Friday, April 11, 2014

Sci-Fi Superhero Short Film "Project Arbiter" a Fan Pleasing Blast of Action

Genre: Sci-Fi / Action
Length- 21:33
Company: Burning Ideas
Website: Official

The year is 1943 and WWII rages across Europe.  A small plane carries a crew of Allies to the Polish border and drops in Captain Joseph Colburn, whose super-soldier suit can turn him temporarily invisible.  His plane is promptly shot down, leaving Colburn alone to fight his way into a Nazi occupied villa and uncover the horrible secrets hidden within its walls.


You can expect a lot of things from low budget short films, but in the case of "Project Arbiter", you would be dead wrong on almost all accounts.  First of all, the acting is top notch, with Lex Cassar (TV's 24) capably playing action hero Colburn and looking like he was born for such a role. 

The special effects are also top notch, with some pretty graphic violence coming from weapons both big and small.  Michael Chance both wrote and directed the film, and it's his eye for gripping cinema that delivers those effects into the stratosphere.  This movie absolutely DRIPS big budget -- I could totally see this film being the prelude of a much longer two and a half hour action flick you'd see around Summer time.

It is done so well in fact that even at twenty minutes, it feels short.  The flick moves at a lightning pace and doesn't let up until the final frames. 


"Project Arbiter" is a really, really good series of action sequences and eye friendly visuals.  It is a fan pleasing film for those who love films like Captain America or Iron Man, and comes off as an "R" rated mash-up of both films.  It even played at San Diego Comic Con 2013.

If that's the sort of thing you are into, "Project Arbiter" will impress you and then some.

Where "Project Arbiter" falls short is where most action films do: the story.  It's basically an excuse to get characters in the right positions for gunplay and bloodshed.   The dialogue, while acted well, doesn't really move the story.  And what was with the crazy experiments, anyway?  We never do quite figure out what that was all about -- failed attempts at creating the very suit that Colburn wears into battle?

So it's not great drama -- it never claims to be, and it isn't for the people who want to see that.  It's a love letter for superhero fans. 

Knowing what it wants to be, knowing its fan base . . . that's enough to get a big thumbs up from me.


Writing: 2.5 / 5.  Chance's writing sets the action in motion but little more -- the concept's been done again and again.  What was up with the young, tortured woman?  The scene felt unnecessary.   
Directing: 5 / 5.  Chance's direction sets "Project Arbiter" apart from most other short films.  There is not one frame that does not feel thought out and carefully constructed.  The camera movement and choreography of the action must have been tough to work out, but Chance nailed it.
Editing: 5 / 5.  The film moved like a freight train.  I never noticed any transitions -- it all felt seamless.
Sound/Music: 4 / 5.  Big and bold like the films that inspired it, "Project Arbiter" features a stirring score by Ryan Leach.
Acting: 4.5 / 5.  Cassar does great as Colburn, but notable mentions also have to go to Tim Coyne, who plays a German scientist with a great accent and William Charlton (a veteran of The Shield and Law & Order) is a perfect pick for the creepy Colonel Heinrich.

Final Grade: 4.2 / 5.

Don't forget to check out "Project Arbiter" on YouTube, visit the official website for updates and follow along with the film's progress on Facebook!

Thanks for reading! I'm a screenwriter and script consultant. Most recently, I've worked with LMC Productions and Mad Antz Films in Australia. I helped mold Goodybag Productions' award winning screenplay "The Teacher" and Michael Maguire's feature length script "The Wolfpack", which is still in development.

Check out my blog and let's get in touch!