In a series of action-packed sci-fi shorts, Battle in Space: The Armada Attacks takes us to a battle against alien overlords.
Battle in Space: The Armada Attacks is an anthology featuring a series of sci-fi shorts directed by several filmmakers: Sanjay F. Sharma, Toby Rawal, Scott Robson, Andrew Jaksch, Lukas Kendall, and Luis Tinoco. In 2420, after aliens and powerful space wizards enslaved the human population, a group of rebels fights against alien overlords by launching an armada of spacecrafts, engaging in an ultimate battle for freedom.
The first short, which doesn’t have a name, introduces us to the rebels taking their fight to the streets, where children are mysteriously disappearing. The short takes place in a vaguely steampunk-looking city under the dictatorship of a space wizard (Doug Jones, Star Trek: Discovery) and, although he only appears for a couple of moments, the reference to Flash Gordon’s Emperor Ming cannot be missed. This first short features interesting details that will definitely catch the audience’s attention, such as well-crafted holographic projections of the wizard.
However, the short could have benefitted from a more accurate set design and a clearer tone: its style, an inconsistent combination of western, steam-punk, and futuristic elements, fails to transport us to an alien dominated world, making this chapter feel disconnected from the other shorts of the anthology.
In the next short, called The Hermes, two young men with Jedi-like powers set off in search of a crystal that is said to grant them power. This story doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously and although it sparks from an interesting (albeit not very original) idea, it unfortunately fails to deliver due to the lack of convincing acting. Another frustrating element is the design: though The Hermes is set in an alternative future, and not in the 90s, the short features very simple outfits that were perhaps not properly researched, making its characters look out of place within the futuristic sci-fi setting, and thus rendering the story less believable. You might be tempted to fast forward this one, but, if you don’t, a good laugh is ensured.
We then follow the crew of a spacecraft as they approach the surface of a desert planet called The Agamennon, to check the status of a relay station. When one of the astronauts starts exploring the surface, his spacesuit begins to malfunction forcing him to remove his helmet in a desperate act to breathe. As he realises he can breathe without aid, it soon becomes apparent that the planet is giving him hallucinations – or future flashbacks, and his journey ends up taking him to unexpected places. With beautifully shot scenes, we see our protagonist venture into a lonely reconnaissance mission that echoes The Martian both visually and emotionally, as we cannot avoid thinking about Matt Damon stranded on the desert planet by himself. This short is the first to grab our attention, as it reflects the kind of material you would expect from an interesting sci-fi story, and it also features great photography and emotional sequences that enhance suspense and trigger a real sense of loneliness and unease. Among this collection of sci-fi stories, The Agamennon would become an excellent feature-length movie thanks to the richness of its script.
Two pilots, John (Tom Maden, Famous in Love) and Mo (Jess Gabor, Confessional) are on the run, on a spaceship, chased by several alien spacecrafts. Although John understands that they are in the middle of a battle in space, he doesn’t seem to remember anything about himself, or about the enemy probe that hacked their ship, compromising its safety, by latching onto him. It is soon revealed that, in this future, almost everyone is “wired” with a port-like opening at the base of their neck: this mechanism is very similar to the one shown in The Matrix, but the function it serves is different and somewhat unclear, although it is implied that it helps pilots navigate spacecrafts more efficiently. As John resumes navigation, he soon uncovers new information that ultimately makes him question Mo’s loyalty. While The Perses follows a simple story arc, employing few special effects, its dynamic pace and convincing acting manages to grip our attention from beginning to end. In true Memento style, the story constantly keeps us guessing, cleverly playing on the tension between the characters, brilliantly conveyed by the actors’ performances.
Lieutenant Arsys (Melina Matthews) is aboard an X-Wing-like ship, attempting to escape from an enemy spaceship that soon starts chasing her and shooting at her while she flies towards a portal in front of an alien planet. The scene immediately cuts to a young girl (Mia Lardner) waking up in a hospital, visibly injured after a nearly lethal accident that involved her family
. As we keep jumping back and forth from the girl to the lieutenant, we learn a little bit more about these two apparently disconnected women. As Debbie finds a videogame (“The Caronte”) that belonged to her brother and continues to play a game he had begun before the car crash, we realize that Lieutenant Arsys and Debbie might share an unexpected connection. Thanks to clever clues strategically placed within the narrative, The Caronte keeps us glued to the screen while we wait to find out whether or not Lieutenant Arsys will manage to reach safety, and Debbie to see her family again.
This last segment is the most convincing and emotionally engaging short of the whole anthology, as it grips us from the very beginning and keep us emotionally engaged until the end. Debbie’s bond with her brother is masterfully shown, employing few brief, convincing flashbacks that force us to really care about Debbie and the fate of her family. Matthews’ equally compelling performance also keeps us on the edge of our seat as we watch Lieutenant Arsys fight for her life.
While each short wraps up its own story, the only common theme that seems to be connecting these shorts appears to be the characters fighting for survival. If it weren’t for this, you wouldn’t necessarily place them within the same film or series, as they have very different, disjointed plots. This “disconnection” also manifests itself in style and quality, as some episodes feature excellent set design that effectively transports us to futuristic realities and aboard spaceships, while others fail to convince us that our characters’ story really takes place in an alien world. Whilst this is understandable, given the film’s low budget and the fact that each short was directed by a different filmmaker, they still feel more like independent episodes of different sci-fi shows cut together than like parts of one, cohesive film.
Although not consistent across the whole production, the special effects are overall very good, especially when employed in scenes set in space. We get to see planets’ surfaces, galaxies and nebulas: you can definitely tell where most of the production budget went.
However, despite failing to fully engage us emotionally, Battle in Space: The Armada Attacks still manages to provide 90 minutes of real entertainment thanks to its humour and special effects.
Battle in Space: The Armada Attacks will be released on DVD & Digital on January 12, 2021.