'Beyond White Space': Film Review
Ken Locsmandi's directing debut follows a spaceship captain on a 'Moby Dick'-inspired quest.
Visual FX veteran Ken Locsmandi tries to ride his skills into a directing career with Beyond White Space, a sci-fi adventure that looks surprisingly polished but needs a good deal more work when it comes to writing and performances. Taking most of its inspiration from Joss Whedon's Firefly and other hybrids of space opera with more Earth-bound genres, it puts the usual rag-tag crew of space-faring proles up against a space dragon and some mythology few viewers will find worthwhile.
Holt McCallany leads the mission as Richard Bentley, whose space-captain father was killed long ago by a giant creature called (in the crew's bastardization of its Chinese name) Tin Lung. With brother Owen (James Devoti), Holt now goes on expeditions to harvest crab-like space critters for mega-conglomerate AmberCorp, all the while privately searching for the beast that killed his Pop. Unbeknownst to him, Lynn Navarro (Zulay Henao), a recent addition to his crew, is new to this kind of work. Up until recently, she was some sort of interstellar game warden; she has personal reasons to want to go on this expedition, and in order to fit in she has hidden her history as a cop. Her bosses wiped her personnel record clean so suspicious crew members can't hack in and expose her. But for some reason, Lynn still wears her badge under her shirt, just waiting to be exposed if the camera ever shifts its gaze from her cleavage. (No, looking down the tank tops of other female crew members doesn't count.)
Lynn's personal mission revolves around believing there is something called White Space in the galaxy, and that it has the power to cure disease. But the script spends less time explaining this than introducing all the stock characters who round out the crew — weathered old drunk; hotshot pilot; filth-covered maintenance creep; et cetera.
Co-writer Ryan Colucci, whose only previous feature is the risible Suburban Cowboy, again shows that most of what he knows about human beings comes from third-rate movies. But for a while, the enjoyable contributions of the design teams help us ignore the film's dialogue and adolescent view of women. Spaceships, flying exo-skeleton suits and aliens all look pro-grade, and it's not hard to imagine genre buffs killing time with this on their streaming outlet of choice.
The action grows tiresome after one crew member plays unwelcome host to an alien parasite and turns into a slime-dripping killing machine. Nerds will note that this film's little bugs enjoy crawling into human ears, much like those in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan — a pic that made much better use of its own Moby Dick allusions. Things devolve into a mishmash of borrowed tropes and the constant threat of Richard's ship being tail-whacked by the leviathan he's chasing. Viewers waiting to learn what exactly awaits "beyond white space" may shudder when closing scenes hint, wishfully, at a sequel.
Production companies: Spoke Lane Entertainment, Filmworks/FX, White Space Productions
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
Cast: Holt McCallany, Zulay Henao, James Devoti, Jocko Sims, Kodi Kitchen, Dave Sheridan, Mike Genovese, Tiffany Brouwer, Isaac C. Singleton Jr.
Director: Ken Locsmandi
Screenwriters: Ryan Colucci, Clay McLeod Chapman
Producers: Ryan Colucci, James Devoti, Mark B. Newbauer
Executive producers: Ken Locsmandi, Michael Mills
Director of photography: Tom Clancey
Production designer: Jessee J. Clarkson
Editors: Yoshio Kohashi, Eric Potter
Composers: Nima Fakhrara, Navid Hejazi