Another feature of...
Future War -
Jabootu's Bad Movie Dimension
Note: Before anyone feels compelled to write me letters
saying I ripped
We open on a trio of people filing through a decrepit passageway. The leader is a hunky male, wearing a T-shirt under an unbuttoned, sleeveless flannel shirt. Behind him is a blonde, also in flannel and jeans and shouldering a backpack. Covering the rear is a hugely muscular bald black guy, of the sort that's practically General Issue in this kind of film. He's carrying a shotgun, and the woman has a weapon, too. Ominous Music plays, just to establish, you know, the mood.
Plenty of dust has been introduced into the air, so as to allow for opaque planks of light to issue through missing sections of the outer wall. Flannel Guy is wielding a flashlight, despite the fact that these slabs of light stymie its beam. "This place looks like a maze," he notes of the straight length of hall they’re in. Uh, OK. Meanwhile, I was pondering why some of the dialog was being filtered through an echo chamber while other lines weren’t.
They come to a ladder leading down to a subsection—in a locale I suspect is completely divorced from the one they were just strolling through—whereupon the Blonde announces, "We found them, down there." They file down, and end up in a completely different hallway from the one they started in. Flannel Guy unconvincingly pretends to stumble, and some bad editing implies that the floor before them is missing. Since the present passageway is actually fairly well lit, this doesn’t exactly reassure us to the character’s basic competence.
Here the actors hug the wall and pant as they attempt to suggest that they’re inching along a small ledge hanging over a mock precipice. As the pulse-pounding tension builds, Blonde begins a voice over. "Four days ago a fire fell from the sky," she explains, relating her tale with all the visceral excitement and emotion of someone trying to distract a cranky toddler by reading from an insurance brochure.
"And it brought a man who would change my life forever," she continues in her vibrant monotone. "But also came a pack of dinosaur-like creatures, in various ages [??], shapes, sizes, and its masters." Yes, that’s a direct transcription. I listened to the line like five times, just to make completely sure. I guess it’s more or less grammatically correct, but yeesh. By the way, I like the fact that the man changes her life, whereas, apparently, the dinosaur-like creatures in all their varied splendor had at best only a transitory effect. "For all the questions I had about the heavens," she concluded, "all it brought was hell on Earth." I’ll say this; somebody here really has mastered the syntax of Ed Wood, Jr.
Having made it past the imaginary non-floor, the three continue on their way. Turning a corner and continuing through even more hallway they haven’t walked through before, they come across a chamber. Peeking inside, they espy a pair of T-Rex type dinosaurs in various shades of foam rubber, although their basic shapes and sizes and, let’s not forget, ages, seem to be pretty much in the same ball park.
The dinosaurs give chase, although luckily as latex practical props they’re somewhat less limber than the biological sort. The actors pretend, sort of, to leap over the fake missing floor, whereupon Bulky Black Guy and Blonde turn and fire upon them. One dinosaur is shot up and tumbles into the ersatz abyss, while its fellow poses in front of a klieg light in a darkened, smoky set that doesn’t match anything we’ve seen up to now, bellowing in rage. You know, I have the distinct feeling at least some of this footage came from another film entirely. Go figure.
The actors jog down the hallway very slowly, although at a faster clip than the lumbering prop dinosaur head chasing after them. How the second dinosaur got over the missing segment of floor is left to our imaginations, as is why our characters ran off rather than duplicate their successful anti-dinosaur fusillade. In any case, they reach safety by clambering back up the aforementioned ladder. Or so we think, until Bulky Black Guy—who’d have thought he’d be the one to get kacked—for no apparent reason other than It’s In the Script, falls off and is (presumably) eaten by a Red Tinted POV Shot. Er, I mean, dinosaur.
Cue Credits. We’re witnessing, we learn, "a David Hue production," which I guess explains the red tinting on the POV shot. Then, as you’d expect, we cut to a large spaceship flying through the void. This looks rather like something you might see on a slightly better than average episode of Dr. Who. Meanwhile, we learn that Mr. Hue managed to scrounge up the extra five or six hundred dollars necessary to procure the talents of actor Robert "Maniac Cop" Z’Dar. He hasn’t appeared in the film, yet. However, I’m guessing, just a stab in the dark, really, that he’ll be playing a villain of some sort.
We are shown a few sets, er, sections of the ship, which are uniformly deserted. Then we hear, emanating from off-camera, various growls and screaming extras. Er, crewmembers. Eventually we even get to see what appears to be a completely intact and apparently uninjured person fall to the floor, presumably dead. Another corpse indicates that the crew was made up of cyborgs or robots, since it the deceased has transistor radio parts sticking out of rents in her shirt.
Finally, somebody manages to make it into a rather low grade-looking escape pod and, after pulling a standard four-inch disc from a computer that looks remarkably un-spacey or futuristic, blasts off. I’m no Nostradamus, but the pilot of said craft might be the guy who will end up changing the Blonde’s life forever. By the way, the level of computer graphics we see here is literally shocking for a film made in the late ‘90s. I’d have pegged them as being circa the mid-‘80s at best, indicating that this footage was taken from a rather older movie. The music, meanwhile, is more than a little reminiscent of the main theme from The Terminator.
After a further Mulligan stew of stock footage clips, indicating that the escape shuttle is crashing near a beach, we get the dreaded…Expository Crawl. Well, OK, it isn’t a ‘crawl,’ so much, as a series of static cards. Anyway:
From the future traveled a
They made abductions
The dinosaurs were
Now a runaway slave
Wow! Didn’t see that coming!
We get the title credit, followed by a card reading "Four days earlier". Since everything we’ve seen in the last minute presumably took place four days before the opening scene, this notice should rightly have appeared before we cut to the spaceship. Perhaps this is their way of letting us know that continuity will not be one of the film's priorities. Either that, or what will we see next actually takes place eight days before the opening scene, which would indicate that the film will portray a steady progression of incidents occurring four days before each prior scene, ultimately culminating in…hmm… No, I’m sticking to the bad continuity thing. Even so, you have to admire a picture that has the chutzpah to feature a plot incorporating space-faring Cyborgs from the Future who time traveled to the past to capture not only humans to act as slave labor but also carnivorous dinosaurs that they train to watch over the slaves.
Oh, wait…no, you don’t. In fact, the entire thing is retarded.
Anyway, they apparently didn’t have a shot of a small spaceship crashing into the ocean, so we economically cut to a man emerging from the water and staggering to shore. Then we see a really poorly animated POV shot indicating that the fellow is a robot or, given the description above, cyborg. Then we get a really, really weird shot of him sprawled on the beach, with the upper third of the image literally blacked out. I hesitate to accuse any film of such cheapness, but I think perhaps something appeared in shot that didn’t belong there, so they held something, maybe even a thumb, over the upper part of the lens so as to black it out.
In any case, I guess somehow there’s the man lying on the beach, presumably the slave mentioned in the crawl, and that the cyborg POV actually belongs to someone chasing after him. Where the latter came from is entirely left up to us, which ain’t a very good sign. I mean, any number of questions is raised by this. Was the Cyborg also in the escape shuttle? Did it chase the escape shuttle in another craft, and they didn’t bother to show us this? Why were both pilots so inept that they needed to crash-land their vessels in the ocean? Why am I watching this movie?
The Cyborg kills a bum who was sleeping on the beach. Ten seconds earlier the bum was staring in amazement as at least one craft—or so it was implied, since we didn’t see it—fell to Earth. Even a bum, you’d think, would have stayed awake a while after seeing that. He didn’t though, and is killed, again off-camera by the Cyborg.
Now we cut to dinosaur paws (?) also patrolling the beach. What the hell is going on here? Did this swim to shore too? Well, I guess if you can train them to track, you can train them to swim. The Cyborg apparently is leading said dog-sized beastie around on a leash (!!!), one he clearly wasn’t holding prior to this. Slave Guy runs off, pursued by the Tracking Dinosaur, which unsurprisingly proves a heck of a lot faster when traveling off-camera than when we’re actually looking upon it. Anyway, just to keep things completely clear, a red POV shot means a dinosaur, a green blurry one with an animated box inside of it indicates a Cyborg.
We quickly progress to a city, where we see a very stereotypical bum acting in a very stereotypical bum manner. Slave Guy bumps into him before running off, which is a little on the nose considering an all-too similar scene between Kyle Reese and a bum in The Terminator. (Well, OK, in every way that counts there’s no similarity at all.) Needless to say, the bum ends up Dino-Chow, which doesn’t exactly speak well of the beast’s tracking abilities. Damn, if it’s going to stop to eat every bum it sees, Slave Guy is home free.
Despite the fact that Slave Guy should be at least some distance away by now, we immediately cut to the Dino being right on top of him. In a less than credible bit, Our Hero manages to hold the creature off with his hands—why he isn’t being disemboweled by the creature’s lower talons isn’t entirely clear—and wrestles with it awhile. Then he punches it, or stabs it, maybe, or something, and it dies. Then it explodes, presumably to remove all evidence of its existence. Man, that’s pretty lame. I mean, a futuristic race of Cyborgs goes to all the trouble of time traveling to prehistoric times, capturing a bunch of predatory dinos, trains them to hunt down humans, and ends up with an animal you can punch to death with one blow. I mean, dude, rottweilers. You know what I’m saying?
Slave Guy ends up in hiding amidst the standard stacks of cardboard boxes—although these, for some reason, are stacked in a sort of maze sitting out of doors (?)—that is supposed to be holding things but are instead quite patently empty. Meanwhile, we get our first quick look at the Cyborg’s face. Imagine Victor French with long curly hair, plastered with pancake make-up accessorized with a lot of mascara, wearing a black leather outfit left over from a GWAR video. In any case, he immediately kills a worker, so that we ‘get’ that he’s all eeeee-vil and stuff.
After further showcasing of the Cyborg’s blurry discolored POV, which mainly serves to remind us that his race can build spaceships and time machines and train dinosaurs to act as their pets, but can’t development a remotely decent visual display system. Anyway, they proceed to bore the hell out of us, er, torture us with nail-biting suspense, by presenting alternating shots of Slave Guy squatting amidst some boxes and Gwar Cyborg Guy meandering rather aimlessly about. Whew, Hitchcock had nothing on these dudes.
GWAR Cyborg Guy finally spots his quarry, and presses his advantage by sneaking up behind him and hitting a box sort of close to the guy’s head with a stick. Proving a hardy sort, Slave Guy manages to recover from almost quite nearly being hit in the noggin and runs off. He leaps through a couple of stacked boxes, proving beyond all doubt that they are, in fact, empty, and ends up engaging in a very lame chop socky fight with his pursuer. Since Slave Guy was presumably, given the opening Expositional Crawl, "bred to be a slave," I paused here to wonder why the hell his Cyborg overlords had him instructed in the martial arts. Also, is there some reason why Cyborg Guy doesn’t just shoot him with the wrist unit he used on the bum on the beach? Other than then he’d just be dead?
Slave Guy doesn’t really come across as all that impressive of a fighter, despite the application of exaggerated Three Stooges-type fight noises whenever a blow lands. However, he does look a little like Jean-Claude Van Damme, a resemblance he accentuates by cropping his hair short in the Roman fashion, so maybe that’s enough.
Anyway, he manages to momentarily beat down Cyborg Guy, which isn’t exactly establishing the latter’s Awesome Villain credentials. Then Slave Guy runs away, whereupon ten or twenty seconds later Cyborg Guy resumes slowly walking around while accompanied by mock-Terminator music. Meanwhile…what the? Uh, OK, so while he easily could have just run off, Slave Guy is, in fact, still lurking amidst the boxes. Dude, the guy chasing you travels about five hundred yards an hour. Just beat feet, you moron.
Cyborg Guy spots Our Hero through a ‘wall’ of the aforementioned boxes and heaves himself through them. Of course, this is meant to establish what an unstoppable juggernaut he is. Amazingly, pushing over a stack of empty cardboard boxes proves even lamer than a similar moment in R.O.T.O.R., when they attempt to awe the audience with the robot cop’s implacability by having him wade through several rows of light plastic chairs.
This leads to a second round of hand-to-hand combat. Here Slave Guy looks somewhat more adept, even though he still appears to have learned martial arts by studying Van Damme movies. On the plus side, he’s nearly as flexible as his model, and can lift his legs during kicks impressively high. However, he’s also much slower, at least here. Therefore the action often seems to be running at half-speed, as if they were running out of time and just decided to film one of the blocking sessions.
Blah blah. Cyborg Guy is knocked down again, and in a funny bit, Slave Guy attempts to block his path by, that’s right, toppling over about half a dozen empty cardboard boxes. (Even thought the boxes are, quite patently, sans contents, they attempt to imply otherwise by occasionally dubbing in the sound of breaking glass as the containers are bounced around.) Even this incredible barrier doesn’t long delay the Fearsome Cyborg, however.
Slave Guy finds himself in a stacked empty cardboard box cul-de-sac, whereupon I nearly wept for fear that this furshlugginer sequence would never end. Cyborg Guy follows, and we get yet another extended gander at the cheap Cyborg POV shot—yep, that never gets old. Meanwhile, Slave Guy is hiding in a cardboard box alcove (one that doesn’t actually seem to be there) and letting loose with his best attempts at replicating some Van Damme-esque facial grimaces. It says something about the film business that this guy would spend so much time, years probably, honing his Jean-Claude Van Damme imitation just so he might get a shot at starring in crap like this.
Further long minutes of my life are squandered as the Cyborg shuffles around, putatively looking for his adversary. However, fleeting thoughts of suicide—you’d think I’d consider just abandoning the review instead of sticking my head in my oven, but there you go—are briefly put aside when Slave Guy pops up with a Van Damme roar and lifts an empty cardboard box over his head and heaves it at his foe. Fighting a Cyborg with a box is funny enough, but what really makes the moment special is that this image is presented to us in SLOW MOTION. If you’ve never seen a screaming film hero attack a cyborg by chucking a cardboard box at him, in SLOW MOTION, well, you haven’t lived.
In a display of incredible, preternatural power, however, Cyborg Guy manages to evade being crushed by the empty cardboard box by intercepting it with his fist and knocking it aside. I’m not a good enough wordsmith to adequately explain how silly all this is, but imagine two nine-year old kids in the ‘70s, wearing really bad and slightly out-of-date Halloween costumes and pretending to be the Six Million Dollar Man fighting it out with an evil bionic supervillain. Admittedly, the actor playing Slave Guy doesn’t go, "Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch" as he hurls the cardboard box, but otherwise that pretty well captures things.
Anyhoo, Slave and Cyborg engage in yet further fisticuffs and suchlike, as we enjoy their third consecutive scrap in five minutes. The scary thing is that there really doesn’t seem to be any reason why the entire rest of the movie might not continue in this vein. Slave Guy and Cyborg Guy could exchange blows for ten or twenty seconds, Slave Guy could get enough of an upper hand to run ten or twenty yards away, Cyborg Guy would amble along after him, Slave Guy would jump out, and repeat ad nauseum. Then, after another hour or so, or whenever they were about out of film, Slave Guy could just impale Cyborg Guy on a convenient jutting pipe or knock him over a parapet or something of that nature and head into the sunset.
Sure enough, Cyborg Guy pushes Slave Guy out of camera shot, and we cut to Our Hero coming to rest in an enclosed warehouse…full of cardboard boxes. He doesn’t go through a door or anything, mind you. One second he’s outside, the next he’s inside. My theory at this point was that the film was written and directed by Pinhead, or the demonic reincarnation of the Marquis De Sade, or maybe just the guys at Confuse-A-Cat, assuming that they expanded their operation at some point in time and re-christened the firm Confuse-‘N’-Bore-A-Cat.
In any case, and I don’t want to surprise the hell out of you or anything, but Cyborg Guy teleports into the building as well and the ‘battle’ continues. At this point I amused myself by pretending I was watching a new Fox series, Celebrity Impersonator Boxing, in which a Van Damme manqué and ersatz Ron Jeremy were told to have a go. Then I wondered why a Cyborg would scream so much while it was fighting. Then I started counting the pores on my hands. Eventually Slave Guy executes a pretty inept leaping kick and knocks Cyborg Guy into, yep, a wall of empty cardboard boxes, whereupon they Foley in a bunch of Fibber McGee’s Closet sound effects. And so, a mere five minutes after the extended chase/fight scene began, Cyborg Guy is finally down for the count.
Instead of going outside and leaving—given any continuity at all, there should be an open door right around there—Slave Guy instead elects to head further into the warehouse, apparently just to see how many viewers they could get to pull clumps of hair out of their heads.
Eventually we hear dinosaur growls (I know they’re in a nearly deserted section of whatever city this is supposed to be, but really, wouldn’t somebody eventually notice all the dinosaurs and stuff?), Slave Guy ends up in what I guess is supposed to be a refrigerated meat locker or something, which is ‘realized’ by them hanging semi-transparent plastic sheeting for ‘walls’ and having Slave Guy rub his arms, and a ten foot tall T-Rex or something is just standing there, and presumably because it’s a meat locker there’s a medium-sized butcher knife just sitting nearby, and there’s a dismembered arm laying there as well, so apparently the dinosaur’s been around long enough to eat somebody, although you’d think maybe some sort of noise, like screams or something, might have resulted from this, and Slave Guy picks up the butcher knife and tosses it at the dinosaur*, whereupon the beastie is immediately kacked. Man, these are the wimpiest dinosaurs I’ve ever seen. If Slave Guy could just procure himself a pouch full of golf balls he’d be all but invulnerable to harm. Anyhoo, the deceased dino, as established, explodes—although the Cyborg didn’t after he was killed, so what’s the point?—and another moronic and interminable sequence draws to a close.
[*Actually, for whatever reason they composited the dinosaur into this shot. Therefore the actor merely mimes throwing the knife. This would be fine, except that after the missile is supposedly flung and slays the beast, we clearly see Our Hero dropping the knife, which he was still holding in his hand, to the floor.]
Slave Guy finally makes his way outside and begins running off. In a not terribly convincing stunt, he supposedly is struck by an SUV. The driver emerges, and turns out to be a nun (!), one whose habit incorporates a skirt that reaches down to her mid-thigh (!!). Perhaps she’s a member of the Order of the Perpetual Floozy. If I’m not mistaken, this is the blonde woman we saw in civvies in the beginning of the movie.
Instead of phoning for an ambulance, or anything of that nature, we next see her arriving at the door of Fred, aka Bulky Black Bald Guy. Now identified as Sister Ann, she tells Fred that there’s an injured man in her car, and Fred and his buddy Oscar go out to carry him in. I’m not sure how this slight woman got Slave Guy into her vehicle in the first place, and you’d think by now that people would know better than to keep moving injury victims around, but there you go.
A ‘police detective’—I can tell, because he’s wearing a trench coat—is seen driving a patrol car (??) that pulls up next to a van. (This occurs before sunset, even though it seemed to be pitch black out when Ann arrived at Fred’s door.) Getting out, he approaches a woman who I guess is supposed to be a coroner, since she’s got a stethoscope wedges under the epaulet of her uniform blouse. The object of their discussion is the bum that was munched on by the wee dinosaur before, even though they’re clearly in a completely different locale than where that event took place. I mean, seriously, it’s not even close. The bum was killed in an industrial alleyway filled with buildings, whereas now the cops are near a lone ramshackle building sitting out in a field. Man, that’s some fine continuity there.
They inevitably assume the victim was killed by a mountain lion or something of that nature. Meanwhile, a beat cop searching the scene calls the detective over. He’s discovered a spray painted shape that’s supposed to be the charred outline of the exploded wee dinosaur. Why this is found on dirt when the dinosaur expired in a paved alley is another mystery for the ages.
Back to Fred’s tidy little house, which an establishing shot establishes is in a poor section of town. This shows that he and Sister Ann are keeping it real, yo. Right now they’re keeping it real in his kitchen, over cups of coffee that don’t really have any coffee in them. He makes an irreverent remark, and she kicks him in the knee. It’s ‘funny.’ Then she starts swearing a lot. No fuddy-duddy nun this, what with her short skirt and foul language. Thus we learn again how a bold departure from tired old stereotypes can result in characters fully as vapid and uninteresting as ones who are utterly clichés.
We cut to an unconscious Slave Guy being tended by a woman in a side bedroom, then return to the kitchen. Ann is now smoking a cigarette. Wow! My hat’s off to the scriptwriter for creating such a vibrantly transgressive characterization. Like Mary Tyler Moore in the seminal Change of Habit, Ann is pondering a career change. "Sister Superior says that I’m having a ‘crisis of faith,’" she snorts. Yes, that’s certainly an odd term to use for a nun who is wondering whether she wants to be a nun anymore. Hmm. No, wait, it isn’t. Anyway.
What could motivate such drastic, potentially life-altering ponderings? After all, it’s not like she’s fallen for Elvis or anything. Fred provides the answer when he notes, "Personally, I think you’re getting a little stupid about that kid that bought the farm." Wow! It’s not that Ann doesn’t care, it’s that she cares too much. Fred also mentions some names of folks she presumably helped. Then the woman who was working on Slave Guy—would a name be too much to ask for, twenty-odd minutes into the movie?—enters and exits.
A young white kid named Max comes in, and is supposed to repeat some ‘embarrassing’ things Fred said about her, but he rushes his lines and flubs a couple, which of course doesn’t prove grounds for a reshoot. He blurts that ‘Uncle Fred’ said she was going to shave her hair and become a penguin. "It was a metaphor," Fred explains. This doesn’t entirely convince me that Fred knows what the word ‘metaphor’ means.
Anyway, Max is the sort of child character who’s supposed to be cute and adorable, and who we acknowledge as such more out of awareness of the conventions than because he actually is. I have to say, for a film lasting a scant (albeit numbingly interminable) 82 minutes, and featuring an enslaved human on the run, a race of time-traveling cyborgs, dinosaurs and whatnot; they sure introduce a mess of nonessential characters. Fred, Oscar, the nurse, Max…man, if they cut all the chaff out they could have reduced the running time to, oh, 82 seconds, and everyone would have been happier.
The one thing they don’t bother going into, oddly enough, is why a nun would run a man over and not take him to a hospital. Given this, the only thing that makes sense is that Ann is in trouble with the law. After all, even if she held a hostile view of the The Authorities as being tools of a fascist state—and there’s plenty of Catholic clergy of that stripe, so the idea in itself isn’t that outré—you’d think risking the guy’s life by tending to him yourself would be a little out of line. Of course, even if that’s true, she could have just dumped him outside a clinic or something, but then she’d be out of the movie.
We do get some backstory, though, via the ‘here’s some things we both know, but let’s repeat them anyway’ school of expositional dialog. "Look, when we met," Fred declares, "you were hiding from a pimp. You had just done a month in the joint, and were suicidal and addicted. Keeping you in here [presumably Fred is running a half-way house] was hard." Then we learn Ann’s Dark Secret, the source of all her torment. Somebody—she mumbles a name, not that it matters—was killed by a guy hopped up on drugs she sold him.
Blah blah. They talk about their lives, and how much good the other has done, etc. Since this is a time travel roundtable—although so far, the film I’m reviewing has being woefully short of any such temporal adventuring—perhaps we should take a second to ask whether Einstein’s Relativity Theory helps explain why a nearly four-hour movie like The Return of the King can zip by while an 82 minute snoozefest like this seems to last for eons.
She goes to pensively stare out a window as, that’s right, Pensive Music plays. She plans to dump Slave Guy on Fred and go visit an aunt while she sorts some stuff out. We then cut to the sun rising. If I’m following this—and you should never just assume stuff while watching films like this—then this directly follows the above action, since we had heard chirping birds when Ann approached the window. However, they just told Max, like a minute ago, that it was time to go to bed. What sort of hours do they keep here?
Later that morning, Ann is dressed in the jeans and flannel shirt we saw her wearing earlier—although it’s still at least two days, supposedly, until the events portrayed in the beginning of the movie—and pretending to wash some dishes. Oscar comes in and announces that Slave Guy is awake. He doesn’t talk, Oscar reports, but "I think he understands." OK. I don’t see why he would, but perhaps he’s a savant, like Jonnie Goodboy Tyler. Anyhoo, they go to check on Slave Guy, who’s fiddling with a radio in the traditional, "I don’t come from this world and I don’t know what this is" manner. Then he begins eating the chow they bring his with his fingers. I guess the Cyborgs, the ones who taught him enough that during a revolt, or whatever, he was able to access a space shuttle and use it to get to Earth, never provided their slaves with flatware. The fiends!
Fred tries to shake SG’s hand (I’m not typing ‘Slave Guy’ anymore), but is ignored by his ravenous guest, who is ill informed on the social proprieties in any case. Fred then introduces everyone, although the guy I thought was Oscar is actually yet another dude entirely, and named Romero. Just in case anyone cares. After shoveling in his grub, SG resumes fiddling with the radio.
The caretakers return to the kitchen, where Ann decides to talk to SG by herself. She grabs a slave choker SG was wearing, not knowing what it is. She returns to SG and attempts to get him to converse, and I think the scene is supposed to be funny, although I certainly couldn’t prove it by any conventional means. Then she shows him the collar, which I thought would trigger a Dramatic Outburst from SG, but instead he just stares at it for a long stretch while sitting completely still, which pretty much sums up the film as a whole.
Then, when we least expect it, but really no longer care, he grabs her and puts his hands around her neck. A blare of music let’s us know this is exciting, which proves more helpful in establishing this than perhaps it should be. He doesn’t hurt her—although I was wondering why Fred hadn’t come into the room after hearing the ruckus—but instead strokes her face and mimes putting the collar around her neck. From this she somehow intuits that there’s something wrong with his throat (?!), and that this is why he can’t speak. However, he understands English, and she is able to teach him what nodding and shaking his head means. This is stupid for several reasons, but since the movie is sucking all the life out of me I’ll just move on.
Wondering whether he can write, she takes him to a nearby blackboard—the room acts as the daycare center for whatever kids are living in Fred’s house, which means that there’s a convenient blackboard in there, along with a small couch and a TV set—and draws the letters A, B and C on the board. He just makes scratches when handed the chalk, however. (Hmm, I wonder why the control panels we saw on his spaceship and shuttle all had writing on them, then?)
Next she shows him an equally convenient world map. Did I mention that both the map and chalkboard are placed too high on the wall for children to use them? She first points to Russia (?), but he shakes his head. Then she tries Brazil. Perhaps as bored as we are, SG cuts this short by pointing up to the sky. (Wow!) She doesn’t understand, and he smashes something, I guess, because they Foley in a smashing sound, although nothing looks broken. Then he resumes playing with the radio.
Later, despite the fact that they know nothing about him, and that he attacked Ann at one point, we cut to SG sitting alone in a room with Max. I hope this place isn’t getting state funding. The kid’s playing with a video camera, which seems an oddly expensive piece of gear for him to have, but whatever. Intrigued by the device, SG brusquely grabs it, proving that the Cyborgs not only stole his life from him, but never taught him to share, either. Those bastards.
Ann comes in to say goodbye, since she’s supposedly leaving to visit her aforementioned aunt. SG grabs her and yanks her to her knees, which again proves to irritate her for only a second. She then shows him a globe, trying to ascertain where he hails from, although why they think he’s foreign remains more than a little vague. Anyhoo, SG is slowly learning to speak, although not enough to communicate yet. So he grabs a toy spaceship—I think the name of this establishment is Convenient Prop House—and mimes the ship flying through space and landing on the globe.
Ann is incredulous, as you’d expect, whereupon we cut to one of the ‘raptors, or whatever they are supposed to be, lurking outside a window. A musical cue lets us know this turn of events is ominous. Max sees it, grabs SG to show him, Ann screams, they have the dino prop smash through the half-inch fiberboard ‘wall’ and ‘window,’ then cut to the dino inside the room in an ineffective attempt to indicate that…Fred’s house is constructed of half-inch fiberboard, I guess. Romero runs inside with a machete (?!) but is butted aside, whereupon Fred enters with his shotgun and shoots the beast at point blank range. (Like every good halfway house, this one is stocked with an array of deadly weapons.) Of course, every dino we’ve seen so far has keeled over if anyone looked at it funny, but this one takes two shotgun blasts in the face and merely retreats.
Fred goes over to the prostrate Romero, and SG grabs Ann and attempts to force her to leave. She doesn’t want to abandon her friends, but SG tells her in Tarzan-speak, "Run! Must…run!" Then the dino knocks over an actual door, although it might have been aided by the fact that someone removed the pins from its hinges. The prop dinosaur can’t really get through the door, although I don’t think we’re supposed to have noticed that. In any case, SG gets Ann out the back door and they run off.
They get away, and Ann still doesn’t mention going to the cops. (!) SG, meanwhile, proves to be picking up this talking thing right quick. They have Ann explain what he’s saying via a voiceover, for whatever reason, and it’s all "his vocal chords needed to adjust to our language" and blah blah blah.
For absolutely no reason I can figure, they end up hoboing it in a boxcar. Or at least as much of a boxcar as you can assemble from maybe twenty planks and, yes, a bale of hay. Every cargo train car has a bale of hay in it. Of course, this allows for (kill me) another conversational interlude, as she attempts to piece his story together. She still doubts the outer space angle, although one might have thought that the dinosaur with the flashing neck collar would have broadened her perspective just a bit. Anyway, SG lays out pretty much what was in the Crawl, although why he’d know all this is left unexplored.
SG turns out to know phrases from the Bible (!), and sort of explains how and why he’s heard English before and suchlike. However, trying to understand it made my brain hurt—admittedly, its resistance levels are way down at this juncture—so I just moved on. Besides, the idea is moronic anyway, no matter what explanation they sorta kinda came up with here. I’d barely made this life-confirming decision, to just ignore the entire thing and not dwell upon it, when Ann responded, "Explain this so that I can understand it," and I went back to my theory that this movie was made by Cenobites. Ones with really bad toothaches whose girlfriends had just left them.
I decided to go have some lunch.
Well, that was refreshing.
Since I’m being afflicted with SG’s explanation on how he recognizes English and all, I might as well just let you guys have it as well:
"This place [Earth, I guess] was the most important story, our dream, our heaven. [Oh, yeah, this was mentioned in the Expository Crawl. How could I have forgotten?] And now, I’m free."
And…that’s it. (???!!!)
Ann’s narration begins again. As with the prior instance, it covers up continued dialog by the characters. I’m betting it wasn’t scripted this way. My guess is that the filmmakers, once they assembled their footage, realized that there was no way to edit it together so as to make even a rudimentary amount of sense. So they probably whipped up Ann’s voiceovers to try to fill in some of the cracks, although frankly it amounts to using a caulking gun on the Titanic. In any case, about all we learn of even the slightest importance is that Ann is merely "studying to be a nun," although I’m not sure novices are addressed as ‘Sister.’ Not being Catholic, I’m not sure one way or the other.
We cut to various images; religious icons, church candles, a scrapbook; as Ann details somewhat more fully her backstory. (As if we give a rat’s patoot.) We don’t really learn much we hadn’t got before, but we do see Sister Ann talking at length to her Mother Superior. The set in which this scene takes place might be accepted by the unobservant as actually being a severely austere church, I suppose, although I think the cross on the podium is made from strips of white masking tape. In any case, the sequence goes on way too long, and serves little purpose except to eat up several more minutes of my life. I’m sure the actress who got the part of Ann, fresh from whatever community theater experience she had, read all this and convinced herself that she had won a meaty part with a lot of ‘characterization,’ but man, it’s deadening a pace that was in a coma already.
Mother Superior sends Ann off for the weekend to think things over, and tells her to look for signs. "God always answers prayers," she smarms. While I’m a Christian myself, I think that might be overstating things a bit, especially since she seems to be saying, ‘answers them in a way we can recognize.’ But hey, I get it! Slave Guy’s arrival is the sign she predicted*! Wow! (Uh, what was that a sign of again?)
[*The august Jabootu Minister of Proofreading, Carl Fink, trenchantly observes, " I'm not religious myself, and frankly if God answered my prayers by sending a stonefaced, timetravelling kickboxer and some killer dinosaurs, I don't think that would promote my becoming so."]
After telling her that "the tracker"—by which he means the dinosaur, I suppose—will rest, and then return to where he first found them together (i.e., Fred’s house). Assuming I’m following this correctly, which is rather a leap, that wouldn’t exactly establish the creature as being very effective at ‘tracking’ people. Anyway, we then abruptly cut to the pair again walking down a street. This would, presumably, be in another town, given the train ride and all. In any case, Ann decides that she must go back too, to make sure her friends are all right.
OK, let’s break this down again. Fred might live in a bad neighborhood, but are you telling me that, even if everyone that stayed there survived the dinosaur attack, and go even further and pretend it’s possible that nobody’s noticed this eight-foot tall prehistoric monster plodding around, that the cops wouldn’t investigate an incident involving multiple gunshots and a smashed in bay window and doorway in a halfway house?! I mean, please. Also, girlie, here’s an idea. Rather than just heading back, why not call ahead and warn your friends that the killer dinosaur will probably be returning. Phone first, you know?
SG doesn’t understand her actions, because he’s never known friendship or love blah blah blah. Ann, meanwhile, insists on walking back to Fred’s from wherever the heck they are at. Given her shuffling pace, however, I surmise that she’s not overly concerned with when she might get there. They obviously actually recorded the dialog live for this scene, since the microphone keeps picking up traffic sounds that obscure what the two are saying. Good grief, they couldn’t even afford ADR?! Anyway, SG decides he must stay by Ann’s side, despite that fact that this is entirely actually counterproductive, given that the dinosaurs and cyborgs are chasing after him, not her. His remaining only puts her in further peril. She tries to pull a lone wolf act and chase him off, but is defeated when he tosses a marginally appropriate Bible verse at her.
Cut to that night. SG and Ann are still on the road, on foot, although the latter has finally decided to try using that new-fangled phone-amajig to contact Fred. Sadly, she receives a message that his line is out of service. More ‘character’ interaction occurs, as SG tries to convince Ann that she’s a good person, complete with additional Bible quotes. In the beginning, as ill advised as such moments were, they at least struck the viewer as somewhat admirable in intent, if not in execution. However, we’re way past that point. Imagine watching two halfwits, ones who believe themselves intelligent, debating their woefully misconstrued interpretations of the writings of, say, Immanual Kant. This might be amusing at first, but if you’re stuck in a room with them and they were to keep at it for nearly forty minutes, with no end to the discussion in sight, then all a spectator will end up with is a mix of rage and frustration.
Welcome to Future War.
For absolutely no reason whatsoever, we now get an unrelated and pointless cameo of Forrest J. Ackerman. He’s just walking around some hills in a goofy Hawaiian and gets munched by a dino. I think this is the same ‘tracker’ we saw earlier. If so, though, then the camera angles are all wrong, since they imply a beast that’s much larger than the one before. (Best bet: Another continuity error.)
On the one hand, getting away from the film’s central storyline does provide an entirely welcome spell of relief. On the other, this bears all the trademarks of an Uncle Forry cameo. There’s the ‘sly’ joke, wherein Forry is shown reading an issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland (yuk, yuk), one featuring Gorgo on the cover (har, har). There’s the fact that Forry has an uncanny sense for popping up in truly awful movies—Dracula vs. Frankenstein, Evil Spawn, Curse of the Queerwolf, Vampirella, etc. Finally, the scene ends in Forry’s death, which is, per usual, artistically and technically inept. This aspect, of course, does tie in with the ‘awful movies’ one.
Cut to an establishing shot of a Police Station. For a movie that never gets anywhere, this one sure moves around a lot. The Detective is talking to a couple of uniform cops, explaining his belief that "some animal out of the hills has gone on a rampage." (So yes, the film is probably set in Los Angeles.) By now it’s getting increasingly difficult to believe that no one’s seen the various monsters the film’s had roaming around, much less that none of them has left behind any prints or spoor.
This is especially ludicrous since they’re investigating "four deaths in six hours." This would have every cop and vehicle on the streets and in the air; the Detective should be talking to a huge room of officers assembled from several precincts, not to just a couple of patrol cops. Such an event would also have triggered a gigantic media frenzy. That dinosaurs could move around during all this without being spotted is dumb even for this picture. Ooh, and the bodies are being left behind in a straight trail, meaning that the police would have a pretty decent idea of exactly where it/they are. Stupid movie.
Back on the street, SG and Ann are still walking around, although they still look suspiciously fresh for people who have been pounding the pavement without sleep all night. (Especially since SG was recently struck by a car and Ann had been up all the previous night as well.) This allows for—that’s right—further yakking. Seriously, the people who made this movie went to jail or something, right? At least tell me somebody beat them severely after having seen it. Give me some solace, people.
Then we cut to two kids playing soccer, who somehow don’t notice the gigantic and apparently full-sized T-Rex heading their way. Of course, no one else has either, so there you go. They finally notice it, scream, and we cut away. So I guess it ate some kids. Charming. Then the cops get a call from some folks barricading a door with…empty cardboard boxes. Waste not, want not, I guess. Oh, the cop answering a phone is wearing a generic blue ball cap with the word "Police" sewn onto it. Very authentic.
Meanwhile, a cop car spots Ann and SG walking down the street and arrests them. Yes, in a city besieged by man-eating dinosaurs, patrol cars are picking up vagrants. The car then gets a call about the attack on the Empty Cardboard Box warehouse—no wonder, in this universe such wares are obviously a gigantically successful commodity—whereupon we cut to a single reporter with a single cameraman making the scene.
He begins his report, while we see that the folks barricading the door are still doing so. In desperation, they begin stacking their eight or ten empty cardboard boxes with even greater alacrity. Meanwhile, the Detective orders the tactical team into the warehouse, which although similar to the warehouse seen before, in that it’s a large, ill-lit space filled with stack upon stack of empty cardboard boxes, is no doubt an entirely different venue.
I’ve seen some lameass movies where they were either able to rent automatic rifles with flashlights attached (de rigueur for such sequences since Aliens), or were at least able to mount their own lights on the guns. Here, instead, we get one actor playing part of a cop with advanced tactical training who walk around with their rifle in one hand and a flashlight in the other. Yes, all elite combat units use their M16s one handed. Of course, warehouses should also come equipped with lights, although strangely they seldom do. And T-Rexes shouldn’t move like ninjas, and probably wouldn’t seek out confined spaces.
The guy with the baseball cap ‘calls’ the tactical officer over a walkie-talkie. Man, that’s an advanced communication center that police station has, what with that one guy and all. He asks the SWAT guy whether he’s seen "the bear" yet. (Sigh...so, so stupid.) Yeah, if I were sneaking around looking for a man-eating bear, or whatever, I’d want to get a really useless call on my radio right when I was possible approaching it. Finally the dinosaur makes a pretty good amount of noise, whereupon the cop ventures forward instead of calling in or going back outside and seeking back-up. He bends over to examine some blood, and we see the shadow of the Ninja T-Rex looming over him. Sure.
Outside, the Detective is getting antsy, apparently believing, for whatever reason, that something has happened to his tactical squad. By which I mean that one guy. In perhaps the film’s most unbelievable moment, which is, true, a bold statement, but one I stick with, he pulls out his revolver, and tells Ann and SG, now standing beside him (??), "You two, follow me!" Huh?! What the hell is going on here? How could the detective believe these two are involved with the ‘killer bear’? And even if this were true, there’s no way a cop is going to order two unarmed civilians to follow him into a situation where they might get killed. Cripes, who wrote this?
So a team consisting of two more tactical cops—I guess the three made up the entire ‘squad’—along with SG, Ann and the Detective, enter the Empty Cardboard Box warehouse. Although the film’s faults are all quite obvious, it’s still hilarious when they actually try to acknowledge and cover them, as here when one SWAT guy goes, "We shouldn’t have let him [the now et cop] go in by himself!" Hmm, in retrospect, probably not. Still, hindsight is 20/20, and all that.
They walk around. We see a stairway, clearly made by the prop guys, leading up to the same platform that had the ladder attached to it at the beginning of the movie. That’s some fine set dressing there, when we can identify pieces of scenery that have been used elsewhere in the picture. It makes you wonder why they bothered to buy enough Empty Cardboard Boxes to fill three separate… Hey, wait a minute!!
Suddenly there’s three tactical cops. Normally you’d be insulted to have characters suddenly materialize in the middle of a scene when they weren’t there before. However, I can’t really fault the filmmakers’ apparent belief that nobody watching this film would still be awake. Either that, or they understandably thought that anyone who was still conscious enough to notice frankly deserved whatever he got. It’s like Charlie Brown trying for the hundredth time to kick that football Lucy keeps moving.
They find Joey’s remains—a rubber prop hand—and continue on. Then they find the room, I guess, where the guys were earlier barricading the door with Empty Cardboard Boxes. Apparently this doesn’t, in fact, create a fully dinosaur-proof fortification. (Nor, oddly, was the creature impeded by the fact that its clearly too big to have entered the room.) We see a prop head and stuff lying in some stage blood, which probably was responsible for the film’s otherwise inexplicable ‘R’ rating.
Hearing some gunfire, they run back out into the main ‘warehouse’ space. Suddenly, or as suddenly as anything ever happens in this movie, the beast smashes its way through a stack of Empty Cardboard Boxes. How dramatic, not to mention unexpected. Nobody is as surprised at seeing a T-Rex as you might have suspected they would be. In fact, one guy shouts out not to shoot (!!!!!), because one of their comrades is supposedly behind the creature and they might hit him. Now, the dinosaur is a good fifteen feet tall, so it seems to me you could pretty safely shoot up at its head and not risk hitting a guy standing behind it, but there you go. That’s probably why I don’t lead an elite police tactical squad.
Luckily, SG suddenly has a large knife. (???!!) I don’t know where the hell he got this, or why the cops didn’t frisk him when he was brought in, for whatever reason they did so, but anyway. Ann hilariously asks him, "Can you kill it with that?!" SG assures her he can, pointing to a spot on his throat. Yeah, sure. She runs out to distract the beast, which is now man-sized again—stupid movie—and throws her coat over its head. SG rushes toward, and suddenly the dino is much taller again—stupid movie—and he pretends to plunge the knife into the blinded beastie’s neck. It expires and, per the established rule, blows up.
Phone Ball Cap Cop calls the Detective—again, should he be calling cops who are in the middle of a dangerous tactical raid?— and we finally learn the Detective is actually "Captain Polaris" (!!). Huh? Police Captains runs stations, don’t they? Would they really be wearing trench coats and driving around in patrol cars investigating homicides? Phone Ball Cap Guy reveals that they’ve had more "monster sightings." Yeah, you’d think. "More?!" Captain Polaris (!) exclaims. "How could there be more?" Yeah, one killer man-eating dinosaur running around Los Angeles you could buy, but more than one is downright silly. Meanwhile, I decided that since they hadn’t named Phone Ball Cap Cop yet, his name was probably Officer Trident, and that the head SWAT guy is Lt. Poseidon.
As Terminator-style (sort of) music plays, SG explains that the dinos are after him, and will continue to "hurt people" until they get him. Polaris (!) orders him cuffed. "He won’t run away this time," he smugly declares, whatever that means. When did he ‘run away’ from the cops before?
You know, you have to wonder about whether James Cameron is amused or appalled by the fact that his early movies have so warped sci-fi B-Movies in the twenty year since they were released. How many films have slavishly aped elements of 1984’s The Terminator, and even more so 1986’s Aliens? Has there been a ‘groups of soldiers/cops hunt a monster’ scene in the last 18 years that hasn’t completely ripped the latter off? Seriously, it’s like Cameron created clichés and visuals so dense that no sci-fi movie can escape them. The depressing thing is how few try. Moreover, there’s no reason to believe the situation will better any time soon. Jaws has had a similar effect on movies for thirty years now.
Anyway, they do explain that Fred had reported on Slave Guy, although since being hit by a car and attacked by a dinosaur aren’t technically crimes, I’m still a little vague on what he’s being arrested for. (We also get confirmation that the setting is Los Angeles.) SG is put into the sort of cell set that’s created by putting some iron bars in front of the camera. Plus, he’s the only guy in the Los Angeles jail, apparently. Meanwhile, a uniform cop in a truly unconvincing police station office set turns on the radio to learn that "an information white-out has fallen on the city." Whatever that means.
Fred arrives to give Ann a ride. "[The cops] don’t care about us," he bitches. "They just cut us loose." Well, it was either that or arrest you, so I don’t see why you’re complaining. Meanwhile, SG in his ‘cell’ is practicing his Space Slave Tai Chi katas. This goes on for a while and is ‘livened’ up with clips from earlier in the movie, although oddly these flashes are never from his perspective, but from what we in the audience saw in the first place.
Then we cut back to the spaceship. Oh, yeah, right, the spaceship. Then we immediately cut back to Earth. I guess they just wanted us to remember there was a spaceship in the movie, which actually I can’t really make fun of, since I’d pretty much forgotten it myself.
The brother of the friend whose death from an overdose caused Ann’s crisis of faith—don’t worry, I don’t care either—is a gangbanger. Per Ann’s request, he meets with her, bringing along some of his homies. The gang all wearing caps and flannel shirts with only the top button done, of course, and since this is a movie is progressively liberal in its ethnic and gender makeup. Anyhoo, with the police not getting the job down, and since this is the sort of world in which neither the military nor National Guard would be called out, only the gangbangers, I guess, can deal with this crisis.
That night we get another Cyborg POV shot, and then we’re outside in a parking lot. My heart fills with dread. No way. Please, not that. Then we see a door with a piece of paper on it announcing the building to be Police Department, and my heart sinks. You bastards. You unmitigated bastards.
Polaris (!) is talking to "Dr. Tanaka" (!!), a hot woman who presumably is a psychologist called in to talk to SG. (Gee, where’d they get that idea…) Following tradition, Tanaka is a smug smartass who believes SG is a nut. Polaris (!), however, is still thrown by the fact that there are actually, you know, dinosaurs running around eating people. Suddenly, two guys who don’t remotely look like Feds—oh, wait, yes they do, they’re wearing mirrored sunglasses in a dark room—burst in and announce they’re taking over. Since they’re in a movie, they are, of course, complete and utter jackasses. Moreover, do Feds introduce themselves as "government agents"? Big deal, so are cops. Were the filmmakers afraid of being sued if they actually had them say ‘FBI’?
"Under whose authority?!" Polaris (!) shoots back, because different Law Enforcement agencies always have to butt heads like complete idiots. You’d think he’d first ask who they’re with, or to see some identification, but anyway. "National security," they answer, which doesn’t really answer the question. He’s not only "relieved of the case" (maurading dinosaurs eating people constitutes a ‘case’?), but is kicked out of his office. Because, you know, they belong to a Federal agency that doesn’t keep offices in Los Angeles. "I’m taking this to the Commissioner," Polaris (!) yells, so I guess that worthy can override the federal government.
Soon SG is being interrogated by a Fed (presumably—I’m not sure, he’s not wearing mirrored sunglasses) who is middle-aged and sports long, receding David Crosby hair. This provides yet another opportunity for explaining stuff we’ve already gone over several times. Their own doctor is then called in to cut out a rather large tracking device that SG apparently had implanted in his back. Well, that explains why the dinosaurs are having so much trouble finding him. Oh, wait, no it doesn’t. And lest you were wondering, yes, the device did have a little red light on it.
Outside, my nightmare has finally decided to start. We cut to feet marching around—an ode to Doris Wishman, perhaps—and buzzing mechanical noises are Folyed in so that we ‘get’ that it’s another Cyborg. This targets the lab, because that’s where the tracking device has been taken. The Cyborg blows a hole in the door, which a beam of light atmospherically, if nonsensically, shoots through.
The Cyborg smashes his way through the door, which isn’t quite as impressive as it might sound, since the door was made of Styrofoam. (!!) In all my long years at this, I don’t ever remember seeing a Styrofoam door before. Kudos. The Doctor hides in the convenient ceiling airshaft, although she’s dumb enough to keep looking down through a big vent opening while the Cyborg is standing right beneath her. Not that it matters, because she (apparently, the editing’s a bit confusing) falls through the ceiling, which again isn’t that bizarre, as it seems to have been constructed of the same material as the wall. Exit Doctor.
I thought the film was shameless in ripping off Jim Cameron before, but I had no idea. Imagine the ‘raid on the police station’ sequence from The Terminator, restaged with about four actors and production values that would embarrass your average high school drama department. Watching it, I literally felt insulted. About the only element they added was the extremely annoying whirring mechanical sound effect every frickin’ time the Cyborg moves any part of his body. Even that’s ripped off from Robocop, although obviously they were smart enough not to have the effect cranked up all the time.
Along the way, we see that this second Cyborg is played by Robert Z’Dar. What’s funny is that Z’Dar had already replicated The Terminator’s ‘murderous rampage in a police station’ sequence, albeit in much superior fashion, as the titular menace in the nifty Maniac Cop 2. I’m not sure Z'Dar found it that funny, though. The Maniac Cop series was pretty unusual in that the series actually got better as it went along. The entries were schlock, but fun, well-made schlock produced by people who knew what they were doing. Even so, I’m sure Z’Dar was hoping for better than to end up in projects that made those films seem downright brilliant.
Even the staging of the main gunfight, which takes place in one cramped room, is really poorly staged. If I had to guess, I’d say they never had all the actors (like all five of them) together at one time. In any case, it seems likely they had to shoot the sequence in bits, hoping to patching it all together in editing. By watching it several times, though, I estimated that the guy with a shotgun shooting at the massive, bulky Z’Dar was supposedly doing so from a distance of perhaps five feet, max. Despite this, we keep cutting to his blasts tearing up walls that don't even appear to be near his target. I really can’t adequately communicate how inept this all is.
About the only genuinely amusing moment during this occurs when the head SpOOk, just before the fight breaks out, tells his subordinates that they’re going to "Langley." I’m sure the scriptwriter congratulated himself on that sly reference to where the CIA have their headquarters. For myself, I was again amazed at the fact that so many filmmakers can’t grasp the idea that the CIA handles intelligence concerns outside the borders of the U.S. Why is this so hard to comprehend? A situation occurring inside the country would be handled by the FBI or conceivably the military, but in any case not the CIA. And even if you ignore this, why would the SpOOks return to headquarters while the whole situation is still ongoing? Stupid movie.
SG, who was bound to his chair, suddenly isn’t (apparently he studied Harry Houdini whenever he wasn’t practicing his martial arts skills during his apparently extensive free time as a slave), and makes his way outside. The Cyborg points at him and suddenly SG has this huge electronic device around his neck (??). Then, a second later, it’s gone. Then a dinosaur is just there, and although the Cyborg absorbed any number of bullets without being phased, SG puts him down with a conveniently at hand thin metal rod. Then he pokes the dinosaur with it in the lower jaw—I mean, cripes, they couldn’t even stick with the ‘vulnerable spot in the throat’ thing—and the massive creature just immediately topples over atop the about-to-recover Cyborg, and blows up, presumably taking the Cyborg with it. That’s probably the only reason they made the dinos self-destruct in the first place, just to set up this bit. If so, the pay-off doesn't justify the effort, believe me.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, concludes the film’s most awesomeist action sequence.
Meanwhile, Fred and Ann are meeting in a room…somewhere…with the gangbangers. She’s trying to convince them to do what the U.S. Government can’t, i.e., deal with the space faring, time-traveling futuristic Cyborgs and their army of T-Rexes. They argue for a bit, but of course eventually exhibit a robust civic streak and agree to work with her.
Their supposed motivation for this is that they feel The Man won’t help them, and that they’ll have to save themselves from danger. However, in this case that makes no sense. The idea that the Eee-vil Guv’ment doesn’t care about depravations in the ‘hood is a venerable B-movie trope. However, the dinosaurs are munching folks all over Los Angeles, so even if one accepts this somewhat paranoid view, it has no validity here. Why not just have a head gangbanger killed by the dinosaurs, and then establish that his crew wants revenge? Sure, it’s a lame, overly tired cliché, but at least it isn’t completely retarded in context.
Oh, the other justification is that Ann at one point says in an exaggeratedly sly voice, "Let them go. They don’t have to help us if they don’t want to." To which the head Cholo, who was the one agitating to blow them off, predictably replies, "You’re saying we’re afraid?" Actually, that’s not even close to what she said, and even if it was, that’s about the lamest attempt at reverse psychology I’ve ever seen. The fact that it’s meant to be a demonstration of Ann’s streetwise savvy makes the moment all the more laughable.
With that settled, Gangbanger Chick asks, "So where do we find these things." At that second, SG walks in the door, replying, "They’re always near water." What kind of scripting is that? Ann sets this whole thing up, and the only reason everything works out is because a killer Cyborg slaughtered everyone in the police station where SG was being held, and SG managed to escape and somehow found this meeting at exactly the right moment to provide this intelligence? Yeesh.
Of course, "near water" can mean a lot of things in Los Angeles. They acknowledge this, before having our half dozen characters immediately stumble across exactly the correct locale first thing. Meanwhile, I was wondering why the gangbangers weren’t packing heat. Given, you know, the army of dinosaurs and Cyborgs and whatnot.
In a bit that has me absolutely refusing to think of Them!, because kicking a hole in my TV set really wouldn’t make things any better, SG and Ann approach a storm drain. "Look here," SG notes almost immediately. "Fresh tracks." Then a dino that obviously wouldn’t fit through the drain begins to stick its head out of it. Our Heroes retreat, having found the Cyborg headquarters after their extensive twenty-second search. They jump into the cab of a pick-up truck, and are supposedly being chased by the dinosaur, and it’s all, you know, ‘suspenseful’ and stuff, until finally they manage to outpace it. Admittedly, they can’t possible pull such a sequence off in any sort of convincing fashion, but hey, ‘E’ for effort. Still, at least this scene was directly lifted from Jurassic Park. It’s nice to see them blatantly stealing from somebody other than Cameron.
Everyone meets back up in the conference room. SG is asked if he has a plan. He does. He’ll surrender himself to the Cyborgs, since all this fuss is about him. (Too bad he didn’t pursue that option about a hundred dead people ago.) "That’s no plan," Gangbanger Chick objects. Well, yes, actually, it is. Also, it’s a plan the gangbangers themselves should be proffering. Again, by not making this fight personal for them, there’s little reason for them to risk their lives to save SG. You’d think they’d have better things to do, like selling drugs to the kids in their neighborhood or shooting folks for wearing the wrong color shirt.
They ask if the Cyborgs, or maybe the dinos, I don’t know, can be taken down. SG confirms they can. Fred objects that that would require heavy artillery. "We can’t get anything like that," he moans. "Yes, we can," a smiling Ann replies. I know she used to be a hooker and junkie or whatever, but would she really have better weaponry-buying contacts than an organized street gang?
We see her driving around in her SUV, apparently looking for this dude we see selling a guy a revolver out in broad daylight. You know, these street scenes are pretty strange. No police or military or media presence, lots of regular civilian folks walking around like normal. You’d think a city besieged by carnivorous dinosaurs and laser-beaming cyborgs would exhibit a few signs of public disorder. You'd also think a street arms dealer, especially one with access to heavy weapons, would have run out of stock by this point. Given the circumstances and all. I have a feeling that won’t be the case, though.
Finding the guy, she drives up next to him. "Conroy," she calls. "I need some weapons. Some real heavy stuff." He just nods his head and smiles. (Should I ask where she’s getting the money for this? Earlier she couldn’t even afford a cab to head back to Fred’s house.) Later another guy drives up to where Ann and SG are waiting. "Hello, Chadwick," she greets him. Chadwick? It turns out he and Ann go "way back," although presumably in a different way than Sherman and Mr. Peabody. In any case, due to this brilliant stroke of scripting I totally believed that this guy would hand over a large amount of money to pay for the weapons and a brick of heroin (?) for, uh, I don’t know.
Money in hand, Ann meets up with Conroy to buy the guns. We see these implements of destruction in a bit, and they include:
With this formidable arsenal at hand, they make their plans. Soon their forces, all like six of them, are marshaled outside the storm drain. Ann pauses to set their brick of explosives on the ground several yards from the storm drain entrance, so that…I don’t know. Something. (We soon get a supposed close-up of the explosives, which doesn’t remotely match the device Ann had.) Also, earlier they barely got near the tunnel before a dino attacked them, but this time a whole group of them are able to enter and take a leisurely stroll around. Emphasis on the word ‘leisurely.’
This leads us, more or less, to where we came in. Meanwhile, I was wondering why the interior of a storm drain had pipes on the wall, or walls constructed of wood planks, etc. Now that I understand where they're supposed to be, these details are all the more stupid. Then there's the aforementioned shafts of light beaming through the walls. Yeesh, when they’re inside buildings, there’s practically no light at all. Then they’re inside a storm tunnel, and all of a sudden there’re heavy shafts of light filtering in through decrepit, and highly superfluous, interior walls.
The teams split up, so as to conform to the beginning of the movie, and again we follow SG, Ann and Fred as they head down a tunnel. Meanwhile, some of the gangbangers set a trap with a net. I think the idea is to have the Head Cyborg chase Scooby and Shaggy under it. They will catch him in the net and expose him to be Old Man Withers, who started rumors about the man-eating dinosaurs so that nobody would come around the old storm tunnel and the vein of gold he’s discovered there.
They waste more time walking around, and then really waste more time by again showing us a lot of the stuff we already saw at the beginning of the film. I thought that was pretty annoying. However, then I saw some new footage, and found it directly contradicted some of the stuff from before. Stupid movie.
The other guys are still making booby traps, meanwhile, including a barbell primed to drop from the ceiling. A barbell? Are you telling me they’ve been lugging that thing all over? Dude, you’ve got guns. Cripes, this isn’t Home Alone. (Worse the luck.)
Blah blah blah. More stuff we’ve already seen. Occasional cuts to the countdown display on the bomb, which of course moves either too fast or too slow. Fred gets chomped. The ‘bangers kills a T-Rex by…how do I describe this? The barbell, the one mentioned above? When released, it doesn’t fall, it instead arcs across the tunnel and manages to impale a T-Rex through the mouth. By the way, given the relative size of the dino to the miniature barbell used for the close-up, the T-Rex here would have to be about forty feet tall. And living in a storm tunnel, none the less.
Another ‘banger dies when his M-16 jams—OK, I’ll buy that—and he decides to attack it with his K-bar knife. Yeah, that’s what I would do, too. (Moron.) Then the net we saw earlier is dropped on some dino or other, perhaps the one that just ate the guy, and we learn that it’s been wired and they electrocute the dinosaur. Hey, who knew MacGuyver had a street gang? [Proofreading maven Bill Leary also asks, "Where was the net in?" Yeah, now that I think about it, storm tunnels probably don't have electrical outlets in the walls.]
Our Heroes are about to escape, and don’t forget the bomb for the super-exciting ‘clock’ element, when they find their way blocked by the…Robert Z’Dar Cyborg. OK, so SG dispatched the first one by kicking it, but this one was shot quite a few times and then had an exploding T-Rex fall on it, yet it’s unharmed. Whatever.
Now, a moment ago all these guys had guns. However, this is a movie. So naturally SG strides forward to engage the Cyborg—you know, the one who’s survived being blown up and all—mano-a-machino. This involves quite a lot of Van Damme-esque kicks and Jean-Claudeish screams and such. This again had me wondering how much time this guy had spent watching Van Damme movies, over and over again, so as to burnish his apery.
After an extremely boring and quite silly battle, D-Zar Cyborg is knocked into some shadows and disappears (?). They all get outside just ahead of another T-Rex, and the bomb goes off, burying the last dino in chunks of Styrofoam that they didn’t even bother painting to look like cement.
Cut to a church. We hear Ann’s voice repeating "four days ago, a fire fell from the sky." Actually, the escape shuttle didn’t remotely resemble a ‘ball of fire,’ and she wasn’t there to see it in any case, but whatever. I’ll admit to being surprised by the fact that the movie ends with Ann taking her vows, given that they seemed to be setting up a romance between her and SG. I’ll give the film that one.
And so…oh, for cripe’s sake. Ann finishes her vows, and the Z’Dar Cyborg shows up again, (sorta) smashing through a stained glass window. He uses his wrist whatsit to blow up a statue of the Virgin Mary (!!), and then he and SG begin one last boring fight. By the way, I wasn’t surprised that a Cyborg could pick up and toss an entire church pew, but I was a little bewildered to see a regular person doing the same thing.
Having learned well from the Canon o’ Van Damme, SG stops in the middle of the fight to shrug off his shirt and reveal his manly torso. This cues more desultory chop sucky, er, socky, stuff. During the course of this way-too long sequence, the Cyborg also blows up a statue of Jesus. Man, should I be watching this on Easter? (As if I should be watching it on any other day, either.)
Ann sees SG’s old slave necklace on the floor (??) and tosses it to him. He fastens it around the Cyborg’s neck—wow, that’s some powerful symbolism there, by golly—and I guess it’s designed to blow up, although it obviously didn’t when SG was wearing it. I mean, would it have killed them to establish it as being an explosive device? But anyway, it goes off and the Cyborg is sheathed in flames (??) and it finally expires. Thank goodness there wasn’t a sequel, though, because I’m sure it would have come back another half dozen times.
Throughout the film, SG has been quoting the Bible to the effect that "Greater love hath no man than this, to give up his life for others." This apparently has been set-up to create suspense as to whether he'll die from the beating he just received. He doesn’t, though, so the whole thing’s just a big cheat. A later newspaper article—talk about a slow news day—reports that SG will become the halfway house’s new proprietor. The actual headline is hilarious: ‘Rehab center scores new counselor.’ Nice pun, I’m sure all the heroin addicts there really got a chuckle out of it.
Meanwhile, I guess the government will leave him alone, despite the fact that he’s (literally) an illegal alien whose presence got about a zillion American citizens eaten by dinosaurs or laser beamed by Cyborgs. Also, why would the Cyborgs go to all that trouble to hunt SG down, and then just leave him alone? On the other hand, maybe I shouldn’t be dwelling on anything other than the fact that this movie is finally about to end.
Meanwhile, Ann holds the battered SG’s head on her lap, and for the third frickin’ time we hear her voiceover about the fireball from the sky. Yeah, yeah, we got it, already. She narrates a few more lines in an extremely stilted manner, and then the film’s finally over. Oh, except for end credits that manage to eat up over three minutes of the film’s 82 minute length. Still, it beats the actual movie lasting three minutes longer.
If I were to sum up this film in one sentence, I couldn’t hope to do better than IMDB User Reviewer Hancock the Superb, who notes, "Future War contains neither a future, nor a war." Moreover, remarks can also be found there from the film’s producer, who defends the picture. He complains that the people attacking it never saw the "director’s cut" (really!), and in many cases have never themselves worked on a film. Hey, I’m not a chef, either. Still, if I go into a restaurant and am served a stew made out from urine and rancid skunk meat, I think I’d still be in a position to critique it.
I’d also like to offer my apologies for reviewing a film for a Time Travel roundtable that didn't actually have any, you know, time travel in it. We actually changed the focus of the roundtable just a short while ago, then bumped the review date up a week, which frankly left me scrambling a bit. Moreover, I was misled about the contents of this film after reading a plot description that mentioned "Cyborgs from the future." Admittedly, there’s tangential evidence for time travel, most notably the dinosaurs. However, more significant is that all of the picture’s more outré players, including the hero, the Cyborgs and the dino trackers, come to our world from outer space, not from the future. In other words, the Cyborgs built time travel machines, grabbed humans and dinosaurs to act as slaves, and then decided to ferry themselves around in space ships doing...something...somewhere...at the time of the late 1990s. OK.
Let's just say that I long ago began to wish I’d been able to dig out my copy of the ‘70s The Time Machine telemovie.
This film is awful. I can only imagine that the MST3K episode based on it was a classic, because man, this thing sucks lemons. Just about any derogatory adjective you can imagine could be accurately applied to it, although the most accurate ones would probably be 'inane,' 'confusing,' 'plodding,' and most especially 'disjointed.' Given the way this narrative jumps around, and particularly the manner in which the dinosaurs tend to just magically appear mid-scene, the film often feels like every third scene has been removed by a demented editor. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure a longer version of the film wouldn’t be any more coherent, just…longer.
First, numerous individuals dropped me notes or used our message board to note that Slave Guy actor Daniel Bernhardt is actually a much more accomplished martial artist than is indicated by his work here. In particular, they all cited his work in 2003's The Matrix Reloaded, in which he played Agent Johnson and got to fight opposite both Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne. He also starred in the short-lived syndicated Mortal Kombat: Conquest TV series. Given this, it seems likely Mr. Bernhardt was victimized by shoddy fight choreography and a no doubt nearly non-existent production schedule. I'll also give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that his aping Van Damme was the director's idea.
Meanwhile, Correspondent Sandra clarifies some ecclesiastical issues:
"Hi Ken, I'm not Catholic either, but I did see The Nun's Story, and my understanding of the whole nun thing is that wannabee nuns are called postulants. They live with the nuns, and share their work/prayer schedule, but they are just trying the lifestyle on to see how it suits. They don't take vows, so if they decide it's not for them after all, they just inform the Mother Superior, change back into their civies, and leave.
Those who don't leave become novices. They wear the nun's habit, with a white veil, and take vows that bind them for a period of time (I don't know if it's one year or three). I'm not sure, but I think that when the time is up, they can leave if they want, without having to go through a big fuss.
Anyway, at the end of the 1 or 3 years, they either leave or take their final vows, which bind them for life, and receive the black veil. Then, if one of them changes her mind, she has to apply to the bishop, or maybe the Pope, for permission to recant her vows. I imagine she gets it easily enough. Who'd want an unwilling nun around the place?
Which reminds me of a joke: There's this convent where the nuns take a vow of silence, except that every year, on the anniversary of the convent's founding, each nun is allowed to say two words to the Mother Superior. So this one nun gets her chance to speak, and she says "Bad food!". Another year goes by, and she gets another chance to speak, and she says "Hard bed!". Then another year goes by, and this time she says "I'm leaving!" And the Mother Superior says ( I guess the 'two words a year' thing doesn't apply to her ): "I can't say I'll be sorry. You've done nothing but complain since the day you arrived."
All of which has nothing to do with Future War except that whoever made it probably wasn't Catholic either."
Actually, I'm pretty sure it was
made by Catholics, since otherwise I'm not sure why they'd be so obsessed with
this stuff. However, they are undoubtedly members of a much more
liberalized (i.e., modernized) Church than the one portrayed in The Nun's
Story. Not that Ann refers to a 'Sister Superior' rather than a
'Mother Superior.' That strikes me as an attempt to nullify this icky hierarchal
flavor of the latter term.
Thanks to the
even more essential than usual assistance
-Review by Ken Begg