Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Shape of Things to Come

(George McCowan, 1979)
Here is a movie that gets over on pacing and energy and absolutely nothing else. The plot - intrepid space bureaucrats travel through space to stop nasty man Jack Palance from staging an intergalactic coup - seems to have lost a little something in the translation from the H. G. Wells original. The actors are attractive, and also earnest to the brink of constipation. The achievements of the special effects department are indicated by the teleportation talents of robot sidekick Sparks, who travels through space via jump cuts - I once taught a video class to a room of ten-year-olds who already knew that trick. But while you may be face-palming for the whole 98 minutes, you might just have a good time doing so; it moves from point to point pretty efficiently, and at each stop there's something wacky going on: nuclear rays, jousting, mutant child-shrubs, comically sped up vehicles, 2001-style space psychedelia topped by a perfectly unexpected lunkheaded punchline, planetary implosion. And let us not the priceless running gag of the enemy robots themselves, who spend the whole movie lumbering around uselessly like an army of epilated Ro-Men.

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