psychotic Lieutenent Jerik.There will be obvious and worthwhile comparisons.

Clearly, the guys behind “Planetfall” long to compare themselves to Sergio Leone westerns–the back of the box will breathlessly make the same proclamation–but it’s clear who did it first. Full Moon did this one up first back with its “Oblivion” movies. Futuristic Westerns are hardly anything new.But, they are so infrequently done that each one is a special case. While not truly original, their appearance is so rare that they merit innovation points by their mere existance. Only a handful of similar titles exist.

And let’s be honest–“Planetfall” is well put together. The factions have their own separate motivations that play well against each other, and each one gets a comparable amount of screen time. It’s exciting and downright clever.

Granted, there are flaws. They used CG for just about everything, from special effects to hard-to-engineer weapons effects, and the CG isn’t all that it could have been. Muzzle flashes often seem to be to the left or the right of the weapon barrels they’re ostensibly firing from. Knife hilts float on their own, independent of a victim’s movement. And grenade rings just look downright fake, as does most of the CG effects. But that’s really a very small complaint alongside a good plot executed well.

The ending features at least a couple good old fashioned gunfights. Not much twisting here, but then, did we really need a twist here? No.

The special features include audio options, a feature documentary, deleted scenes, cast and crew interviews, featurettes about a couple of the shooting locations, and a featurette on the design of “Planetfall”.

All in all, despite some truly minor flaws in the relentless use of CG effects, “Planetfall” is a solid, stable, and highly unique film that should make any science fiction buff or western fan happy.

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