Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Galaxis (1995)

Even though she was the star of the 1985 non-epic Red Sonja, which debuted months before it, I think a great many of us remember the first time we saw Brigitte Nielsen as being in Rocky IV portraying the icy Russkie, Ludmilla.  This is probably due to the former film being an absolute box office bomb.  Arguably, she made an even bigger impact in both Cobra as the icy cult target, Ingrid, and in Beverly Hills Cop II as the icy thief, Karla Fry.  Are you noticing a trend here?  Honestly, I don’t think Ms. Nielsen’s appeal was ever in her looks (though her chiseled features are certainly attractive) but in the underlying threat she poses.  Between her statuesque physical build and the forbidding demeanor she cultivated in her onscreen performances, I think the fact that she looks like she could snap you in half during the act of lovemaking is her real draw.  It’s sort of like how so many women (and men, let’s be fair) say they like “bad boys” in that it’s strictly a superficial allure, but holy shit, it’s effective (and also applicable to strippers).  I couldn’t say whether the same applies to people in regards to Richard Moll, but in William Mesa’s completely non-seminal Galaxis (aka Terminal Force aka Star Crystal) you can make the comparison for yourself.

The people of the planet Sintaria are besieged by the evil minions of Kyla (Moll), an interplanetary despot determined to get his hands on a special crystal that will bestow upon him enormous power.  Said crystal is in the hands of the noble Lord Tarkin (Craig Fairbrass), but after a valiant battle is waged, Kyla finally gains control of the crystal.  But wait!  It seems there is another crystal, and Tarkin’s sister Lidera (Nielsen) travels guess-where to find the second relic and save her people.  

If Harlan Ellison could sue James Cameron and Orion Pictures over The Terminator, than I would say that all three plus George Lucas could easily bring suit against the producers of this film (and the producers of damn near every Sword And Sorcery film ever made could probably get in on the action, too).  You have the very first scene, which is straight out of the original Star Wars, with a large battle cruiser firing on a smaller, less-well-armed ship.  You have the idea of an evil empire trying to crush a peaceful people who have learned to fight back with what they have.  You have the “advanced” Science Fiction character having to wade through the “primitive” world of modern Earth.  You have the character that slowly discovers his heroic side (kind of).  And there’s the idea, once again, that Earth is the fulcrum of the entire Universe.  It’s funny how often this is the case in films of a fantastic nature.  On the one hand, it’s the sort of conceit that seems fairly, well, conceited.  On the other hand, it’s cheaper than trying to build sets and create an alien world for a low budget movie.  Plus, for as self-involved as it is on its surface, it also touches on the idea that there is something innate in humanity itself which marks us as exceptional.  Call it the “human spirit,” if you like.  Of course, the veracity of this concept can be debated for years, but it is inarguable that it holds a strong fascination for the majority of film-going audiences.  

Two of the themes that not only Galaxis but also its progenitors rely heavily on are those of a normal person discovering their inner hero and the old fish out of water gimmick.  The Rising Hero has been a motif for centuries (for example, King Arthur and the sword in the stone), and it’s something viewers enjoy, because it touches on that silent longing everyone has that they can (or would; take your pick) defeat the villain and rescue the damsel, that they make a major difference in the world.  Of course, this can inspire people to genuine greatness.  But what it discounts is that we do make a difference in the world, it’s just that we’re blind to it, because we don’t feel particularly special.  It’s the whole premise on which It’s A Wonderful Life is based.  Similarly, the fish out of water is typically played for humor.  The juxtaposition of disparate cultures (and the subsequent culture shock) is funny, because of the reactions the proverbial fish has to what he/she encounters.  It’s only when the fish begins to assimilate into and interact with this foreign culture that they can (usually) get down to the business of the first of these two themes.  All of this said, this particular film, while having these elements in it, do little to nothing with them (what a shock it must be hearing that from me).  Our milquetoast hero Jed (John H. Brennan) never becomes half the warrior that Lidera (or Sarah Connor, for that matter) is.  Likewise, neither Kyla nor Lidera seem at all perplexed by what they encounter on Earth.  It’s as if the filmmakers saw the films they were ripping off, but understood nothing about how they work.  Naturally, it’s also conceivable that they saw these tropes and decided to try to do them differently.  But it doesn’t totally succeed if that was their intended goal.

Still, this is a direct-to-video Sci-Fi/Action film, and it does load the running time with the exploitable elements required for a hybrid of these genres (with the exception of nudity).  There are some quite good practical effects throughout the film, including a lot of nice miniature work.  The matting is sometimes a bit spotty, but you can’t have everything.  There are also lots and lots (and lots) of explosions, and they are impressively large.  The one thing you can say about this film is that for what it lacks in budget, originality, and plot and character development, it makes up for with its breakneck pacing.  Helping this along are the subplots centering on goofy criminal kingpin Victor’s (Fred Asparagus) pursuit of Jed and hard-bitten, overwrought detectives Carter (Roger Aaron Brown) and Kelly (Cindy Morgan, a long way from Caddyshack) and their pursuit of whomever is blowing up their city.  To call the execution of these threads unsubtle is like claiming that Rip Taylor likes confetti (hint: he really, really does).  However, if you happen to be a big fan of cinematic ham, Galaxis is a pork-filled, seven-course repast.

MVT:  For as commonplace as everything else in the movie is, I truly was dazzled by the effects in the film (all things considered).  Nielsen and Moll, less so.

Make Or Break:  The Make is the opening scene.  You understand explicitly how derivative this film is going to be, and you also get a taste of the quality level of the production.  It’s a perfect set up of expectations for a film of this caliber.

Score:  6/10       

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