Stars: 3 of 5.
Running Time: 90 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Michael Ironside. Ernie Hudson, Molly Ringwald, Peter Strauss. Music by Elmer Bernstein. Produced by Ivan Reitman (GHOSTBUSTERS), Andre Link (MEATBALLS, RABID), John Dunning (writer, SNAKE EATER trilogy), and Don Carmody (TERROR TRAIN, PORKY'S).
Tag-line: "Journey with Wolff and Niki, an interstellar adventurer and young rebel. On a mission to rescue three stranded women from a planet no one has warned them about. Because no one has ever returned."
Best exchange: Ringwald: "But... you said if I made it through, I'm free..." Ironside: "I lied, nobody goes free! Chemist, prepare the Fusion Tube!"
I shall continue Ironside week with a film that doesn't usually make the shortlist of 'greatest Ironside roles,' but sometimes it makes the medium or the long lists. Your appreciation of the film will likely depend on when you saw it; people I've talked to who saw it as children sometimes place it on the same hallowed ground as say, WILLOW or LABYRINTH. Yet, I, having seen it only this year, can't quite muster the same sort of appreciation. Ironside is definitely great in this, but my biggest complaint is that he's not on screen nearly enough. In interviews, Ironside has reflected fondly upon this film, but has called it 'kitsch.' I say it's kinda like a mediocre CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE.
I mean, if a watered-down STAR WARS/ROAD WARRIOR mash-up sounds up your alley and you've already had your fill of BEYOND THUNDERDOME, then, by all means, give this a whirl. Everything about SPACEHUNTER is pretty generic, even the title: "SPACEHUNTER: ADVENTURES IN THE FORBIDDEN ZONE." Has quite a ring to it, right? Probably a better (though less accurate) title would be "SCALPHUNTER: THE ADVENTURES OF MICHAEL IRONSIDE." I'd watch THAT movie.
Now, SPACEHUNTER is in 3-D; but aside from the opening and end credits, which SWOOP and FOOOSH into the frame, it doesn't appear to take full advantage of the technology.
Our star is perennial TV-movie actor Peter Strauss, who's certainly not bad, but he's a far cry from the Han Solo-style hero we require. He weakly delivers a lot of smartass one-liners (like "I love this planet!" or "Works every time!"), and calls Molly Ringwald sardonic nicknames like "Princess" and "Kid," but, by God, he's no Harrison Ford. Ringwald plays one of those "ubiquitous, generic sci-fi urchins," who's clothed in a burlap sack, yet possesses immaculate teeth, coiffure, etc. Ringwald and Strauss' relationship is awkwardly fleshed out, and it's almost as if there were dueling screenwriters at work: one wanted them to be lovers, and another wanted them to be father and daughter... kinda creepin' me out over here.
Ernie Hudson plays 'The Black Guy,' and makes his underwritten role extremely likable, as always.
Karate-choppin' Ernie Hudson. No choppin' this time, unfortunately.
Finally, we get a villain: a diseased cyborg (?) named "Overdog" played by the one and only Michael Ironside. They've altered his voice (á la Freddy Krueger), disguised him beneath heavy makeup, and given him giant robot pinchers.
He's the kind of villain who's got all sorts of henchmen who say things like "Are you pleased?" and then Ironside responds "YOU'LL KNOW WHEN I'M NOT PLEASED."
He's also the kind of villain who presides over a giant THUNDERDOME/RUNNING MAN-style gauntlet called 'The Maze." Ultimately, though, he's criminally under-used.
There's a rollicking Elmer Bernstein score, a couple of semi-decent, proto-TOTAL RECALL monsters,
and we get to see an android's face melt, so I guess that counts for something.
Surely this counts for something.
But in all, I was often plagued by the thought, "I'd rather be watching HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN." Hmm. Three stars.