Friday, February 10, 2017

Beyond the Edge: Interstellar Cabin Fever

Two astronauts are going where no man has ever gone before, but it might not count for much if they have gone insane by the time they get there. They might be losing their handle on reality, but reality is maybe also turning against them in Thomas Zellen’s Beyond the Edge (trailer here), which is now available on VOD.

You might wonder why a marine biologist like Dr. Abe Anderson was chosen for this mission. Granted, he keeps a tank full of electric eels, but the bee colony ought to be somewhat outside his field of expertise. At least giving up his disappointing personal life was not such a sacrifice. Conversely, Lt. Col. Harold Richards looks like a logical choice to pilot the mission, but he will probably never see his tightly-knit family again as a result. He has Anderson for company, but that will be cold comfort when they both go nuts and he maybe dies (don’t worry, its not permanent, or maybe it is).

As their ship approaches the “edge” of the universe, time and reality start to fragment and reshuffle. Incidents seem to replay out of sequence and alternate realities start to intrude on the ostensive real one—or so we might surmise. The frustrating thing about Edge is that Zellen clearly has a lot of heady ideas, but he doesn’t always get them over on-screen. His ambition is noble, but his fractured narrative can be trying.

Nevertheless, Casper Van Dien (still best known for Starship Troopers) really is terrific as Lt. Col. Richards. He truly looks the part of a ramrod-straight military man—and it is surprisingly poignant to watch him cling to structure and routine as he starts to understand how profoundly they have lost control of their mission. However, Sean Maher is so annoyingly obnoxious as Anderson, we’d really just assume Richards put the hurt on him.

Zellen nicely works within his budget constraints, rendering a highly credible looking interstellar space drama. It is also cool to see the legendary Adrienne Barbeau pop-up in flashbacks (or not), as the mission director. We’d like to be more enthusiastic about Beyond the Edge, because it is really going for something out there, but he just doesn’t quite pull it off. Recommended for those who want to support a bold attempt, Beyond the Edge is now available on VOD platforms, including iTunes.