Reviewed by Jeff DeLuzio
Rating: 9.5 Beans
The Cold War left us a monumental legacy-- the "post-apocolypse" tales. Some of these-- particularly, a few of the novels-- used the Day After to tell interesting stories and offer provacative social commentary. Others-- particularly, most of the movies-- took advantage of the opportunity to show cheesy wrecked sets and cheesier radiation monsters.
One of the last of these films from the Cold War era was "Solarbabies," which wheeled the genre into new territory: specifically, that of post-nuclear/environmental holocaust roller-skating.
The movie begins with the voice of Charles Durning, who was obviously having a slow year. He appears (albeit briefly) as the warden of "Orphanage 43," where children are raised communally and made useful to "the System." He also tells us of an intriguing "Chicani" legend of "Bodi," an entity which will one day come and "free the water." Where, exactly, the water is, remains uncertain; there is no cloud cover. If it evaporated, where did it go? Well, who cares? Our twentieth-century irresponsibility has left the world one vast desert, children are taken from their parents and raised communally, and there's a prediction that Bodi will one day come and free the water. Got it?
We move from there to a "skateblade" game between two rival teams, the Scorpions and the Solarbabies. The game is a sort of cross between hockey and lacrosse. It's good to know Canada's national sports will survive nuclear war. It's played, of course, on rollerskates, which, for some reason, kids of the future wear everywhere. These are pretty amazing skates, too, capable of rolling over sand, rocky terrain, and metal grating. This particular game is being played illegally outside the orphanage, however, so the "Protectorate"'s police, led by the Nazi- esque Grock (yes, his name is "Grock") round them up. While escaping, the Solarbabies' mascot, Daniel, a goofy kid who talks like his voice was dubbed, stumbles onto a glowing sphere.
Is it.... Could it be.... Bodi?
Yes. No suspense. The sphere introduces itself right away. It is Bodi. So... Then, it frees the water, and the picture is over, right?
Something has to be done in order to enable it to free the water?
Maybe. Nothing is ever explained. Bodi demonstrates its power back at the Solarbabies' dorm, by whipping up a little indoor storm, complete with lightning and thunder. Then an entire movie is allowed to take place, before Bodi decides to bring the water back. Perhaps it needed to be near a source of water? Perhaps the valiant rescue effort by the Solarbabies, who skate right into what should be the most highly-protected place within "the Protectorate," made it decide we were worth saving? Who knows. I suspect that, while writing this paragraph, I've given the matter more thought than the movie-makers ever did.
What other powers does Bodi have?
Well, that varies quite a bit. Early on, it's shown to have the ability to move independently, and later, the power to defend itself-- with brutal effectiveness. At other times, the bad guys just walk away with it, and subject it to torture without any difficulty.
What is Bodi?
Well, it's a sphere. "Chicani" legend says it comes from the heavens. A shaman living in an abandoned funhouse (the funhouse still functions. Sure, most fairground attractions I've seen look like they would remain operative if left alone for centuries) calls it a "force of will." Other adults refer to it as the "Sphere of Longellus" and the product of "Longellus' genius," though what any of this means remains a mystery.
Lack of clear thinking marks this entire production.
For example, the Solarbabies run away, skating across the desert. Actually, they stick to well- marked trails and roads, despite their knowledge that the evil Grock is in pursuit, and that this strategy will make them fairly easy to locate. Grock's wannabe stormtroopers travel in a large troop-transporter van, except for three, who ride in an odd vehicle which can split into three separate motorcycles. The Solarbabies seems trapped when they arrive at a bridge which has been knocked out-- but no. The troops in the van stay put, and the three in the other vehicle decide to separate their cycles, a process which takes forever. Or rather, it takes enough time for our skating heroes to play "crack the whip" and build up enough momentum to jump the chasm. Only Jason, the lead baby, has the physical strength to jump it with a good skating start.
Of course, the motorized cycles can't make it. Never underestimate the centifugal force you can build up with a good game of "crack-the-whip."
Later, the villains capture the sphere, and inform us that their "Magnetron," which has the equivalent power of the earth's magnetic pole, will be used to destroy it. How, precisely, magnetic force will destroy the sphere is a good question. And how this society, with technology little-advanced from ours, has built quite so powerful a magnet, is an even better one. The answers are irrelevant, because they promptly forget about the Magnetron and instead, attack the sphere with "high-powered lasers" and a destructive robot called "Terminex." That's how evil the Protectorate's agents are-- they've named their assassin robot after the stuff my neighbour uses on his weeds. Terminex is actually impressively nasty-looking. However, for all of his vaunted power, the babies take him out with a couple of good whacks with a skateblade stick.
The most ridiculous chain of events occurs when Grock and his troops try to capture our heroes, who have holed up in a Thunderdome-like fringe village called "Tire-Town." Most of them escape by rolling down a hill in old tractor tires-- a strategy which, of course, leaves the high-tech police vehicles in the dust. Unfortunately, the babies are captured by some Aussie bounty hunters. Yes, they have Aussie accents-- a very odd reminder that quite a bit of the film's mise-en-scene is stolen from the Mad Max films.
Only the token female, Terra, didn't make her escape in time. Fortunately, she somehow gets away from Grock, survives a massive explosion (quite a few things explode in this movie) and, in a day or two, locates the Protectorates' enemies, the "Eco-warriors," discovers one of them is her long-lost father, wins their trust, locates her friends, and rescues them. The Solarbabies now get a much-needed drink, because the Eco-warriors' secret hide-out contains a buried glacier, the source of the few streams that still run through the desert.
The Protectorate's Most Wanted live within a short walk of a settled town?
In a world where water is rationed, no one's found such an obvious nearby source?
And that's one mighty cold glacier.
And why don't the Eco-warriors help when the babies head out to rescue the captured sphere?
So much for plot. How about characters?
The villains-- well, villains in these films are generally just evil, that's all. Getting particular mention is the head of the rival skateblade team, the Scorpions. He spends the first part of the film trying to rape Terra, so we can see what a waste of skin he is. Then he becomes Grock's apprentice and helps track the Solarbabies, so that he can be present at the final bad-guy butt-kicking scene.
The heroic Solarbabies have no depth. They are: Jason (jock/leader/golden boy), Terra (token female, who prepares their meal when they're in the desert), Rabbit (token person of color, who gets to play with the sphere as though it were a basketball), and Metron (know-it-all science nerd). They are assisted by team mascot Daniel and a Chicani mystic named Darstar.
Little character development takes place-- and what does is handled with absurd self- seriousness. You won't want to miss Jason's speech on personal identity to the sphere. It's the kind of thing for which bad move fans live.
The seriousness with which this mess is handled is particularly bizarre. One wishes that Kevin Costner had watched this one before making "Waterworld"; he might have realized how stupid post-apocolyptic adventure films with environmental messages and no plot logic can look. One wonders if the makers of "Tank Girl" did watch it-- and realized that about the only way you can make something like this fly is if you realize it's a joke, and proceed accordingly.
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Hit-n-Run Productions, © 1997-2006,
a subsidiary of Syphon Interactive, LLC.
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