Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Shape of Things to Come (1979)


Scads of shameless producers pounced on the success of Star Wars (1977) by cranking out low-budget crap stuffed with robots and spaceships, so there’s a lot of competition for the title of worst Star Wars rip-off. By most measures I can summon to mind, however, the misbegotten Canadian turkey The Shape of Things to Come may be the winner in this particular sweepstakes. Clumsily adapted from an H.G. Wells novel and boasting not only a profoundly awful screenplay but also a completely halfhearted approach to acting, directing, production design, and storytelling in general, this is the sort of dorky tedium that gives space opera a bad name. Set in the standard sci-fi milieu of the postapocalyptic future, the movie details a battle between government officials in New Washington, a human HQ on the surface of the moon, and cape-wearing megalomaniac Omus (Jack Palance), who uses his army of robots (Palace pronounces the word as “row-butts”) to hoard supplies of a life-giving medicine found only on his remote outpost of Delta 3. Several heroic types from New Washington launch an experimental new vessel to overthrow Delta 3, leading to battles between interchangeable human characters in goofy bodysuits and cheaply constructed robots who look like dudes waddling around in tricked-out garbage cans (actually, they probably are dudes waddling around in tricked-out garbage cans). The rudimentary musical score is produced so badly that it sounds like it’s being played off a warped LP, and the producers believe that shooting everything with cheap gimmicks like star filters will make images look otherworldly. The acting is consistently atrocious, from Palance’s usual phoned-in ghoulishness to Carol Lynley’s bland earnestness, and it’s hard to appreciate the handful of decent spaceship shots since they’re repeated ad nauseum and intercut with hopelessly static interiors. Lethargic, stilted, and uninvolving, The Shape of Things to Come is pure spacejunk.

The Shape of Things to Come: SQUARE

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