Earthrise begins with an absorbing concept. Humanity’s future has the species residing on Mars in great numbers. Earth was abandoned. Reasons go unstated; it’s a trend in this movie. Mars’ privatization has allowed the corporation Revive to send manned missions back to Earth in an attempt to fix the supposedly ailing planet.

Earthrise becomes a grand idea machine, always suggesting rather than acting. The film is a thinly budgeted indie with aspirations of high-grade sci-fi. Revive, shady as the company appears in their limited interaction with the cast, fade into the backdrop. The narrative instead lumbers between three pre-chosen people on a ship nearing Earth.

Mars seems interesting – as told, not seen. While hosting remnants of the human species, the planet remains predominantly lifeless as people live in sheltered bubbles. Trees are genetic anomalies. Groups protest Revive’s methods and their corruption is insinuated. None of this is acted upon or shown. Earthrise’s sharpest attributes are those which the low-budget scale cannot allow to be shown. The unseen becomes more alluring than the seen.


The film seems dominated by a behind-the-scenes uncertainty over the premise.

Instead, Earthrise contains itself to a handful of sets, production design questionable even when considering the limited resources. A stray painting, a few vases, and lackadaisically laid drywall struggle to create space-faring ambiance. Three characters – chosen by Revive for the Earth-bound mission – hardly evolve. The drip feed of information spills out of sequence, often jarring with heavy transitions. Jumpy and disjointed, a story of (intended) psychological terror wiggles out from the plodding pace.

The lead trio are buried by clunky conversations, often aimless in direction. Earthrise is hanged by their performances, unable to cope with the displays of anxiety. Each begins suffering from hallucinations (some of family, some of freakish Earth creatures) suggesting the Mars/Earth journey has taken a catastrophic mental toll. Then, randomly via a third act twist, that’s not the case.

Irritating in its ambiguity, Earthrise closes with a damning pay off, oblivious, frustrating, and disassociated from thematic weight. The film seems dominated by behind-the-scenes uncertainty over the premise. Lean context doesn’t create post-viewing discussion.

Writer/Director Glenn Payne’s narrative leers at a corporation’s ability to over promise and exploit naivety without giving his story a needed anchor. In some way, Earthrise does what it’s protesting – the final glimpse of a future Earth is blotted by sunlight and consequences of the mission are never understood. Earthrise’s title promise never comes true.

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Earthrise is full of high sci-fi ideas, but is crushed by its frustrating ambiguity and lack of scope, making the unseen more interesting than the seen.

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