Dark Planet is directed by Albert Magnolia, who also directed Purple Rain, Sign ’o’ The Times, and Tango & Cash. As such, it’s fair to say his carrier has been “varied” and that if you watched this without never having had me tell you that you’d call me a filthy liar. Then again, Michael York is also in it, so clearly a lot of people had cars to fix when the casting for this project was doing the rounds.
The basics of the film are, like most things in it, very basic. The Alphas are at war with The Rebels because that’s how you get a conflict going in whatever century is set in. We know this because the voice-over tells us. We also know it’s hard-fought, because Captain Winter (Michael York), of an Alpha warship, does a war crime within the first 10 minutes. Which is to say, we see him blow up a ship in what looks like a PC game cut scene.
We then find out that he’s going to team up with some Rebels, led by Col Liz Brendon (Harley Jane Kozak), as they’re going to take Anson Hawke (Paul Mecurio) to a portal to The Dark Planet. We know neither side likes Hawke, because they all slate him for being “a war profiteer”. We know that The Dark Planet is called that because everyone mentions it every five minutes, so we never forget that it’s really important (even if why that is isn’t that clear). We also know that the portal to the Dark Planet is incredibly dangerous because it looks like a giant, spinning space anus.
Once everyone is assembled, and a couple of other people that have been in substantially better films, the plot really kicks off. And by that, I mean the kind of “two opposing factions on the same ship” shenanigans you can see coming a mile off, a lot of monologuing, and utterly unreasonable levels of thorniness. It’s exclusively cantered around Hawke, who has the sexual dynamism of a post curry fart. Regardless of that, he basically walks up to every female character and calmly explains that their world would be so much better if they shagged him.
To make it significantly worse, they pretty much agree with him whilst the assorted couplings offer levels of on-screen chemistry only previously experienced by watching paint dry. This happens repeatedly, and it’s just annoying. Then, once they finally do reach The Dark Planet and the Deus Ex Machina plot device is thrown around, we find out that the voice-over is in fact his daughter that was born a year after they landed on The Dark Planet. Turns out that the entire running time is an attempt to make you interested in which of the potential lucky ladies got to birth his child, and that is just annoying.
However, I’m not going to throw any blame around at the actors for this. Everyone is, very clearly, doing their best with what they have. The problem is that what they have is a very poorly written script, written in crayon, and a budget that clearly didn’t allow for any second shots. It also didn’t allow for much to be spent on the SFX, which is a problem with a plot set in space with a lot of explosions. So, everyone gives it a swing, even if they are destined by fate and poor production to miss.
Whilst the film is mostly pants awful, there are a lot of very nice ideas in it. They are all horribly underdeveloped and just become background technobabble, but you get the sense that if someone with the time to do maybe a single extra rewrite got their hands on it could have been passable. However, this doesn’t get away from the “mostly pants awful” aspect, and whilst it’s not especially painful to watch it’s still Trash. If you want some mid-90s sci-fi nonsense then you might get something from it, but this came out the same year as Event Horizon and Starship Troopers and you need to treat yourself better
Three follow up notes
1 – There are at least 4 other movies doing the rounds called Dark Planet. They all look much, much better than this
2 – I wrote this whilst watching Sing ‘o’ The Times. Albert Magnolia was capable of so much more.
3 – There are few pictures included because I’m not going to muck around rewatching this film to bring you more, and there are hardly any available on the internet. A film not finding a niche online masochist fandom is nature’s way of showing a film just outright sucks.