Ares 11 (2019)

In space, air is your most precious cargo. . . .

In the year 2073 the solar system is in a political divide between the hydrogen-rich outer planets beyond the asteroid belt and the hydrogen-dependent inner planets. The military surveillance vessel Ares 11 is part of the Terrestrial Alliance Fleet that patrols the 200 million kilometer-wide neutral zone of the Asteroid Belt and keeps the peace.

After their ship is attacked by a planet-to-air missile, the crippled craft slowly leaks its oxygen supply. Now the Ares’ four crew members fight for survival as they discover there’s only enough air for two of them to return to base—alive.

South Florida writer-director Robert Goodrich’s ultra-low budget feature film debut reminds of the 1985 Canadian post-apocalypse flick Def Con 4—if it stayed inside the ship and never made planetfall—and of the inventive production design of its Pacific Northwest shot-against-the-budget brethren, Space Trucker Bruce. If you ever wondered what happens aboard a spaceship orbiting the Io mining colonies of Jupiter in Peter Hyams’s Outland, Ares 11—with its “limited setting” flavor of Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat—is that movie.

As with the charmingly quaint Space Trucker Bruce, Ares 11 overflows with commitment across all the film disciplines—with its truly impressive set and costume design—that’s devoid from most of the minor-studio direct-to-DVD features clogging up today’s online streaming marketplace. For the astute sci-fi connoisseur, after a spending a few minutes with the four-actor cast working inside three cramped sets, they’ll find themselves watching a dramatic, psychological version of John Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon’s 1974 University of Southern California student film, the science fiction comedy, Dark Star. Another film reference—in terms of the cramped, budget-conscious set design and costuming—is Trimark Pictures’ 1990 television/home video-distributed The Dark Side of the Moon (its plot pinched for the failures 1997’s Event Horizon and 2000’s Supernova)—and that film was backed by a major studio (absorbed by Lionsgate and now a Roku channel) with a 1.2 million dollar budget.

It’s not a CGI effect: The Ares 11 is a ’70s-styled in-camera effect comprised of a plastic pressure cleaning water tank with kit-bashed model tank and old computer parts. You can watch the behind-the-scenes production video of the assembly on Vimeo.

As many of the Amazon Prime reviews on Ares 11 prove, low-budget science fiction—for those more accustomed to Matt Damon’s The Martian and McConaughey’s Interstellar—isn’t for everyone. As someone who worked as an actor on three experimental sci-fi indie shorts myself, I wish my writer-directors had Robert Goodrich’s talents (and Anton Doiron’s of Space Trucker Bruce) and lived up to their lofty pre-production (broken) promises. Ares 11 is immensely better that the “professional,” larger-budget MST3K honoree Space Mutiny (1988) and all of the suggested watches listed on the Ares 11 online streaming pages.

First released in 2013, Ares 11 won “Best Feature” at the 2013 Palm Beach International Film Festival and the 2014 Action on Film Int’l Film Festival, as well as earning “Official Selection” status at the 2014 Roswell Film Festival and Austin Indie Flix Showcase. You can learn more about Ares 11 at Continuum Motion Pictures and check out the film’s production stills at HighTechScience.org and Hunu Films Facebook. You can watch behind-the-scenes clips—and stream the film as a PPV—at Vimeo. While Ares 11 has been in the marketplace on PPV and DVD platforms since 2015, it has recently made its free 2019 streaming debut—with limited commercials—on TubiTv. You can also rent/purchase its stream on Amazon Prime and purchase DVDs from Walmart.

By the way: we love our sci-if here at B&S About Movies. Be sure to check out our “Star Wars Droppings” week of reviews in commemoration of the December 2019 release of Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker. Back in September we had a post-apocalypse blowout of all manner of films from the ‘60s to ’80s—and you can catch up with ourThe Atomic Dust Bin: 10 Post-Apocalyptic Films You Never Heard Of” round-ups Part 1 and Part 2 that lists those 60-plus film reviews.

Oh, and speaking of great sci-fi films on a budget: Be sure to visit our three-in-one review for the Dust Channel-hosted Pink Plastic Flamingos, Skyborn, and Cockpit: The Rules of Engagement. All three sci-fi shorts are highly recommended watches.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.

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