Star Runners (Review)

Star Runners

aka Termination Shock

Directed by Mat King
Written by Rafael Jordan

In space no one can hear you run from stars. Or something. More likely, In space no one can hear you “borrow” from franchises.

Giant bugs in space…holy Starship Troopers, Batman! The special effects guys obviously love Battlestar Galactica, every shot of ships in space is done with the hand held camera zooms that were popularized on the cult remake series. The plot borrows heavily from Firefly and Starship Troopers, and characters are named after characters from Aliens. I give the movie props for trying to be more than just your average creature feature, but it also fails on a few other aspects. This mixed message actually hurts the film more than it should, which is unfortunate and a little unfair. I will always prefer a movie that tries and fails to be something better than a film that doesn’t even bother.

This film used to be known as Termination Shock. People saw it on the SciFi Channel news listings, knew it starred Connor Trinneer and James Kyson Lee, and nothing else. They went crazy trying to find out information. Then suddenly this mysterious film Star Runners was listed on the schedule. No one knew what it was. Finally, people figured out the movies were the same, and there were giant bugs! And then…it aired. Life went back to normal. That is the story of Star Runners.

Tycho ‘Ty’ Johns (Connor Trinneer) – Tycho Johns is a pilot who likes to smuggle and doesn’t like to get caught. But he does and is forced by Bishop to pick up some cargo, which turns out to be more trouble than he thought. And then giant bugs came… Connor Trinneer is best known for playing Trip Tucker on Star Trek: Enterprise and for having a rabid fanbase that was so desperate for information about this film before it aired on SciFi Channel they were asking me questions. Me!
Lei Chen (James Kyson Lee) – Lei Chen is Tycho’s sidekick and copilot in the future. It is nice to see more scifi media acknowledge that there will be a bunch of Asian people running around in space in the future because there are just so many Asian people. James Kyson Lee is famous from playing Ando in Heroes and he was also in a McDonald’s commercial!
Asta (Toni Trucks) – Our naked, mute, magical, amnesiac mystery girl! Poor girl finally gets her memory back, only to find out she was named after Nick and Nora Charles’s dog.
Jenessa (Aja Evans) – A crash survivor with a secret. Only her hairdresser knows for sure. Yes, that ad campaign is older than me, but I know about it thanks to Mad Magazine.
Bishop (Michael Culkin) – Bishop is an evil military dude in charge of blowing up stuff and taking possession of Asta. Thus, he is constantly chasing after Tycho, who he sent to get Asta. Besides Bishop, there is also a Hudson and a Hicks running around. How many Culkin kids are there?
Rebel Leader (???) – I don’t think he gets a name on screen, so I don’t know which actor played him or even his character name. He leads the local Rebellion against the UP, who are evil because the plot demands them to be.
Bugs (CGI) – Besides the normal bugs, there are bigger bugs and even huge bugs. You might ask how this desert planet supports a giant bug ecosystem, to which I would answer “Shut the hell up!”

Tycho Johns and Lei Chen are Runners, aka smugglers, and avoiding ships in an asteroid field turns out to be a big mistake as they get captured right away. Han Solo wouldn’t get captured. Idiots need to learn to hide in a worm’s belly. A little background, the UP – United Planets – is the evil government in the film. So when I say UP, I am not referring to the Pixar movie. A deal is made, Tycho and Lei must deliver a crate to the evil Bishop in 72 hours. A very special crate, and not because it has Down syndrome. The Star Runners go to the Rigel 4 station and head to a “strip club” run by a one-eyed guy named Yuri. Yuri’s other eye is all cybernetic. Because in the future, cybernetic eyeballs will be the ultimate hacker appliance. Yuri’s magic eye locates a storage unit that has been abandoned, thus where the crate is.

Tycho and Lei find the crate, but some scuzzy dudes who turn out to be rebels are around. They are trapped, so they open the crate to see if what is inside can be carried. It’s a lady. A naked lady. Who doesn’t talk. The perfect woman? Sorry, I am required by law to make that joke.

Tycho gets Yuri to get them three tickets on a transport, and things seem to be going fine as they escape until their transport ship is shot up with an EMP by some random fighter. D’oh! Ty and Lei take over piloting, get power back, and find an unauthorized warpjump nearby. Except it goes to uncharted space, which is not only illegal but dangerous because you could jump into anything. Even applesauce.

So they jump to escape, because the plot demands it! The ship attacking them follows, because the guy in charge is determined to get the silent naked girl. The transport emerges in a nebula, but immediately begins crashing into a planet. The CGI goes from good to not passable at all as the ship crashes and burns. After the mess, they are pulling out survivors, and the mystery girl can now talk, but doesn’t remember her name. We know her name from watching this before we wrote it, so her name is Asta, as we mentioned above. Other survivors of note include the copilot named Hudson, a woman named Jenessa, and two Russian guys who stole a bunch of money but won’t live long enough to matter.

The survivors head to an abandoned station (after arguing about a rescue beacon) and after they enter, a giant bug drags one of the dead bodies into the water. Asta has visions of someone shooting bugs. Inside the station, a bug causes one Russian to lose his head. The rest of the group finds dead bodies and dead bug bodies. They also find out there is a massive solar flare happening outside, so they have to stay indoors. With the killer bugs. Isn’t that always the way? They also find bug research stuff, like bugs in tubes like in all those movies.

Bilal the surviving Russian guy freaks and runs outside, he runs past the station’s shields and burns in the solar flare, but Asta runs outside the shields, grabs him, and and pulls him back. She isn’t hurt at all, he dies anyway.

The survivors investigate further, find out the video logs are 20 years old. The Rebel ship lands at the station in search of Asta, there is a gun stand-off that ends with Hudson eaten by a bug. Looks like the bug hunt finally got Hudson. The Rebel crew consists of the Rebel Leader (who is never named), a black guy named Okai, and two women, with the one named Lincoln the only name we need to remember. Trapped in the command room, Lei figures out there is another ship ten miles away connected by tunnels. They will head for it, and Asta remembers her name. First they must go to a gun locker and get more weapons. The only thing in the locker is a bug, who chomps on Okai. The bug is shot up, but first it also wounds Asta who heals herself.

Back on the space station, Bishop has arrived, finds out Tycho and Lei opened the package, and then interrogate Yuri, who is brain scanned to get information. Back on planet bug, the survivors head down to a dark railcar tunnel that they have to walk for ten miles in. Yeah, right. A billion bugs are also in the tunnel, and everyone runs except Lei who decides to go all Rambo, except instead he goes all guy-who-gets-his-legs-eaten-off. Lei then overloads his plasma gun to cause a big explosion and kill some bugs.

Wait a minute, they just killed one of the main characters halfway through the film!

Dammit, now I am mad Heroes guy is dead. Asta uses her magic powers to absorb some of the fire after the explosion. Too bad she doesn’t use her powers to heal Lei’s legs or bring him back to life or nuke a lot of bugs or something.

The survivors will try to run the ten miles on the surface during a break in the solar flare. Solar flares have breaks, like eyes of the storm, you see. It totally makes sense. One the surface, there are flying bug and normal bugs and even bugs with chicken pox, all of which is stolen right out of Starship Troopers. The space bugs are still trying to hide under the defense shields of the station, so the humans have a few minutes freedom before the bugs realize the flare is at a break.

In space, no one can hear the many UP cruisers jump into the system…right into solar flares, several are blown up and others damaged. Bishop’s ship is not destroyed because that would be too easy. On the surface, there are some bugs sitting in the way and not enough ammo. To get by the bugs, they will blow up their plasma guns like Lei did, and the explosions will also cause emp waves that disorient the bugs. They work their way closer, but the bugs start to figure out what is going on. Time to break out the giant cans of Raid! The Rebel Leader explains Asta is from Centauri 3, a colony where everyone was killed for being rebels. She was to be smuggled out, but trouble happened and she was stuck in the pod.

The survivors have to make a run for it to the next building, but bugs pop up out of everywhere because it is a bug trap! The two women who came with the rebels are killed, with Lincoln blowing up a bunch of bugs as she dies. One bug was named John Wilkes Roach. Rebel Leader starts going shoot crazy, because everyone seems to go all Rambo at some point in the film. Then the film takes another page out of the Starship Troopers script and has a gigantobug pop out of the ground.

The survivors run inside and shut the door before that gigantobug starts puking lava-acid or whatever those huge bugs in Starship Troopers were puking. Before they escape on the ship on the roof, Rebel Leader and Asta use the computer to try to find out what the UP was doing. Asta is suddenly a computer expert, because Lei Chen the computer expert is dead already (I guess he died because he had to go back to work, because the script seems to think he should still be alive.)

We get some Battlestar Galactica style flashbacks to find out Centauri 3 got nuked and everyone died except for young Asta. Bugs then attack the command room, and Rebel Leader gets impaled, but then Asta uses her energy to blast the gigantobug into bug goo. What is she, a star child? Someone get the guy who wrote the last ten minutes of V: The Final Battle out of the scriptroom!

The Rebel Leader gives Tycho the coordinates to the hidden rebel base (on Dantooine) to deliver Asta, and Tycho promises to take her. The three survivors; Tycho, Asta, and Jenessa; leave the planet. Except Jenessa is EVIL! She stuns the others and flies the ship towards the UP cruiser with Bishop on it. But Asta wakes up and has a conversation with Bishop. Bishop says people were mutating on Centauri 3 because of the Centauri 3 star. Evolving humans are dangerous to humanity, so they got wiped out. Or something stolen from Warhammer 40K. Asta says she’s going to show the galaxy what he did, her and Tycho fly off in their transport ship. Asta uses her mental powers to blow up the missiles fired at the ship. But then Asta is knocked out, and more missiles are fired. Tycho uses his deft skills and maneuverings to cause the missiles to crash into the UP battle cruiser instead! The UP battle cruiser that looks in no way totally identical to Galactica crash lands on the bug planet. Ty and Asta fly off.

Guess which evil characters live long enough to get bum-rushed by bugs on the planet!

Rated 7/10 (Shuttle, Hear her scream, Chicken in a bag, I’m Russian, I am also Russian, I am named after an Aliens character!, A major flare-up)

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