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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 05.11.17] scifi thriller

My first encounter with Arrowstorm Entertainment was a Kickstarter Campaign for The Crown and the Dragon, a fantasy epic which the company was making on a small budget with final production funds raised via crowdfunding. Since then, Arrowstorm has mastered the art of the indie productions by leveraging their fanbase to help them produce a number of projects including Magellan, one of their latest ventures.

Directed by Arrowstorm regular Rob York, Magellan is mostly a one-man show in which Brandon Ray Olive stars as Commander Roger Nelson, an astronaut sent on a mission to track down the source of three mysterious signals emanating from across the galaxy. It's a long and lonely mission but one the commander takes on, leaving behind his wife to await his return.

The mission starts off well enough but the further he gets from Earth and the government, the brasher Nelson's decisions become. Soon enough, he is getting a little too friendly with the onboard computer, disobeying direct orders and causing all sort of havoc.

Magellan suffers from the same issues that plague many of the production company's other projects: it varies wildly in quality from scene to scene. The bulk of the movie takes place on the Magellan which is a fairly crude and low-tech set but which works rather well overall. The space suit looks like it's left over from a 1960's space mission which is, at first, distracting but which soon enough just becomes another prop while the images of the spacecraft tumbling through space are mostly impressive.

The scenes on the planetary surfaces are mostly terrible as are the opening scenes of the movie in which Nelson finds out about the mission. These are not necessary to the overall story and feel like they were shot last minute to set-up and pad Nelson's relationship with his wife. Sadly, this mostly backfires as the actress is terrible and additionally, that storyline has little impact on the central premise.

Similar quality issues also plague the performances. Most of the supporting cast is terrible but Olive is rather good as Nelson; even if he does occasionally stray into moments of cheese.

Even with the varying degrees of quality throughout, Magellan manages to engage. Part of the appeal is the story itself which York co-wrote with Scott Baird. It offers very little in the way of new ideas about space and the eternal question of whether we're alone but the pacing and storytelling are entertaining. The other selling point is Olive as Nelson who, regardless of the occasionally shaky performance, is really charming and fun to watch.

Low budget space movies are hard to pull off and Magellan doesn't quite manage to live up to its ambition but if you're willing to squint a little at the rough edges, you might find yourself, as I was, swept in by the storytelling.

Sci-Fi London Film Festival 2017 ran from April 27 to May 6.

Recommended Release: Contact

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Genius (5 years ago) Reply

I was just told my DVD is on it's way. I was part of the kickstarter for this.
Support the little guys!


Zo0tie (4 years ago) Reply

After decades of expensive special effect laden brainless films about space exploration this one really rekindled my sense of wonder. The intelligent treatment of space travel to outer solar system worlds allows me to suspend my disbelief and share the gleeful excitement of Nelson as he makes his exciting discoveries. The use of desert locations tweaked with appropriate filters shows you don't need a gazillion dollars to simulate alien worlds if you tell an intelligent story and respect (mostly) astrophysical science. Well done. Right up there with Europa Report.


Green (4 years ago) Reply

The movie isn't bad because of its budget or special effects. The movie is bad because it's bad. Any attempts at drama are brushed off and never revisited. Any mysteries are not even hinted at having a solution. No attempt at a dramatic arc is made over its entire run time. Most of the "hard sci-fi" present is just derivative bits and pieces from much better classic films.

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