Solar Force

Director:Boaz Davidson                                 
Michael Pare, Billy Drago, Walker Brandt

At one point in Solar Force, the close captioning reads [Grunts of combat] as two of the characters get into a struggle. I think that would be a better title for this movie, since the movie is more concerned with fighting than presenting logic, or a script structured enough to fit a feature-length running time. Still, the present title is a lot better than the original title (Lunar Cop) because only about five minutes of this Road Warrior clone actually take place on the moon!

Those bits of silliness are just the tip of the amount of ridiculous material found in Solar Force, a movie directed by Boaz Davidson(*), who is more well known for his youth-oriented sex comedies. So it's odd that he would be chosen to direct something completely unlike his previous work, and it's inevitable that he seems to be out of his league here. Not just because of the completely different genre, but because of the budget he was saddled with. Take the opening of the movie, where we are taken to an outside view of a lunar base in the year 2050. The base is obviously a model placed on some kind of table covered with sand, with a photo blowup of space behind it. The interior of the moon base isn't that much better, with the space uniforms of the inhabitants and the set design looking like it was designed by the people who did the same tasks on the old Star Trek show, including those good old sliding doors obviously pulled by hidden stagehands.

The set design actually becomes one of the lesser problems in the movie quickly, because the story then starts. We learn that it's been 27 years since the "Big Burn", which seems to have been when the ozone layer went away, drying up the world. Um, the ozone layer may be fading, but I don't think any conditions would make it disappear overnight. Anyway, the lucky few live on the moon, while the few remaining people on earth live in desert conditions. The space station scientists have just completed the "Amaranth", a formula that will fix the atmosphere. But shortly afterwards, a terrorist group called "The Extremists" strike, and though lunar cop Joe Brody (Pare) blows a lot of them away, they still manage to send the formula to Earth. Okay, now how could a terrorist group - which is indicated to have been there for a while - manage to stay hidden on a relatively small space station? How did they get weapons smuggled in from earth? For that matter, how are they able to send the formula to Earth - Federal Express?

Brody is brought into a meeting by his chief, and is told, "We want you to go down and bring it back." "I understand, Chief," he says. "Good luck, Brody." are the words of advice he then gets. Immediately he gets onto a spaceship and flies down to earth with another blurred photograph of a spacescape in the background. We next see a shot of the desert on Earth, and a caption helpfully tells us, "The Earth". We next see Brody riding a motorcycle - huh? How did he get a motorcycle? For that matter, how did he know where to land his spaceship in order to find the Amaranth? It doesn't seem to matter, because that part of the plot is largely forgotten for the next while. That's because Brody bumps into a pretty woman named Thora while she is being prepared for rape by Kay (a tired looking Billy Drago), the sunburned and slobbering leader of "The Rough Boys", a motorcycle gang in the area. After saving her and driving off Kay, Brody seems to forget his mission and concentrates on helping her fellow villagers defend themselves against the gang while romancing her.

Maybe had this change in plot (which takes up most of the rest of the movie) been entertaining, I wouldn't have minded so much about the Amaranth being forgotten, but it all turns out to be an entire waste of time from this point until when the Amaranth is remembered again. This part of the movie goes something like this: Kay sends his idiot second-in-command (why would anyone employ such an obvious idiot to be his second-in-command? For that matter, why do evil leaders like this always employ idiots/comic relief baddies as their second-in-commands?) to invade the village, and are fought off by the villagers with the help of Brody. Brody and the villagers prepare for the next invasion by Kay and the remaining bikers. There's a big invasion, and at the end Brody kills Kay. Then the matter about the Amaranth is brought up again. All of this takes up about half of the movie. And for what? It doesn't affect the plot in any real way; if this entire section was deleted and maybe a few lines rewritten, there would be no noticeable gap in the story (what there is) The rest of the movie is a rip-off of the two Terminator movies, as an unstoppable cyborg is sent down to finish the job Brody now refuses to do.

The middle of the movie is just an excuse to pump in more action scenes, nothing more. And they aren't great action scenes anyway. The only good parts are when we see motorcycles flying into the air in slow motion; it's cool the first few times, but seeing it over and over quickly becomes monotonous. Speaking of visuals, the cinematography is very good, and the desert (filmed in Namibia) looks cool. The script has one or two twists in it, but viewers' eyes might already be glazed over from being numbed by the sea of utter stupidity the movie offers in just about every aspect. Numerous questions came to mind as I was watching this movie, including:

- Is screenwriter Terrence Pare related to Michael Pare? (If yes, that would explain how this movie got made.)

- Has Michael Pare ever been in a movie where he hasn't worn a black vest (or shirt)?

- If the village is under attack by the Rough Boys all the time, and the villagers are lousy in combat, how come the village still exists? And how come they leave the front gates wide open so that the bikers can race in at any time?

- Why don't the villagers live in the numerous abandoned cities that still must be around, instead of making their own homemade village in the middle of nowhere, and away from supplies?

- If the villagers have western accents, how come their clothes look African?

- If it can't rain, how are the villagers still getting well water after 27 years? (Must be a big underground reservoir that hasn't completely drained out to sea yet.)

- The Rough Boys' hideout looks suspiciously like a set from Davidson's American Cyborg. Is this an unofficial sequel?

- How can Brody shoot speeding bikers off their bikes from a distance with a sawed-off shotgun?

- Did Davidson think it was really necessary to imitate Home Alone's painful antics in one scene with a boy and an evil biker, complete with nyah-nyah sounding music?

- Speaking of music, why does the score keep changing styles throughout the movie?

- How did that evil cyborg bury himself and his motorbike under the ground, and manage to pop out and fly high into the air?

- How come the explosions the cyborg go through slap on thick-looking burn makeup on his face, but don't affect his clothing?

- Why am I still talking about this movie?

Also reviewed at: Cold Fusion Video

* With a name like that, I hope Mr. Davidson spent all of his childhood in Israel, and not in any English-speaking country.

Check for availability on Amazon (DVD)

See also: Omega Doom, Spoiler, Terminal Justice