|THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME
|Copyright 1979 SOTTC Film Productions Ltd.
| Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 7 October 2003
- Jason - The young hero. He wears a suit that looks like an anatomy lesson.
- Kim - Daughter of a senator and head technician at mission control. That means she is the person who asks LOMAX, the master computer, "What is the best course of action?"
- Dr. Caball - Brilliant scientist and Jason's dad. He is killed by an annoying sound.
- Sparks - A salvaged robot that has 8-track slots for his programming chips and has the hots for Kim.
- Niki - The deposed governor of Delta 3. Making someone a "governor" over twelve workers seems silly.
- Omus - Jack Palance! The Robot Master of Delta 3; he wishes to rule over the whole of human civilization. Believe it or not.
- The Evil Robots - They were mining robots, but Omus modified them to create an unstoppable robot army! Too bad that they are hollow inside.
|This is a movie that we fondly refer to as "Blinky, Blinky." The reason becomes immediately apparent to anyone watching the film; almost every scene has a blinking light. Heck, some scenes have whole panels of alternately flashing bulbs. Why? Because it is the future! We even tried keeping track of how many shots have blinking lights. After ten minutes and thirty tickmarks, the effort was abandoned. Over three blinking light(s) per minute! The Perseids are rarely so colorful.
I have to point out that, in addition to the previously covered blinking lights issue, the film is literally filled with glittering and flashing effects. It is an epileptic's nightmare. The only worse film for someone who has seizures would be a monster movie about a mutant disco ball running rampant on a planet subject to chromatic radiation. And, in the end, the scientists would discover that the only way to destroy the disco ball was with strobe lights. That might be more likely to cause a grand mal or petite mal episode.
A little bit of overkill there. The film I described definitely would be an epileptic's worst nightmare, but "The Shape of Things to Come" would not be a wise viewing choice either.
We begin with some scrolling text telling us the backstory (this was made in 1979). Earth is a devastated wreck, the result of the robot wars. The bastion of human civilization is the moon, though the population there requires RADIC-Q-2 to survive. RADIC-Q-2 is a mineral, found only on Delta 3, that cures radiation poisoning. Now, I can live with Earth being forsaken as a radioactive wasteland, but, obviously, they are doing little better on the moon. If you are going to suffer from radiation sickness anyway, why not do it on Mother Earth? There are a couple amenities on Earth that cannot be discounted: air, water, gravity that the human body is adapted for, and also a protective atmosphere. I can see little reason for living on the moon, besides a lower escape velocity and the fact that it is the future.
The moon's mission control room goes to yellow alert when a cargo ship is detected on a collision course with New Washington; Kim is the watch officer. The sinister robot pilot of the spacecraft engages "Cobalt Override," which apparently makes it impossible for LOMAX to gain remote control of the vessel. Helpless, Kim and Jason can only watch as the city's outer dome is breached by the impact. (See, this is why you need an atmosphere or, at least, a point defense system.) No citizens are killed, thanks to a flawless fire evacuation plan. The shaken staff of mission control barely has time to catch their breath before Omus makes a videophone call to gloat. With his army of robots and kamikaze ships, Omus now controls Delta 3 and the supply of RADIC-Q-2. He demands to be made supreme ruler of humanity.
LOMAX recommends surrendering to the madman's demands, but Caball knows that you have to stand up to a tyrant (humans operate on principle, while LOMAX is going off of averages). The governing council decides to follow the master computer's advice. With the help of Jason and Kim, Dr. Caball steals Starstreak, a revolutionary ship built for defensive purposes, and sets out on the "perilous journey" to Delta 3. Sparks comes along too.
Hold the phone... ...supply ships full of RADIC-Q-2 obviously travel back and forth between Delta 3 and the Moon. Why would the Starstreak have any problem making a standard cargo run? The ship does have problems. It breaks down before even leaving Earth's orbital path. (Is that a ram that I see on the hood?) The closet place to make repairs is on Earth, only a short six hundred hour trip away. Twenty-five days to go from a point near the moon to Earth? Egad! Maybe the overall idea for electric spacecraft (less harmful emissions than ion drives) is poorly conceived.
Jason and Kim go down to the planet to visit an old friend of Dr. Caball's and to collect repair parts. Jason cannot find squat, but Kim is kidnapped by a tribe of Eloi children wearing ghillie suits. With Sparks' help, Jason finally tracks her down where the children are living amongst rusting nuclear missiles and lorries. Most of the little ones are suffering from severe cases of radiation poisoning. The compassionate pair of adults leave the children on Earth, still in the uranium junkyard, and depart for Delta 3.
My God, did you read the last paragraph? I keep looking at it in disbelief myself. It sounds absurd.
On Delta 3, Niki and her associates in exile are trying to reach the radio console to contact Earth. They sneak in, but are attacked by a unit of Omus' robots. The scientists, using improvised weapons, defeat the combat machines! Hahahaha! Then they escape the pursuing force of robots by walking away! This whole section is almost a parody of movies like "Robot Monster."
Eventually, the Starstreak arrives at Delta 3. Dr. Caball finds his old friend Niki (who is attempting to build a communication array using spare parts). Unfortunately, the robots find the rebels at the same time. The situation looks bad until a hologram of Omus directs Dr. Caball to accompany the robots back to the tyrant's lair. The two scientists square off, then Omus kills his mentor with a flashing/science sound machine. (Ha! Flashing lights are used to kill someone in this movie; that is almost poetic.) Omus dons a ridiculous helmet before turning on the deadly light and sound machine.
Omus' plan is to engage Delta 3's self-destruct mechanism, load a ship full of RADIC-Q-2, kill Jason and the others, and then go to Earth's moon, where he will be welcomed as a hero. The problem with this is that the rest of humanity already knows he is a megalomaniac who tried blackmailing the government with kamikaz attacks. Luckily (for coherency's sake), Jason manages to defeat Omus and the surviving good guys blast off. The would be emperor of humanity is left to die as the planet breaks apart.
There is an incredibly funny scene near the end of the movie. Jack Palance is sitting at his control panel, waiting for the inevitable end to arrive. Since the planet is shaking itself apart, they start dropping debris from above. One large piece of styrofoam (supposedly a steel beam) hits Jack square on top of the head. He looks genuinely distressed. Do not blink or else you will miss it, because Jack goes right back to acting like he is serenely waiting for oblivion (after being hit over the head with a few hundred pounds of steel beam).
|Things I Learned From This Movie:|| |
- Epcot Center will eventually become the seat of world government.
- Evacuating a city in under twelve minutes is possible.
- Just when you think a film cannot get any shinier or flashier, here comes a man waltzing around in an aluminum foil suit.
- Metal quarterstaves and trash can lids are not the weapons of choice for fighting combat robots.
- Benny Hill was involved in the making of at least one science fiction movie.
- Building your daycare facility on top of a nuclear weapons dump is a bad idea.
- The noise made by a Jetson's flying car is lethal to humans.
- Jack Palance has a big, hard head.
- 2 mins - Look, a blinking light!
- 12 mins - How does the dome repair procedure work? I ask, because "magic" seems to be the best description.
- 24 mins - "We shall fight in the craters. We shall fight in trenches dug into the regolith. We shall never surrender!"
- 29 mins - Can planets have bad hair days?
- 30 mins - Not a shining example of SMEAC, this plan.
- 36 mins - RANDOM ACT OF VIOLENCE AGAINST A PIPE!
- 41 mins - This ship would lose its head, if it was not attached. Huh, fancy that...
- 50 mins - I am waiting for two gorillas on horseback to appear.
- 61 mins - I do not know how the robots benefit by scattering the cattail's seeds, but nature's ways are often esoteric.
- Kim: "No. Sparks, you gotta stay here."
Sparks: "Whither thou goest, I will go."
| ||Audio clips in wav format||SOUNDS||Starving actors speak out|| |
||Kim talking to LOMAX.
||Dr. Caball: "This is madness! You're talking more like a blackmailer, than a man of science!" |
Senator: "John, don't provoke him."
||Sparks: "These old weapons are leaking toxic substances. I suggest the children be treated with RADIC-Q-2 as soon as possible."
||Omus: "You are the one who inspired me, taught me to place science above all else!" |
Dr. Caball: "But never above humanity!"
|Theme Song|| Listen to a clip from the soundtrack. |
| ||Click for a larger image||IMAGES||Scenes from the movie|| |
| ||Watch a scene||VIDEO||MPEG video files|| |
|The Evil Robot Army somehow snuck up on and then surrounded the good guys. Why Jason and the others do not just duck between the ponderous things and then escape is a big question.
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