Earth has become an uninhabitable wasteland. The human race have resettled and colonized on the red planet of Mars. Years have past and the younger generation has never had the experience of living on Earth. Every year, a select few, those who pass multitudes of tests and reach the age of 30 years, will join the Revive Program and will travel through space on a seven day journey to Earth in order to aid in the planet’s rehabilitation of their once ancestry home. The journey between Mars and Earth is this story, a story of psychological perplexity between three travelers who get to go home for the first time.
“Earthrise” is the creation of writer-director-producer Glenn Payne, tackling the production limits of a space film in an independent market. Payne and his production team effectively generate the illusion of being a single speck in a vast universe without getting overly galactic (i.e. “Moon”) and widely interstellar (i.e. “Interstellar”). Yes, “Earthrise” embodies a minuscule budget that’s certainly evident, but the ambitiousness to recreate the innards of a spaceship without being too blatantly cheap gives creativity credit to the crew. The brief transitional moments outside the ship are about as good as money can afford, but still don’t quite cut the mustard with some big Hollywood blockbusters or even larger independent films.
Along with much of the crew, Payne’s experience mainly stems from a variety of short films with “Earthrise” being his latest full length feature out of a total of four. The three actors who portray the focus-centered characters also mostly come from a short film background. Meaghin Burke (“Trick or Treat” short), Casey Dillard (“Blackout” short), and Meaghin’s husband, Greg Earnest (also from “Trick or Treat”), portray the three protagonist Dawn, Vivian, and Marshall, voyaging to Earth. Within a non-linear story, their tensions cut through finely as an unexplained terror has overtaken, not only their flight to Earth, but their minds that visualize apparitions of people and creatures that shouldn’t be there. Giant spiders, man-eating alligators, alarming amounts of blood – just some of the psychological tensions testing the characters. Is it a form of space dementia? Or the inability to grasp leaving your home, your family, to live on another planet and not having the ability to contact anyone from home for a year, per the Revive Program’s policy? Or is it something else? “Earthrise” domes the answer fairly well until the end.
The sequence of events surround a near catastrophe involving a sudden meteor collision. One side of the collision tells the story prior to their insanely dangerous visions, building upon their backgrounds and delivering their soon obtained new found hope, while the other side explores their descent into madness and, eventually, the two stories meet in the middle with the major calamity. Contrasting the two sides defines, in a good light, director Glenn Payne’s editing style while still able to clearly convey the crews plight. Mise-en-scene clues were used to differentiate the catalyst, such as Marshall’s head wound or Vivian’s limp, but these details were minor enough to not pose an extravagance in order to make clear the outer edges of the story.
The 2014 sci-fi thriller is presented by Indie Rights Movies and MVD in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The details are richly sharp, drenched in a metal tone to create a ship’s inner hull racing through space atmosphere. The dual channel Dolby Digital mix is clear and balanced and purposefully isolating to get inside the loneliness of the great big infinite. Accompanying the 100 minute runtime, a couple extras include the film’s trailer and a commentary. Sci-fi on a budget, “Earthrise” is enjoyably subtle, sleekly structured, and soaked with heart and soul. Many will not be attracted to “Earthrise” and it’s slow-to-build momentum, leaving only true film aficionados and appreciators to find Payne’s work entertaining.