20th Mar2017

‘Star Raiders: The Adventures of Saber Raine’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Casper Van Dien, James Lew, Brit Laree, Mark Steven Grove, Sara N. Salazar, Sarah Sansoni, Adam Lipsius, Andy Hankins, Nico Feula, Tyler Weaver Jr., Kevin Sean Ryan, Cynthia Rothrock | Written and Directed by Mark Steven Grove

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Mercenary Saber Raine (Casper Van Dien) is hired to guide three elite soldiers on a rescue mission to recover a prince and princess who have been abducted from their home world. The trail leads Saber and his allies to a planet deep within uncharted space that is inhabited by strange creatures, marauders, mercenaries and alien outcasts. The planet is run by Sinjin, a sinister overlord freed from a cryogenic chamber that was his prison for many centuries, who is now in league with the Quintari – a malevolent insectoid race known throughout the galaxy as the scourge. In possession of a powerful new energy source, Sinjin plots his revenge on the descendants of those who betrayed him in the past…

When you have the brazenness to call your film Star Raiders: The Adventures of Saber Raine, you’d better live up to an audiences expectations. That title – besides sounding a lot like and 80s cartoon show (cough… Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs…cough) – evokes a LOT of memories of watching all those Star Wars-esque movies and TV shows that were so numerous during the late 70s and early 80s: Battle Beyond the Stars, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Battlestar Galactica, The Ice Pirates, Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone…

Thankfully Star Raiders delivers.

Of all those films and TV shows mentioned, it’s definitely the latter two films that writer/director Mark Steven Grove’s film shares most in common with. Star Raiders has the same mix of cheesy action and outlandish characters as The Ice Pirates, as well as the swashbuckling aspects that made the Robert Urich starring fantasy film stand out from the crowded field of 80s sci-fi/fantasy. The film also shares the odd locale – as witnessed in Spacehunter which, for a sci-fi movie, was set entirely in a desert rather than any strange planet. Here we have an opening space battle which makes it look like we’re set for a huge space opera, but then the action switches primarily to a forest that could, technically, be anywhere USA, rather than an exotic planet.

And much like those old 80s sci-fi flicks, Star Raiders features some fantastic make-up effects, with a plethora of weird and wonderful creatures and characters, all of which are rendered [thankfully] in practical make-up effects – including a villain who has half his head missing, lizard people, skull faced “priests” and some vampire-ish monsters who don’t have fangs but rather huge hypodermic needles they jab into folk to suck out their blood! Alongside the make-up, the film is packed with pretty decent visual fx, especially considering the low-budget nature of the film (the CGI here looks better than that seen in a lot of The Asylum movies for example). You can actually see, on-screen, where the $20,000 extra the filmmakers raised on Kickstarter actually went.

Playing very much like a pilot for 90s syndicated sci-fi show – think Xena and/or Hercules era TV – I’m hoping we see more adventures of Saber Raine and his band of mercenaries (the film certainly sets up plans for more). We could do with more cheesy, camp and FUN fantasy adventures like these in future; and if Grove and co. can deliver on what the final moments of Star Raiders: The Adventures of Saber Raine promises then we should be in for one hell of a ride!

I’d honestly never heard of Mark Steven Grove or Sarah Salazar before watching Star Raiders: The Adventures of Saber Raine (the title is actually what grabbed me), but if their previous work: Gathering of Heroes and Legacy of the Tengu – which seem to share similar themes with Star Raiders, is as good as this, then consider me a new-found fan. Salazar and Grove seem to be quite the cottage-industry of sci-fi tinged, FX-heavy fantasy films and here’s hoping their next – Ninja Quest – continues to find them success.

Star Raiders: The Adventures of Saber Raine is available on Amazon Prime (in the US) now. The film comes to physical formats on April 11th.

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