"Journey to Planet X"
Tribeca Film Festival
The pair of filmmakers featured in "Journey to Planet X" cite no major auteur directors or seminal works of cinema as their influences. Instead, Eric Swain and Troy Bernier want to blow things up and soar through space. Established geologists by day, Swain and Bernier churn out uber-cheesy genre pastiches for their own enjoyment. They may not realize it, but their commitment symbolizes the essence of the creative practice as a deeply personal act.
It goes without saying that "Journey to Planet X" directors Myles Kane and Josh Koury (who previously directed the Harry Potter fandom doc "We Are Wizards") have made a better, more polished movie than "Planet X," the laser-and-spaceship odyssey that Swain and Bernier craft over the course of the documentary's 76-minute running time. But while "Journey to Planet X" contains virtually no dramatic conflict between its characters outside of practical on-set issues, it also makes an obvious attempt to sidestep the elephant in the room, that neither Swain or Bernier have the wherewithal to make a very good movie -- that is, if "good" means anything in this context. The lack of any demand outside of their own expectations fundamentally changes the kind of pressure on their process.
Because Swain and Bernier aren't career-oriented filmmakers, "Journey to Planet X" is an ode to the value of hobbies. It just happens that this hobby involves absurd sci-fi ingredients and terrible green screen effects, although "Journey to Planet X" never portrays the project in a derogatory manner. The directors' commitment to their filmmaking as an escape from the mundane suburban reality that consumes the rest of their days recalls the medieval role players in "Darkon," while the commitment to the process against all odds imbues the documentary with shades of "American Movie."
It's lighter and cheerier than either of those non-fiction predecessors, but "Journey to Planet X" implies a deeper component to the process at its center. Swain, a longtime bachelor who lives with his elderly fathers, and Bernier, apparently settled into married life, show a therapeutic investment in the project. Since we never see them horsing around, the gravitas they bring is a grand joke but also illustrative of what they get from the experience, which allows them to become completely divested from other professional or personal endeavors.