The ZONE genre worldwide books movies
the science fiction
fantasy horror &
mystery website
 
 
home  articles  profiles  interviews  essays  books  movies  competitions  guidelines  issues  links  archives  contributors  email

Moonbase (1997)
Director: Paolo Mazzucato

review by Steven Hampton

It must take either great chutzpah or sublime naiveté to make a sci-fi action movie today without the mega-budget that major studio production or superstar talent would attract. Moonbase has a principal cast of almost-unknowns and a hopelessly derivative scenario, filching its plot elements from The Abyss (1989), Die Hard (1988), and (more obviously) Android. Where Moonbase fails badly is its complete lack of verisimilitude as modern science fiction. Although some of the acting is adequate for this schlock genre material, and the direction by first-timer Mazzucato is thankfully skilled enough in the basics for attentive viewers to follow an eventful storyline, the plot has holes you could easily lose a giant asteroid in.
   It's the mid-21st century, and a bunch of hardened convicts escape from an off-world prison via the automated space barge that's bound for a waste dump on the dark side of the Moon... Okay? Yes, that's fine... assuming they could outsmart the guards, I'll buy that. But there's no explanation here of how the inmates acquired the spacesuits they would need to survive (unless we are supposed to believe a simple cargo shuttle would have life support... for its load of - presumably compacted - trash?). Next, we find there's a typical crew of mavericks working at the sprawling rubbish tip on the lunar surface. Commander John Russell (Scott Plank, sometimes just as wooden as his last name yet, nevertheless, he was the co-star of Michael Mann's underrated 1989 TV movie L.A. Takedown) is an ex-military officer with a secret past and a forsaken girlfriend, Dana Morgan (Jocelyn Seagrove), back home on Earth. There's a frustrated lover-boy with a technical knack for creating holographic blonde dream girls; a wise old black dude; an irritating jerk that we can safely expect to betray his colleagues; a frightened rookie who gets the jitters after going 'outside'; and the obligatory token female who doesn't have much to do or say, and conveniently disappears - along with others of the undistinguished supporting cast - shortly after the trouble starts.
   The trouble starts when the criminal gang led by Karl (Robert O'Reilly) and Mina (sultry Gretchen Palmer) emerge from the garbage transport and attack the waste plant workers. Key item of nifty hardware for the moon base is a couple of electric JCB diggers. With Russell's staff taken hostage, the faint dramatic tension tries but fails to become actual suspense, when (as they certainly must for this movie to be even slightly interesting) a squad of space marines led by a leering Lt. Colonel Caldecott (Billy Maddox) arrives in a shuttle from Earth, bringing Russell's old flame, lovely Dana, to sort out the technical aspects of their classified mission. To avoid needless anxiety I'll tell you that Caldecott is under orders to secure a cache of nukes audaciously hidden for 'safekeeping' amongst the dumpsite's scrap metal (ah-hah, no wonder the UN inspectors couldn't find any Iraqi 'weapons of mass destruction'!). So there you have it, such as it is: expendable army goons, badass criminals, disgraced hero and plucky heroine thrown back together in extremis, atomic bombs stashed on the Moon, and only one spacecraft left available to escape the imminent disaster.
   Moonbase is perhaps best viewed as 'tolerably bad' and very much in the exalted B-movie tradition of Roger Corman style exploitation. George 'Buck' Flower has a cameo as a slimy corporate Johnny on videophone link from Earth. There's one good rude joke about Armstrong's first words on the Moon. Aficionados of skiffy dross will, no doubt, easily guess the ending after only 25 minutes, tops. Well, not to worry, guys. You can spend the remaining hour nitpicking the appalling physics, supposedly futuristic tech, and the unlikelihood of a near-future economy so spendthrift it permits big lockup habitats for lowlife scum and the building of vast concrete structures on the lunar far-side. Or you could amuse yourself by placing bets on whether the mild-mannered hero's corny dialogue will outdo the stereotyped villain's atrociously clichéd threats, or on who's gonna die next (think of Cluedo - 'the balding guy, in the junkyard, with a crowbar'). Have fun, if you can.
   The film was shot in 35 mm at widescreen ratio 1.85:1 but, unfortunately, this budget-priced DVD of Cinema Club vintage is presented 4:3 full-frame. At least the Dolby digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack is reasonably crisp, with apparent looping to overcome audio problems of shooting on the various industrial locations. There are no DVD extras, not even trailers or a 'standard' scene access menu.
Moonbase

Please support this
website - buy stuff
using these links:
Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.com
Send It
HK Flix
WH Smith
Argos.co.uk

home  articles  profiles  interviews  essays  books  movies  competitions  guidelines  issues  links  archives  contributors  email
copyright © 2001 - 2004 Pigasus Press