Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (1983)
Release Date: May 20th, 1983 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Lamont Johnson Actors: Peter Strauss, Molly Ringwald, Ernie Hudson, Andrea Marcovicci, Michael Ironside, Deborah Pratt, Aleisa Shirley
he film is produced by Ivan Reitman, the director of “Meatballs,” “Stripes,” “Ghostbusters,” and “Kindergarten Cop,” which almost guarantees a good-natured, fun-filled, all around jovial adventure. Taking advantage of the slew of postapocalyptic science-fiction flicks of the ‘80s, “Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone” tries to recreate the thrills of “The Road Warrior” or “Escape from New York,” while also interestingly lending concepts to “Waterworld,” “Circuitry Man,” and “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai.” Although it presents a handful of enjoyable ideas, it falls very short of crafting any notable contributions to the genre.
Condensation from molten gases causes damage to a space cruise liner, which results in a massive explosion that ejects an escape shuttle containing three humanoid women. The life pod automatically searches for an Earth-type habitable planet nearby, while a rescue notice is sent out across the galaxy, offering 3000 Mega Credits for the safe return of the survivors. The resting place for the escape craft turns out to be Terra XI, a planet whose exploration commenced in 2013 but was overrun by a particularly nasty plague. By 2022, the planet was abandoned and is now currently slapped with a Quarantine Restricted status.
Touting 105 parking tickets, a 3-month failure to send his ex-wife a check, and 2 months of late rent, salvager Wolff (Peter Strauss) is the man for the mission. Accompanied by android co-pilot Chalmers (Andrea Marcovicci), he lands on the barren desert wasteland, knowing full well that lunatic renegade “Overdog” McNabb (Michael Ironside) runs the place like Colonel Kurtz. After interfering in a civil war battle between marauders and scavengers, with the winner retrieving the three lost women, Wolff misguidedly picks up teenaged thief and tracker Niki the Twister (Molly Ringwald), who claims to be able to take him to Overdog’s lair in the Forbidden Zone. He’s also forced into partnering with old training buddy and new Sector Chief Washington (Ernie Hudson), who insists they split the reward money 50/50.
The acting is quite atrocious, thanks largely to stale dialogue and poor character designs. Molly Ringwald brings her high-pitched, winey voice to the table, worsened by the fact that Niki is written to rattle off dialogue at a mile per minute, utilizing slang-heavy speech (like an uncreative version of Nadsat). It combines rather ineffectively with the technical jargon Wolff and Chalmers use on their ship (such as spectometer, bulletext scan, and Stalemate War). In contrast, the set designs are amusing, as are the heavily modified vehicles and various alien species. Massive land ships fuse the look of pirate water vessels, a train, and futuristic steampunk ornamentation, while creatures consist of Amazonian “Barracuda” she-devils, dragon snakes, and naked blubbery fat monsters.
The opening titles practically spoof “Star Trek,” accompanied by pitifully hopeful “Star Wars” music derivations. The majority of fight scenes aren’t properly enhanced by the score, which greatly limits their momentum and suspense; when the orchestration does swell, it’s for unimportant scenes, such as when Wolff forces Niki to bath. The action is laid out like an obstacle course traversed in the film, with random explosions, steam, and sparks bursting from items in close proximity of fleeing heroes. The special effects by Thomas R. Burman are of equally haphazard construction, perfectly matching the spontaneous rescue plot, Overdog’s undefined mobility (he’s half machine and rotated around by an enormous mechanical arm), and the grab bag costumes by Julie Weiss, struggling to represent even remotely imaginative futuristic garb.
– Mike Massie