Earthrise (2014) manifests epoch-making storytelling in an expanding world of independent motion pictures. Writer/director Glenn Payne has crafted an engrossing narrative that promises a Utopian Earth to three travelers making their way across the unforgiving ice-cold frontier of space. And while the film has been much maligned by a number of seething reviews steeped in film-making ignorance, Earthrise not only offers hope to its characters, but to the burgeoning indie scene, as well.
As part of the Revive Project, Marshall (Greg Earnest), Dawn (Meaghin Burke) and Vivian (Casey Dillard) are selected to return and live on Earth following mankind’s centuries of exile from our little blue planet. In this futuristic setting, the Earth has been going through a rehabilitation process for over 360 years, while humans have spent those years colonizing our neighboring planet, Mars.
The seven-day jaunt, from Mars to Earth, starts off without a hiccup, but an asteroid storm bombards the vessel on route. But unbeknownst to the team, the minor damage to the cargo hold has stirred to life a group of strange rocks and released their dangerous, undetectable and radioactive gases.
The voyage becomes a house of horrors, as each teammate begins hallucinating from exposure to the noxious gases. Marshall sees the wife he left behind on Mars and their unborn child, while Dawn has hair-raising visions of her dead father, and Vivian comes face to face with a larger-than-life spider roaming the ship’s almost barren passageways.
As the chaos culminates, coinciding with their imminent arrival on Earth, the crew must scramble to survive. Marshall is suddenly haunted by a hellish alternate reality, in which he envisions Vivian and Dawn have turned on him. Desperate to outlast them, he races through the hallways to escape their wrath. The final suspense-filled moments will enthrall viewers, as you hope against hope that our heroes will escape the craft, the mind-altering gas and arrive safely on Earth.
Earthrise is a sheer delight; the story is suspenseful and populated with believable dialogue. This is no easy task to pull off, especially considering that these Martians are traveling from planet to planet in only a week’s time. Actors Earnest, Burke and Dillard are equal to the task, and performing at a zenith reserved for only masters of the thespian craft. Without giving anything away, there is a final scene featuring close-ups of our intrepid travelers. Their facial expressions alone, and without the aid of dialogue, absolutely sell the climactic moments of Earthrise.
Based in Blue Springs, Payne shows off the caliber of filmmaking talent in Mississippi. Earthrise was shot for only $10,000 in a time frame of about two weeks, and the production value is a prodigious accomplishment considering the scant amount of money and time used to complete the project. The walls, specifically the corridors, of the ship are a monochromatic homage — grey scale — to the original Star Trek series, complete with similar-looking sliding doors. Beam me up, Scotty!
The special effects, in regards to the mammoth ship approaching Earth, are well conceived and executed. The model of the crew’s vessel is well crafted, with lots of intricate details. Every time the audience sees the spaceship, it is one step closer to planet Earth. Once orbit is achieved, the ship is totally immersed in the lush blue colors of the planet. The visual imagery here is very prepossessing for such a low-budget venture and it actually perpetuates the story, let alone expanding the vivid sensory experience. This tactic also adds an aura of suspense and a sense of foreboding to the film – a triumph.
And not to be outdone is the ominous score composed by Ash Williams. The music invokes suspension of disbelief in the audience, which is exceedingly effective. Now, the picture isn’t without its problems, but they are almost negligible. While Payne’s use of old Barnes and Noble shelves to decorate sets is inventive, his use of tablets and T.V. screens are a little far-fetched for a distant future.
It has been 360 years, since earthlings fled our planet and began colonizing Mars. It is hard to believe that some sort of technological advancement hasn’t propelled civilization beyond the iPad and flat screen televisions by this time. Perhaps, the raw materials needed for updated technology don’t exist on Mars? That could explain it, but then how did that awesome ship, capable of trekking from Mars to Earth in seven days come to be? This is perplexing to say the least, but it isn’t enough of a blunder to disrupt the movie-going experience.
Sadly, the DVD is devoid of any substantial extras. There are no featurettes, no outtakes, no blooper reels and no behind-the-scenes shorts. You will only find the trailer for the film and a detailed commentary track by writer/director Glenn Payne and actress Casey Dillard. The pair does make the one real bonus feature worth listening to, as they divulge a lot of information about the process of producing the flick. As good as the movie is, sadly, the bonus features are virtually non-existent.
The independent film market is saturated with bad movies, and whether they skimp on storytelling, production value or talent depends on the particular title. Earthrise is a stalwart motion picture, which is so refreshing to find in a sea of increasingly unwatchable drudgery. Filmmaker Glenn Payne deserves kudos for his storytelling and movie-making ingenuity. Earthrise will have you believing in the human spirit and the promising future of mankind, even if that time of yet-to-come is subsequent to the fall and rebirth of planet Earth.