This movie is a great take on retro sci-fi.
I’ve spoken before about my love of old-school science fiction, including about some of the great modern day takes on the genre by Christopher R. Mihm in his films Weresquito: Nazi Hunter and The Monster of Phantom Lake. There’s something so pure about the cheap sets and terrible acting that always amuse me. It’s also true that it’s a little hard to do a really good parody of those old films, not because it can’t be done, but because the nature of the source material is bordering on self-parody already. This movie manages to do a great parody by starting out playing the genre fairly straight, then slowly giving the paper-thin characters more depth and letting that become the parody.
The film starts with a title crawl introducing us to the characters (but also mentioning that we’re joining the series in medias res): Space captain and hero of heroes Rocky Lazer (Matthew Wise), his companion, the president’s daughter, and the first female professor on Earth Jean Jarvis (Alicia Barnatchez), Rocky’s sidekick Chip Skipper (Jeremy Mather), and the engineer that designed Rocky’s ship the X-1, the annoying Doctor Horst Karlock (Jared Warner). They have been sent to stop the evil King Xayno (Writer Jeff Sproul) from using his gravity ray to crash the moon into the Earth.
At first, this plays out pretty straight, albeit with a few hints that things aren’t quite right. Xayno’s cues aren’t timed right and, most notably, Jean doesn’t seem to be too sure about Rocky’s statements about the two being in love. From there, the film slowly shows more and more hints that perhaps things aren’t as perfect as they appear. As the story progresses, Rocky starts to explore his feelings, a thing that “manly” men aren’t allowed to do and starts to question why he does many of the stereotypical hero things he does. The same happens with many of the characters, with seeming stock characters actually stopping to consider their inner desires and showing more than you’d expect. At the same time, the movie is filled with funny jokes and running gags, including the absolutely amazing gag that Chip Skipper just keeps dying. In almost every scene he’s in, he dies, only to mysteriously reappear later just in time to die again.
The best parts of this movie are when it stops being a parody or even a sci-fi film and just plays some of the scenes straight, sometimes even putting real-world physics into scenes that were previously dominated by essentially fantasy logic. There are a lot of great uses of intentionally cheap sets and props. At several points, “reels” go missing and the film moves forward, often with a fun wink to the audience that somehow works.
Overall, a great film and I very much recommend it.