Starfire Mutiny (2002)

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Joe Lara! Our review series of his sci-fi movies continues. We could have reviewed a lot more, as before retiring from the film industry to become a country music singer, he also did a lot of dull-sounding straight-to-video thrillers about army people and cops and so on. But who can be bothered with those?

 

And I wish I’d not bothered with this one. Boy oh boy, was “Starfire Mutiny” tough to get through. It’s a classic example of half a movie’s worth of plot stretched to feature length with pointless talking scenes and guys walking down a corridor bantering about all the women they want to have sex with. Poor Joe Lara! To have this as his last credit is a damn shame. I can also only assume that he’d already mentally checked out of the business by this point, as…actually, I’ll leave that dramatic reveal for later. But if you want an indication of quality, this has no mutinies in it, and doesn’t take place on a ship called the “Starfire”.

 

It’s a couple of hundred years in the future, and the ozone layer is gone, leaving the Earth a desert wilderness. Humanity survives in cryogenic suspension in huge ships in orbit, along with a skeleton crew to keep things in order. They’ve apparently figured out a way to kickstart the ozone layer again, and all they need is a large enough solar flare to power their MacGuffin Beam – it’s probably got a name like Genesis or Gaia or something, but I can’t remember. Also, there’s a small prison left on Earth, home to General Swann, a white supremacist who was kicked out of the army for being too horrible even for them (although judging by the movie’s 100% white cast, perhaps he was successful).

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Luckily, Swann has a friend on the outside, Colonel Diana Briggs, and she busts him and a few of his men out, gets them in a spaceship, and then they’re off into orbit to put into action a plan five years in the making – using the nuclear reactors in the cryo-ships to power the MacGuffin Beam. But that will kill everyone!

 

Joe is Sam Talbot, the guy in charge of the skeleton crew. The first reason to get annoyed with “Starfire Mutiny” is, despite his top billing, he’s barely in it! He gets knocked out as soon as the bad guys get to the space station, and doesn’t wake up again til after the halfway point, and even then he doesn’t really do anything. Sorry, Joe! The lion’s share of the heroics go to Ben, the guy in charge of cryogenics (a chap called Julius Krajewski, who is so bad at acting I thought it was going to be revealed to be a joke) and the fraudster who replaced the dead Dr Miranda Blake, the head of the MacGuffin project, in her cryo-pod. She’s Elise Muller, who not only was in “Shark Man”, but has been in a Duplass Brothers movie (“Baghead”) and has a decent career going for herself; she’s the sole bright spark in this too.

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Recapping the plot seems pointless, as it’s “Die Hard” in space (damn you Die Hard for giving low-budget producers a cheap idea!), only a version where Bruce Willis does pretty much nothing and it’s down to a weird camp idiot and a female criminal to save the day. It really tries to be funny as well, with a couple of comic relief goons getting into scrapes, plus Ben quipping every time he’s on screen, but wow does it ever fail.

 

Before I wrap things up, a quick word about the rather odd lesbian scene. “Miranda” convinces the baddies she’s the real deal, and uses her female charms to fool General Swann. This makes Briggs super-jealous and suspicious (legitimately wondering why a 25 year old woman would be in charge of such a huge scientific project), so Miranda has to go to Briggs’ room (why would she have a room on a space station she’d only just arrived at? Shut up) and replace a disk with the real Miranda’s picture on it. To provide a distraction, she seduces Briggs, who after a few seconds of apprehension, agrees. Now, I know sexuality is a sliding scale and all that, but Briggs has been so obsessed with Swann that she gave up her career and is prepared to sacrifice millions of people for him, so it seems a trifle unlikely she’d just hop into the sack with the first woman who asks. Plus it doesn’t work, as Briggs rumbles her plan in the very next scene with some sweet Photoshop analysis of her photo! This scene becomes slightly more understandable when you see the filmography of director Lloyd Simandl, who’s responsible for such classics as “Chained Fury: Lesbian Slave Desires”.

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This movie is why you need a script that will last you 90 minutes. It’s s-l-o-w, full of unnecessary dialogue, and the action is almost non-existent for long stretches. There’s not a single scene that couldn’t have been improved by halving its length – while you don’t notice the editor’s craft when it’s done well, you really notice it when it’s done badly. One great example is when Swann mows down a room full of guards at the prison. Now, he starts at the left and slowly pans right, taking quite a while to shoot everyone. I can understand the first guy dying, but the tenth? Guard 10 had a gun in his hand but seemed quite content to just wait for the inevitable embrace of bullet-assisted death – editing, people! It’s important!

 

I have to assume there was some story behind Lara’s lack of involvement. By screen time, he’d be maybe fifth or sixth billed, and having two other people do the hero stuff while he’s either unconscious or just sitting in a room makes everything feel weird. Even weirder is, he has a fight near the end with a couple of the comic relief goons but loses it.

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“Starfire Mutiny” is a terrible movie, it’s cheap, ugly and stupid, and only avoids the charge of being offensive to women by being offensive to everyone with at least half a normal share of common sense. Avoid (which shouldn’t be difficult, it’s really hard to get hold of and I’ve got no idea why I track this garbage down just to tell you not to track it down).

 

Rating: thumbs down

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