Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann (1982)
Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann (1982)

Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 1 hr. 34 min.

Release Date: August 27th, 1982 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: William Dear Actors: Fred Ward, Belinda Bauer, Peter Coyote, Richard Masur, Tracey Walter, Ed Lauter, L.Q. Jones, Chris Mulkey, Laurie O’Brien

 


 

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ndependent, secretive company CCI’s “Project Timerider” is the latest experiment in time travel, now being conducted with a female monkey as the first test subject. The goal is to transport her to the year 1862, before then bringing her back to present day. To avoid the meddling press and inconvenient governmental considerations, the doctors and scientists involved ensconce the mission out in a Mexican desert, far away from prying eyes. But, coincidentally, it’s not far enough away from civilization to avoid the path of #82 at the Baja 1000 dirtbike race, Lyle Swann (Fred Ward), who happens to be cruising through the vicinity.

When Lyle mistakes one of Dr. Sam’s (Macon McCalman) flags for a race marker, he unwittingly drives into the time travel zone, getting transported alongside the monkey, who rests comfortably inside a metal, cylindrical contraption. But just as the simian is returned to its former time, Swann happens to step outside the boundary, leaving him stranded in the tiny town of San Marcos in, approximately, the year 1875. His first encounter with an elderly man camping in the wilderness ends with the oldtimer succumbing to a heart attack, thanks to the appearance of Lyle’s motorcycle, flashlight, and bright red uniform.

The premise is undoubtedly fascinating, posing plenty of opportunities for creative or adventurous interactions with people and places of the distant past. But “Timerider’s” storytellers don’t quite know how to take this setup and turn it into something extraordinary. The initial moments in the Old West not only lack the humor that they should have inherently possessed, but they’re also devoid of action or suspense. This carries on into the introduction of bloodthirsty outlaw Porter Reese (Peter Coyote) and his gang of bandits, who aren’t funny or intimidating during sequences in which they’re intended to be alternately comical and fearsome.

It’s not long before another avenue is explored – that of romance – with the somewhat anachronistically pretty Claire Cygne (Belinda Bauer). But it becomes just one more component of this fish-out-of-water tale that isn’t handled well (unpredictably, it begins with sex, before transitioning to flirting – both of which exhibit no chemistry or genuineness). There’s so much potential in the basic concepts, but scene after scene falls flat, unable to muster suspense, anticipation, or thrills. For a movie about a time-traveling BMX daredevil combating revolver-toting cowboys, this sure is a bland affair. Even the most primitive sense of wonderment is conspicuously omitted.

“She blew his nose clean off!” Even when shootouts or chase sequences arise, the editing and choreography only work to anesthetize them. A noticeable absence of music, particularly during the building of momentum, is similarly troubling. It’s as if the filmmakers are purposely trying to manufacture the dullest possible sci-fi/fantasy imaginable. The Western elements, the comic relief (and virtually all of the dialogue), the love story, and the “futuristic” visitor with his technological advancements all pose possibilities for fun; instead, none of them provide excitement or effective contrasts or anything notably unique. “Timerider” is uncommonly, upsettingly, unbelievably pitiful.

– Mike Massie

  • 1/10