Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Adventures in the Forsaken Zone

You will disagree with me, but I think the true miracle of the internet is that is makes available things that should, by rights, have been long forgotten. So in the case of your job search that means pictures of you shotgunning a keg in college; in the case of politicians it's footage of them endorsing the policy they're trashing THIS month; and in the case of Columbia Pictures it's Starhunter: Adventures In The Forbidden Zone. When I opened up Crackle on my new Roku player, it's the thing that caught my eye.

Like a lot of my guilty pleasures, this 3D gem was running in theaters that I worked in as a youth so I used to watch it for free often and wonder what the hell they were thinking. You don't usually see a movie so bad put together by such good people. Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters) produced, experienced journeyman Lamont Johnson directed, and it stars Peter Strauss, Molly Ringwald, Andrea Marcovicci and Ernie Hudson. The point is, there are a lot of people involved with the movies who should have made a solid, uninspired hour and a half of sci-fi eye candy.

Instead, there is this fascinating series of wrong decisions, starting with the throwaway killing in the first act of the most interesting character. It's not just surprising, it's arbitrary. It doesn't make life particularly difficult for the lead. (Spoilers! As if you're going to watch it) Then Molly Ringwald, as a teenager who speaks some kind of extraterrestrial valley-girl slang appears and annoys Peter Strauss for the rest of the movie. Strauss, and you.

From then on its a series of Logan-Run-Like vignettes to kill time until the equally time-killing finale. And none of those vignettes is especially revealing of character - not of the lead, not of the world in which they occur. It's like they came up with a dozen ideas, threw them in a hat, and picked 5 at random.

At some point they decide it's time to start wrapping it up, so they drag in Michael Ironside as some kind of mechanized Nosferatu. He usually makes a splendid villain but here he might as well have been played by hand puppets.

Visually the design borrows mostly from The Road Warrior. It's like The Road Warrior, only in 3D! And without a story or point of any kind! And it appears really cheaply made, only once in a while you realize they must have spent a ton of money to make it look that way. Even the 3D effects are arbitrary. It's like a science fiction 3D epic made by people who hate Sci-Fi, hate 3D, hate Molly Ringwald and hate the movie business.

So in other words, good fun to watch. Honestly, I couldn't tear my eyes away. This is the movie, I think, that killed 3D for the rest of the eighties. Watch it, and compare it to whatever's going to kill it this time.

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