The fugitive returns with me or dies on your ship. I don’t really care which!
There are few better moments as a film fan than when a film that you’ve been looking forward to for a long time gets released. To sum up how long it is since I saw the trailer for “Star Trek : Horizon”, if you had gone to the Youtube playlist that I created of the films I wanted to see (it be be gone by the time you read this), you would see this as the second entry on the list. Given how much I chop and change the list (I’ve had about 70 movies on there over the last year or so) on a regular basis, it says it all that this was number two (please note that it is based on when I added the video to the list, not the films actually in order of when I’d like to see them).
Now there’s one thing that you may have learnt about me from my “Star Trek : Renegade” (which isn’t linked to this film) review, I grew up as a Star Trek fan. It was one of the few things me and my dad actually did together when growing up, it was our thing (by the way, before anyone thinks it, he was, and still is married to my mother, we just didn’t do a lot together), and I grew to love the franchise. In recent days I have also been watching the two JJ Abrams reboot films again, as well as the trailer for “Star Trek : Beyond”, and it has gotten me excited to see this, even though I didn’t even know it was out at the time.
The reason I mention this is that because I am a fan of the franchise, I will be a lot harsher on this film than normal. I go into most films open minded, however, much like comic books films and their fans, there is a certain standard to be met. Now don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that this is a low budget film and required crowd funding to get going, but that counts for nothing in this review.
Set early on in Earth’s early adventures into space, long before the days of Captain Kirk and the Enterprise, Captain Hawke (Lang) and his crew barely survive an attack by three Romulan warbirds, all lead by Admiral Verak (Husk). They are saved at the last minute by another Federation ship. The crew spend several days mourning their dead, but they are quickly sent back out to investigate a weapon that the Romulans are alledgely building two light years from Earth.
They are also assigned a new crew member, T’mar (Bussell), a woman who has spent the last 17 years helping the Romulan Empire before betraying them. Tensions are high as many of the crew blame T’mar for the death of their friends, but they begrudgingly admit that they need her knowledge of the empire. When they arrive at the station, they use new torpedoes to destroy it, but in doing so they disrupt a temporal rift and they are flung to a galaxy several million light years from Earth.
Stopping near a planet, the crew decide to investigate it as there is a huge power source emanating from the planet, however, it turns out that it is an ancient weapon that can be used to destroy anything and anyone, and at the controls is a 28th century Romulan with a grudge against Earth.
So, did it make me into an angry Trekkie?
No, not particularly, whilst I wasn’t massively impressed by “Horizon” (I’m simply going to call it that), it’s certainly not a bad effort by everyone involved.
I’m going to start with the negatives and my main gripe with “Horizon” is that it feels lazy in places and recycles plot points from the previous movies and the TV shows. For example, being flung to a far away place in the universe is a key plot point in the “Next Generation” episodes “Where No One Has Gone Before” and the excellent “Q Who” (most notable because is was the first appearance of the primary antagonists of the Star Trek franchise, the Borg), and it was also the main plot point of the whole run of the “Voyager” series. Many aspects of the film feel recycled, right down to the part of the film which lens flares are also heavily feature.
You’ve also got a Romulan from the future determined to destroy Earth because he feels that the Federation did nothing to protect Romulus (the Romulan home world for you non-Trekkies) after the local star went supernova (what could they do), and the captain must do what he can to protect Earth, which is near enough the EXACT plot of the JJ Abrams reboot in 2009.
I’ve always personally felt that the Romulans were always generally poor antagonists. They’ve never felt like a genuine threat in any element of any part of Star Trek, with the exception of the JJ Abram’s 2009 reboot film. The main antagonist (arguably) is Admiral Verak and he never feels like a genuine threat. Even when delivering the line at of dialogue that I have posted at the top of this post, I still never got the feeling that he was a genuine threat. I know that given the time setting, the list of potential enemies would be limited, but surely it would have been more interesting to come up with a brand new species to serve as the main antagonists.
In more ways that one, this feels like nothing more than a tribute to the other aspects of the franchise, although to be fair that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’d just be nice if there were more original ideas.
The performance by Callie Bussell is also questionable as she often delivers her lines with what could best be described as the manner of a disinterested bystander. She just doesn’t look invested in her character or the story at any point. There is a scene at the 1:07:45 (I’m re-watching the Youtube video of the film as I type this) in which she is asked if she can do something to help the trapped crew on the planet, and her response is “I can try,” and it’s delivered in such an unenthusiastic/couldn’t care less manner that you wonder how bad the actresses that didn’t get the role must have been.
Her’s is by far the least convincing performance in the film, which is a shame as to be fair to the rest of the cast, they do a reasonable job considering the obvious low budget. Don’t get me wrong, they certainly aren’t a mainstream quality in terms of performance, but other than Bussell I can’t overly criticise any of them. Whether any of them will ever progress into mainstream films is exceptionally unlikely, although Marc Bowers certainly had a likable quality to him.
In all fairness to the filmmakers though, this is a commendable effort and one of the most convincing (visually) low budget films that I’ve ever seen. The look feels very genuine to the nature of Star Trek and the production values used throughout are surprisingly high. Granted, it does feel more like it should be a pilot for a new TV show rather than a feature-film. The shots in space are exceptional and beautiful, and to be fair they wouldn’t look out of place in one of the main franchise films.
It’s hard to really summarise why it’s not that bad when I have written more about the negatives as opposed to the positives, but this film is certainly not a bad movie. It isn’t great by any shout, but it’s certainly not as bad as you would expect from a low budget science film.
Considering how little they had to work with, you have to commend them on the job that they have done and whilst I don’t give it the approved stamp, I would actually recommend watching it, which might sound a bit strange. I think this is mainly because the truly successful sci-fi films transcend genre and have a universal appeal, for example, the mainstream Star Trek films, Star Wars, Marvel films, etc, but “Horizon” doesn’t. It is definitely a fan-made film for fans, I don’t think those who aren’t fans of the Star Trek franchise would enjoy this.
It’s certainly a bit better than “Renegades” and isn’t bad at all for a low budget science film. It feels like it is missing something that takes it above the slightly-above-average mark, which is why I haven’t given it the approval stamp.
There are more positives than negatives, which is something that I don’t often say on this site, but
I would definitely recommend watching it if you’re a Star Trek fan, however, if you’re not I don’t think this has the universal appeal that non-Trekkies look for.