A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 307 – Megaforce

Megaforce – January 1st, 2011

I will admit, I am feeling burnt out. Maybe it was last night’s movie and the vast amounts of analysis on it that I’ve avoided reading. Maybe it’s that we’ve been at this for over 300 days without a break, even through PAX East and a late evening trip to the ER. We’re two months away from spending a year doing this and even then we’ll probably still have around 200 movies to go (I’m betting on us getting another fifteen to twenty movies between now and then). In some ways it’s more daunting to look at from here than it was when we started. There’s something about knowing just how much we’ve done and how much there still is to go.

But still! We have a movie to watch, and we had to pick something for New Year’s Day. Something to set the tone for the year. What better than something picked up out of the bargain bin at the video store we used to work at? Starring Persis Khambatta, Barry Bostwick and Henry Silva? Something that we thought was a retitling of the done-by-MST3K Warrior of the Lost World (which we do plan on purchasing) until we read the cast? Really, it’s perfect, for the same reason Sharks in Venice was perfect for our anniversary. Watching this, I cannot believe we own it and it doesn’t have some professional movie riffers providing commentary.

I should clarify that this movie really isn’t much like Warrior of the Lost World at all, aside from the super motorcycle and Persis Khambatta and general freedom fighters against fascists story. But only in general. In particular it’s about a couple of representatives of some foreign army going to find Megaforce, a secret mercenary group that fights for causes of freedom and whatnot, to hire them to help them fight the invading Duke Guerara. Where is this all happening? Who cares. It’s happening somewhere. Somewhere that needs help from Ace Hunter and his band of super soldiers.

We’re not entirely certain of the geography of this movie. It was all filmed in Nevada and it’s pretty obvious. It’s all desert. The names of the fictional countries at war are unclear (Sardoon and Golibia? Gomibia? Our VHS copy’s soundtrack just isn’t clear enough there for us to be sure) but we can be certain that they have desert! We just don’t know where that desert is. Not that it matters! They’re not really at war, though. The evil country is raiding the good country and blowing up their factories and kidnapping their people, but the good country can’t prove anything and can’t cross the border since that’ll be an overt act of war. So they call in Megaforce and Megaforce heads in and… all but crosses the border, which would be an overt act of war, so the whole thing gets called off after a skirmish and then there’s a flying motorcycle. I am not in any way simplifying things here. There’s a short battle with explosions, and then the good country’s military leaders show up and tell Ace Hunter that they’ll have to call it off so they don’t start a war. Megaforce has to carefully pull out in such a way that they don’t start a war or get ambushed by the bad guys and Ace Hunter ends up flying his motorcycle onto a plane to get out in time.

Oh, and Ace Hunter knows Duke Guerera. Obviously! They’re old buddies who are now enemies, apparently because of a stolen lighter? Who knows. Who cares! Henry Silva plays Guerera and chews scenery like his life depends on it. Henry Silva, for all your Henry Silva needs! Barry Bostwick plays Ace Hunter with a similar level of mastication and the two of them ham it up together, slapping each other’s backs and trading knowing barbs worthy of the best Toblerones. Silva, in particular, has some great “You magnificent bastard!” laughing moments at the end. It’s this bizarre high stakes friendly military rivalry. The whole second half of the movie is devoted to this odd set-up with the not-a-war and lots of explosions and mini rockets and flashy motorcycles and dune buggies and rainbow colored smoke screens. The first half of the movie, on the other hand. Oh, the first half of the movie.

The first half of the movie is the introduction of Megaforce. They’re a rather diverse group of elite soldiers living in a secret base in the desert (of course) with all sorts of high tech equipment. When we get there we meet Dallas, the cowboy comic relief (played by Michael Beck from The Warriors) and a number of other members of the group, all different ethnicities and possibly nationalities but I admit I never caught some of their shoulder flags – and I’ll get to the shoulder flags in a moment. One in particular made us grin as he’s played by Evan Kim, whom we know best from Kentucky Fried Movie. The Megaforce base has a huge hangar, lots of computers and also a classy restaurant with candlesticks and carpets. It’s so incredibly and hilariously over the top, it’s fantastic. It’s definitely a case of so bad it’s good, what with the cheese and effects and all.

Now, do I have some somewhat serious issues with the movie outside of the cheesy production values and script and the overwrought soundtrack and laughable effects? Yes, yes I do. It is a plot point that Hunter assumes Khambatta’s character, Major Zara, is totally useless and couldn’t possibly be combat trained. Of course she proves him wrong, in a lengthy montage of combat skill tests. And of course they apparently fall in love during said tests, as evidenced by the mid-air skydiving romance and the fact that even when he flat out tells her that he’s been wasting her time cause he’s not letting her come on the mission anyhow cause she’d be distracting, she’s all “Oh, I understand, cause you’re dreamy!” Whatever. It’s not like I expected gender equality here.

See, the thing is, I go into a movie like this expecting cheese. I expect a thoroughly ridiculous action movie full of stereotypes and unfunny comic relief and bad acting and stilted writing. And I don’t expect equality, as I said. But it’s like the movie went out of its way to kick me in the ovaries. I expect it’s horribly offensive in other ways too, what with the bad guy with the bad German accent and all. Oh, and there’s a Stargate sort of deal going on with all the Megaforce soldiers having their nation-of-origin’s flags on their shoulders (alas, while I could tell that some of them weren’t the USA flag I also couldn’t quite identify them in the quick glance I got), but the stereotypical cowboy, Dallas? He gets the Confederate flag. What do you even say to that?

I really wish that the sexism hadn’t been so blatant and that they’d left the flags off the uniforms because without them this would be a ridiculous but fun piece of 80s action cheese. With them, it’s frustrating. They’re little things in the grand scheme of the movie (the flags aren’t visible most of the time and the stuff with poor super competent but Y-chromosome-challenged Major Zara is done halfway through and does involve Zara kicking ass), but they leave a sour taste in my mouth. I want to love this utterly laughable movie without reservation in the way I love Sharks in Venice. But I can’t. I’ll have to ignore bits in order to love it. And I can! Because I’m willing to move past the offensive crap to embrace the cheesy crap. When a movie ends on the line “The good guys always win. Even in the Eighties!” I can cope with compartmentalizing the movie. So, even with my reservations, I’ve got to say this was the right movie to watch tonight. It was weird and ridiculous and fun, but I could also bitch about it a little, and thoroughly justifiably I believe. And it made me laugh. We own this. We own this movie and now we have watched it.

January 1, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Megaforce

January 1, 2011

Megaforce

“The good guys always win – even in the Eighies.”

As sometimes happens with us this movie is not what we thought it was. When we bought this wonderful piece of cheese we thought it was the classic low-budget action film Warrior of the Lost World starring Persis Khambatta and the Paper Chase guy as featured on MST3K. In fact is is a marvelously eighties military fantasy starring Persis Khambatta and Brad from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. And oh, is this movie awesome!

Apparently in 1982 the guy who directed Smokey and the Bandit and Cannonball Run made a kind of live action G.I. Joe movie aimed at eleven year old boys. It involves a top secret military organization funded and staffed by the collective nations of the free world. Their job is to execute military maneuvers behind enemy lines using the most advanced technological machines known to man.

Using a collection of high tech dune buggies and motorcycles outfitted with chameleon paint, missile launchers, lasers, holograph projectors and other secret doodads the multi-racial and multi-national Megafoce gang are sent on a mission to lure a mercenary warlord out of the country of Gollybia by destroying an ammo dump and then leading him on a merry chase. The plan is that once they lure Guerera across the boarder allied troops (who are not allowed to cross the boarder for fear of creating an international incident) can fall upon him with their tanks and whatnot and destroy him. Unfortunately for Megaforce their strike is too overwhelmingly successful and as they approach the boarder they are told that they cannot return to allied soil because it would then be to obvious that the destruction they wrought was a blatant act of war. So they are trapped behind enemy lines and Guerera is waiting for them in the dry lake bed which is the only possible landing spot for their troop transports so they have no way to get out. Oh no!

It’s not much of a plot, but really it’s just an excuse for a whole bunch of stuff to explode in a desert. The first twenty minutes or so of the movie are the best part – with general Byrne-White (Edward Mulhare, the boss from Knight Rider) and Major Zara (Persis Khambatta from Star Trek: The Motion Picture) touring the secret underground Megaforce base. It’s a vast underground lair with multiple levels that include fine dining, residential areas and a cinema. If I, at eleven years old, had been told to design the secret underground lair of a secret fighting force with unlimited funds this is the lair I would have designed. We meet a few representatives of the Megaforce crew including country redneck Dallas (played by Michael Beck from The Warriors,) Zachary Taylor (the black one) and Suki (the Asian one – played by Evan Kim of Kentucky Fried Movie fame.) Oh, and their resident Q-analogue Dr. Eggman Eggstrom, who has invented all kinds of amazing tech – such as the computerised monitoring system that listens in on every conversation in every military base in the world. And of course there’s the hotshot leader of Megaforce, Ace Hunter. Ace Hunter wears a jumpsuit with his motorcycle helmet lashed to one leg and has a huge mop of blond hair held in a giant tower by a bandanna. Barry Bostwick seems to have some trouble walking in the getup a few times, but he doesn’t let it phase him – he just plays Ace as the biggest hammy G.I. Joe stereotype you can imagine.

The nefarious villain, Duke Guerera, is played by Henry Silva – who very clearly took this job for a quick buck. Duke and Ace used to be fast friends sometime in the past, but Duke stole Ace’s lighter, so now they’re bitter foes. I shit you not! That’s the actual explanation given for their falling out!

After the whole “meet the team” section of the movie it’s off to the desert to blow some stuff up. And for the next forty minutes or so there’s nothing but things blowing up. The stunts and action have an A-Team sort of quality to them with masses of enemy troops being completely unable to hit our heroes while the good guys destroy everything in their path. There is a vast army of stunt men on motorcycles here, and I kind of get the impression that Hal Needham (being a stuntman himself in addition to a writer and director) was sort of making a lot of work for his buddies. I also get the impression that much of the action was blocked out by kids crouching in the sand with action figures. If the words “pew-pew you’re dead now!” were not uttered during the production of this film I will be astonished.

I’m kind of flabbergasted by this movie. During the climax of the film, as the Megaforce team are making their escape and Ace literally flies his motorcycle off the ground and into the fleeing troop transport Henry Silva’s character Duke has this gobsmacked look of utter disbelief on his face – and it was that exact look that was on our faces as we watched. This movie clearly had a pretty large budget what with all the missiles, explosions, smokescreens, motorcycles and stunts. Somebody at 20th Century Fox shelled out an awful lot of dough to make this utterly unbelievably cheesy and awful movie. Thank goodness, because how else could treasures like this come into being. I’m shattered that they never made a sequel where we could see their ocean base and high tech boats (which Dallas mentions offhandedly at one point.)

January 1, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | 1 Comment