It’s been a few years since Peter Jackson took us on a fantastical journey with his adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, and the less successful but still visually spectacular Hobbit movies. However, there is, indeed, still a lot of interest in this style of fantasy, as fledgling filmmaker Adam Starks proves with his ambitious first feature.
Peter (Starks) and Jack (Copeland) are both preparing for their exams - the latter less so than the former, so Peter offers to help Jack study in the woods during an unusually balmy December day. While settling down and waiting for his friend, a bolt lights up the tree Peter is resting against and he awakes startled to find himself - and Jack - in a parallel world. A land where creatures roam and sword and sorcery are the norm.
In order to get home, the pair must travel through the dangerous forests and past treacherous ruined castles and encounter - and fight - a host of hostile armies who want the pair dead.
Starks’ film is incredibly brave - it’s clearly a labour of love, with the director also producing, writing and playing (along with Copeland) all the parts. It’s also very long - at over three hours, it rivals Jackson’s films for endurance. As such, the film has an episodic feel at times, but there’s always some action on the way before too long. With just the two actors, one would expect things to be rather lame, but thanks to some well thought-out and cleverly done editing, it looks like there are plenty more people involved.
The story itself is an interesting one, raising moral questions above the usual quest or destiny formulas; it does get very wordy, though, with whole sequences narrated in voice over and lots of dense mythology to absorb.
If there are flaws to pick up on, they are budgetary ones. The prosthetics for the creatures are little more than masks, lacking movement and fairly unrealistic, but they serve their purpose. The overuse of After Effects distracts at times, but once again this is forgivable for the budget and the fact it’s practically a one-man show. A few day-for-night filter effects fall short, but generally, the post-production is actually of a high standard. There’s nothing too distracting, however, and it certainly doesn’t take anything away from the enjoyment of the film.For such a young filmmaker, Starks has excelled with his début. It may not be the most lavish-looking or commercially appealing movie, but he certainly has the talent and skills to go places. And with a knowing editor, The Journey to Aresmore could be tidied up to a more agreeable and viewer-friendly length. As it stands, it’s great fun for those with a flavour for fare such as Hawk the Slayer or Willow.
THE JOURNEY TO ARESMORE / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: ADAM STARKS / STARRING: JOSHUA COPELAND, ADAM STARKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW