by Jay Seaver
SCREENED AT THE 2011 BOSTON SCIENCE FICTION FILM FESTIVAL: The festival program claims that "Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning" was a huge box office hit in its native Finland, which surprises me somewhat. Not just because it's not very good; bad movies make good money all the time, all over the world. No, it's because I cannot imagine how it could have been given a sizable release without a bunch of lawyers from Paramount and Warner Brothers grinding them to a paste. Tolerating fan films and being quietly grateful to be spoofed is one thing, but this...Captain James B. Pirk (Samuli Torssonen) and two of his officers, Commanders Dwarf (Timo Vuorensola) and Info (Antti Satama), have been marooned in early twenty-first century Finland by a time-travel adventure gone wrong. However, while Info cautions against altering the timestream, a frustrated Pirk decides, what the hell, why don't we use the tech from our crashed ship to build a dreadnought and conquer the Earth? Eventually, he manages it, but running a planetary empire is hard, so when a ship emerges from a nearby "maggot hole", implying the existence of new worlds to conquer and pillage on the other side, he leads a fleet there. Meanwhile, in a parallel universe, space station Babel 13's commander Joni Sherripie (Atte Joutsen) is wondering what happened to that patrol ship.
"The name shows the level of creativity, if not the amount of effort."
If you've watched sci-fi on television over the last twenty-five-odd years, decoding those character names should not be a difficult undertaking; I suspect that even the Usual Gang of Idiots at MAD Magazine worked a little harder on clever puns when creating their spoofs of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Babylon 5. The real shame, though, is that this really does represent something close to the full extent of the wit on display here. I'm not saying that the filmmakers should necessarily have tried to restart the Nerd Wars of the 1990s when you were either a Trek guy or a B5 guy and the other side deserved no respect whatsoever, but even halfheartedly diving into the two shows' strengths and weaknesses might have made this weak satire rather than weak parody. It's kind of surprising that they only had one actor playing a different part in both universes (although, yes, it's the one that makes for the best inside joke).
But, even as parody, it's kind of weak. Dwarf and Info are slightly exaggerated versions of Worf and Data, Pirk is a clueless, reckless horndog. Sherrypie likes to give speeches. If you're a fan of these shows, there's quite a few moments that will make you chuckle in recognition, but jokes beyond the obvious are few and far between. Maybe there's something lost in translation, or it's something that needs the right audience, but the room was extremely quiet during this comedy. Familiar isn't the same as funny, and while the cast (who were, generally, also the crew) actually seems to stumble a lot less than most amateurs, they're maybe not going to sell the gags to non-fans.
Still, what they do on a technical level shouldn't be understated. Working with their own personal computers, these guys have done a rather remarkable job on visual effects - in some cases arguably better than the things that they are spoofing. Few, if any, sets were built, but characters interact with their digital environments more smoothly than is often the case in big American blockbusters. And the climactic space battle that seems to take up the second half of the movie is done remarkably well. The designs of the ships are blatant theft and it goes on much, much too long (it's frankly exhausting), but one can see why this took five years to render.It's utterly self-indulgent, although not without certain appeal to fans of the genres and properties in question. It was clearly a labor of love. And, even if it's not that funny, it's certainly the sort of project that teaches its participants a great deal. Here's hoping that they've crafted a better script and learned what works for their next project, "Iron Sky" - there's clearly enough talent and passion here to make this sort of film right.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=22208&reviewer=371
originally posted: 02/20/11 07:16:16