In 2009, James Cameron gave us Avatar unleashing a whole tidal wave of 3D films. This wasn’t the first revival of the 1950’s technology though. Hollywood had a brief fling with stereoscopic vision in the 1980’s and unlike today’s use of 3D in high budget and animated projects, the films of the 80’s were more in line with their 1950’s B movie cousins.
Following in the wake of Comin’ at Ya! (1981) a surprise hit 3D western imported from Italy, the studios were all eager to get in on the trend.
Taking it’s cue from what was popular at the time, namely Mad Max and Star Wars, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn looked to combine elements of those series with the added bonus of 3D. In fact, you can almost hear how that pitch meeting went.
“I know, let’s get some of those Mad Max cars and a throw in a bunch of stuff from Star Wars. Kids love that crap!”
Still, despite the obvious attempt to cash in, there’s a few things to like about Metalstorm if you aren’t too critical.
You get the sense that writer Jean-Marc Rocher actually tried to tie it all together in a somewhat cohesive script. The plot has a very pulp magazine feel to it, and dialog aside, the story doesn’t stray too far from films that are now considered classics of the genre. The very title, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn, just screams Edgar Rice Burroughs, and may be one of the best titles to ever grace a mediocre movie.
As usual though, with this type of film, the failure lies in the execution.
The special effects really leave a lot to be desired, and despite a few gimmicky 3D shots, they really don’t make all that much use of the technology. The acting is pretty bad across the board, with perhaps one exception, and you will see better costumes walking the floor of a comic con.
The story beats are where you would expect, and while the action sequences are not in any way outstanding, they serve to keep the story moving. It’s just a shame that its all done in a kind of a passive way. Had any emotional punch been added to the events or if the acting been more engaging, it could have helped cover some of the more glaring holes.
And yet, there’s still something just inherently watchable about Metalstorm.
Probably the biggest surprise of the film is how good Tim Thomerson is. Anyone growing up in the 80’s would pretty much agree that seeing Thomerson in the cast is a good indication that the movie is going to be bad. He was the reigning king of B movies for a while and graced the covers of countless VHS boxes, all promising the next Star Wars while not delivering a tenth of the magic.
In Metalstorm, Thomerson, relegated to side-kick duty this time around, seems to just play himself. He comes across as an affable smart-ass with a knowing grin, which you can’t help by like. Every time he’s on screen, it’s like a knowing wink to the audience. “Yeah, I know this film sucks, but I’m still having fun. Beats working for a living, right?”
The other remarkable thing about the film is the score. According to IMDB, Richard Brand composed and recorded the film’s score in only eleven days. That seems pretty crazy, but damn if it isn’t well done. Reminiscent of many of John Williams’ more memorable theme songs, the Metalstorm theme has a great hook, and after watching the film you may just catch yourself humming it.
Overall, Metalstorm is worth watching, if only for the lesson of what could have been. This is a clear example of a project that is probably better than it deserved to be but far short of where it could have gone.
Perhaps with a bigger budget or more skilled hands involved in the production, they may have been able to follow up on those sequel threads left dangling at the end of the picture.