Honestly, schlockbusters were all the craze for a good number of years. Folks were all-too-happy to search the video store shelves for what looked like it could be a ‘diamond in the rough,’ and I can’t tell you how incredibly sad I am that those days have gone by. There were so many good – not great – flicks that somehow found their way onto VHS; and the entertainment industry certainly benefitted from what seemed to be a never-ending assault of B-movie thrillers and chillers. The trend continued throughout the 1990’s and into the 2000’s, but – for a whole host of reasons – video stores just couldn’t quite compete once it was more affordable to buy a film outright, thus cutting out the middleman.
And – disagree if you must – a little something-something like Space Wars: Quest For The Deepstar (2022) would be the kind of rental title that big stores would get a good number of copies to dispense. For the first few weeks of its shelf life, customers would pick it out, take it home, and give it a go. Some positive praise from regular Joes meant that it’d actually do quite well for whatever distributor picked it up and gave it an honest chance. While such fanfare rarely translated into calls for a sequel, it still resonated with folks who – like me – just watch movies to be entertained and not preached to, indoctrinated, or chastised for voting or thinking the wrong way politically.
Simply put, this is pure space F-A-N-T-A-S-Y.
It’s made by folks who love it, and it’s intended for viewers who appreciate it. It may not make perfect sense. It may not ask or answer any of life’s big questions. It certainly won’t alter the way one thinks about the wider world outside. But for 90 minutes it takes away whatever pain or suffering troubles you in the short term, and maybe it makes you smile, laugh, and cheer along the way.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
“Life is an adventure for space scavengers Kip Corman and his daughter Taylor as they navigate their ship through a universe filled with monsters, aliens, and robots in order to reach the mythical Deepstar and collect the riches within.”
Right off the bat I’m going to let you know that Space Wars is most definitely not Star Wars.
That Lucasfilm intellectual property is certainly so well-renowned that no self-respecting member of any audience – big or small – should confuse the two, but I thought it appropriate to point out anyway. Star Wars spends a helluva lot of money – and invests a whole lot more in props, sets, costumes, make-up, etc. – to bring that galaxy far, far away to cinematic life. Though less money might be spent on Space Wars, there’s still an awful lot in common between the two franchises, especially when it comes to swashbuckling adventures set on distant worlds – and in outer space – where you can clearly tell the difference between the good guys and the bad.
Writer/director Garo Setian (along with assistance from screenwriter Joe Knetter) have crafted their own low-budget space opera not only with a helluva lot of love but also done so with a healthy nod toward the SciFi serials of old. Flash Gordon (1936) and Buck Rogers (1939) pitted heroes against interstellar bad guys, man-eating monsters, and even the fairer sex in cliffhanger installments that stretched out over their theatrical schedule; and – in so many way – Space Wars feels like a modern re-incarnation of the formula. Why, our intrepid captain Kip Corman (played by genre heavyweight Michael Paré) and his comely yet tough daughter Taylor (Sarah French) can’t go from one reel to the next without finding themselves yet again with their feet to the fire, but that’ll never stop them from wanting to live a life of adventure … even it kills them.
A bit long in the tooth but still nursing an incredible career, Paré may not be a contemporary Buster Crabbe (Google it, kids) yet he holds his own here as an aging rogue who’ll stop at nothing to keep what’s left of his family intact. The script gives him the chance to potentially reunite with his departed wife Lacey (Elise Muller); still, the reincarnation subplot of Space Wars – along with the quest for the Deepstar and its untold riches – never really quite ascends to anything other than a storytelling MacGuffin. (It’s the future, mankind has transcended death, souls are now liquid … honestly, it all felt a bit contrived and left me with a whole lot of existential questions.) Yes, father and daughter pursue the dream together, but there’s much more to Taylor than what meets the eye … and that’s where I think the story should’ve stayed focused.
French is a bit of a revelation here. She practically swaggers her way into an action heroine role, so much so that I’m hoping to see her do far more of this in the future. (I say this at a time in our cultural history when I’m well aware that screen work like this is often frowned upon by our cultural betters.) Sexy, smart, and athletic, her Taylor is always up to the task at hand, though she’s nursing a private wound kept secret until late in the picture. Clearly, she and Paré worked to develop their daddy/daughter chemistry; and – for the most part – it works just fine. Saddling her with some of the usual B-Movie histrionics (i.e. seducing the bad guys, fostering her own duplicity, etc.) kinda/sorta cheapens the role at time, but come the big finish she’s clearly had an awful lot of fun kicking ass, firing phasers, and taking names.
If all of this isn’t enough to alert you to Space Wars’ B-Movie goodness, then can I add one more name?
As invariably happens at some point in my review, I have to talk about a film’s shortcomings; and, yes, even something as fun as Space Wars has a few deficiencies.
Though I can’t prove it, I strongly suspect that several key locations (i.e. starship cockpits, crew quarters, etc.) were functionally the same, meaning that they were heavily redressed to give the appearance to being someplace different. Usually, I’m not distracted by this kind of thing, but it kinda/sorta became a bit too obvious in a few sequences. Also, the sets were incredibly small, so much so that shooting a scene from various angles was likely out of the question; and, yes, this inhibits the aesthetics from feeling as big as space opera requires occasionally. The accomplishments here are good, but I couldn’t help wondering how much greater the film would’ve been overall with a mildly enhanced budget.
Lastly, I’d be remiss in my duties of promoting All Things Genre if I failed to point out that Setian and his cast and crew have been the recipients of some positive praise on the film festival circuit and beyond. IMDB.com reports that Space Wars garnered trophies from the 2023 Hollywood Gold Awards, the Zed Fest Film Festival, and the Hollywood Independent Filmmaker Awards And Festival. I’m not surprised that others are singing its praises as this is the kind of storytelling that always finds an audience, though it might take a bit of sweat, effort, and moxie in the modern era.
Space Wars: Quest For The Deepstar (2022) was produced by Hungry Monster Entertainment, Millman Productions, and Ron Lee Productions. DVD distribution (for this particular release) is being coordinated by Uncork’d Entertainment. As for the technical specifications? Take note: this is a reasonably low budget production, but it actually looks and sounds quite good throughout most of the affair. As can happen when effects are rendered digitally in post, they can appear more than a bit obvious here-and-there as well as occasionally coming off with some underwhelming images. At the end of the day, it is what it is, but I didn’t find that it decreased my enjoyment of the flick.
Lastly, if you’re looking for special features? The disc includes a commentary track along with deleted scenes, the theatrical trailer, and around four minutes of bloopers. (Poor Ms. French! That oxygen tank just didn’t want to stay on your back!) It’s a very good collection considering the fact that this is one of those secondary releases that usually gets little to nothing. Well done, cast and crew. Well done!
Flawed but still recommended.
Space Wars: Quest For The Deepstar is an imperfect B-Movie that has more heart and chutzpah than most big budget productions; and it was clearly made by folks who likely had as much fun assembling it as this critic did watching it. Alas – as smaller features do – it has its share of problems and quirks, most of which is owed to the nature of low-budget magic acts, campy scripts, and smarmy villains. Setting those deficiencies aside isn’t all that tough for genre fans of my age; so I’ll happily admit that I enjoyed this as a throwback to the days of movie serials. Back there, developments didn’t always make narrative sense … but they sure made for a wonderful carnival attraction.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to share that this review was penned entirely based on my own purchase of Space Wars: Quest For The Deepstar at the local WalMart on DVD as Uncork’d Entertainment was unable to provide me with a complimentary screener.