Stop for a moment and ponder just how stupid it is to blow the ending of your movie in the title. Can you imagine calling your epic Star Wars: He’s Luke’s Father or Star Trek II: Spock Buys It? And yet here sits Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn, telling us exactly, precisely where it’s going even before we buy a ticket. That presumes the journey will be far more interesting than the destination, and therein lies the film’s fundamental failure. There is nothing interesting going on here. Not even the so-bad-it’s-good interesting that the similarly trashy Yor, The Hunter from the Future achieves. Metalstorm isn’t epically awful; it’s just good enough to be run-of-the-mill bad, and what fun is that?
It starts with a profound lack of inspiration. Our brooding loner-du-jour (Jeffrey Bryon) is in pursuit of the standard-issue evil overload (Mike Preston) on the mystic planet of East Tarzana Gravel Pit. In the process, he rescues the beautiful Dhyana (Kelly Preston) – notice the exotic future-type spelling of that name – whose father has been killed by Jared-Syn’s evil henchman who spend their days wandering the wasteland looking for pointless ways for brooding loners-du-jour to kill them.
Like a lot of science fiction “epics,” this one copies its betters without the barest notion of shame or responsibility. Metalstorm at least bucked the trend at the time by ripping off Star Wars and The Road Warrior instead of Conan the Barbarian, whose various pretenders were all over August ’83 like a rash. It endeavors to keep the pace active with endless shots of Bryon cruising around on his suped-up dune buggy and provides a variety of one-note bad guys to throw at him (including a pre-Night Court Richard Moll, whose shaved head here scored him his signature role there).At least the villains get into the spirit of things. Byron can’t find the line between stoicism and somnambulism, with Preston following his lead to the doom of both. Everyone speaks with the ponderousness of religious mantra, even though it involves cringe-inducing lines like “welcome to your death.” It starts out amusing, but the monotonous repetition of it all quickly descends into terminal boredom.
Indeed, the bulk of the film is the equivalent of pointless busywork, with a half-baked outer space culture providing arbitrary rules for the heroes to inadvertently violate. Dull plot exposition walks hand in hand with threadbare stereotypes, rendering the action the worst kind of forgettable. Director Charles Band specialized in this kind of schlock, helming such direct-to-video “classics” as Trancers and Puppet Master. (Band stalwart Tim Thomerson comes and goes way too quickly from this one.) At times, he descends into pure hallucination territory, aided by the 3D effects that Universal was apparently hinging its summer on. Sadly, that doesn’t help the hackneyed material any better, turning Metalstorm into as colossal waste of time rather than the campy throwback it could have been.
It’s worthwhile, I think, to clarify the differences between this film and Yor, which shared the same release date in 1983. Yor thrives on the kind of shockingly bad decisions that require real imagination to produce. It goes about its task with real enthusiasm, cheerfully oblivious to the havoc it wreaks along the way. Metalstorm, on the other hand is too lazy to come up with such jaw-dropping wrong-headedness. Instead, it plays it safe the whole way, which explains why you may feel a lot more fondness for Yor even though it sinks deeper than this one. We value and treasure new experiences in spite of (or perhaps because of) the fact that they hurt so much. There’s nothing new about Metalstorm, reducing it to the anonymous background noise of the genre’s most trite corners. We’re left only with a sense of profoundly wasted time, forgotten amid a summer whose brightest lights had long since passed by.