So quite simply, civilisation has been destroyed leaving few behind. Those left alive live in caves, underground or in valleys to presumably escape the high winds and apparent nasty atmospheric conditions. While some people have regressed back to a primitive state (for some reason), others still live as if nothing happened, with technology. Due to these atmospheric conditions on the surface, some skilled people have adopted a life in the air with small aircraft which has also led to some groups living high up on or about cliffs, above the slipstream. Yes I know what you're thinking, this is indeed [i]Mad Max[/i] in the air, just as 'Waterworld' was [i]Mad Max[/i] on water...only this has some major pesky atmospheric conditions apparently.
K...so this plot has some major, [b]major[/b] questions marks hanging over it. For starters what actually happened to the Earth to cause such horrific weather conditions? All the slipstreams have been completely displaced, or is it just one? not sure, but somehow they are now flowing across the Earth's surface and this has destroyed everything? But would it? would it really? sure it would cause massive damage and make life very hard, but end all humanity? hmmm. Yet this has reduced many people to living in caves like prehistoric man, whilst at the other end of the spectrum others still live in luxury and within actual buildings...how does that work out? Then there is the vehicle issue, how exactly is flying safer than using ground transport? Sure you can fly above the winds but surely taking off and landing would be bloody risky. Wouldn't using cars still be effective? oh and is fuel still an issue here? I'm guessing not because the characters never have any issues. And while I'm on the subject, where exactly did these grunts get these aircraft??!! and how come they keep popping up at really convenient moments out of the blue.
The movie starts off on a poor note, literately with the atrocious score, good lord what is going on with that?? Its a full orchestral piece which is fine, but it sounds like something from a cheesy early 80's sword and sandals/barbarian type flick, it instantly felt completely out of place with the imagery. What's even more bizarre is the vast difference in music during the movie, it literately swings from one end of the spectrum to the other. You get many moments of orchestral pieces trying to convey a serious, grand, epic science fiction vibe, then shit outta the blue you get 80's pop group [i]Then Jericho[/i] and [i]Big Area[/i]! All of sudden it goes from trying to be an intelligent movie, to your typical goofy action-esque popcorn flick for teenagers. Lots of sweeping shots of this tiny light-aircraft as it dips and bobs through this canyon, the pilot (Bill Paxton) trying to be all ice cool as he laughs off his air acrobatics calmly...kinda. There's also a couple of songs from artists in the 60's which I've never heard of but I can see why they were used at certain points, but overall its still a weird collection.
Much like the rest of the film the cast is also off kilter and just plain odd choices, much miscasting methinks. Firstly the main star is obviously Mark Hamill as Will Tasker the lawman or bounty hunter of sorts. Now Hamill was obviously hot off [i]Star Wars[/i] success even though he hadn't done shit since RotJ. The opportunity for using Luke Skywalker was too great to turn down, but the producer Gary Kurtz probably had a little bit to do with that, being the producer on the first two [i]Star Wars[/i] movies. Now I agree utilising Hamill was a good choice, at least looks wise, he looks uber cool as the rogue lawman Tasker with his bleached blonde, slick backed hair and blonde beard, he even had that cool name...Tasker. His outfit was really decent, it had a WWI flying ace vibe about it with the long dark brown trenchcoat, scarf, dark cargo pants, a cream fisherman's jumper thingy, black boots and some kind of utility belt with cool things attached. Actually he looked a bit like Rik Mayall in 'Blackadder Goes Forth'. Unfortunately his character is a bit pants frankly, he does nothing of note despite looking cool. But he's not alone, the other main lead Owens, the hero, played by Bill Paxton is a shockingly bad piece of miscasting, mainly because Paxton just doesn't fit the role. Hot off the success of 'Aliens' and 'Near Dark' and with clear cameos in 'Commando' and 'The Terminator', Paxton had cemented himself as a badass character actor of action and sci-fi, yet here he plays this goofball with a terrible mane of scruffy hair. The real problem is Paxton just acts badly, real badly, you'd think he was an amateur, how the hell did he get his part in 'Aliens' is what you'd be asking yourself.
The other main cast members don't really add anything to the action...action? Tasker's partner played by Kitty Aldridge is merely the female foil to the manly Tasker. She flirts with men, usually their prey so they can be taken down easier, naturally she falls for the hero in the end, its all very predictable. The other strange casting and subplot is Bob Peck as the android Byron who has superhuman powers such as strength and general invincibility. Now this guy sure does look like an android I'll admit that, he even wears a smart suit just like any android butler would because of course. But again the acting is pretty dire, bordering on amateurish again, I just wasn't sold by...any of these people! it just felt like a cheesy science fiction TV show. I like how the director appears to try and copy or homage 'North by Northwest' at the start of the movie with a long shot of Byron running away from Tasker's Optica plane as it comes up behind him from a distance. Well that's the impression I got anyway.
Basically Tasker and his token female sidekick were after Byron the android because he killed his owner, can't remember why, not even sure if that was disclosed, meh. But at a stereotypical manly bar for pilots (Ricco Ross cameo), Paxton's character kidnaps him in order to avoid getting arrested for selling contraband. Thus kicks off the whole chase element of the movie with the bounty hunters after Owens and the android, and Owens wanting the reward for the android, but of course he ends up befriending him on the adventure. The only problem is I'm genuinely still not sure what the adventure actually was, what it was about, where they were headed or what they were actually trying to do. I kid you not, there doesn't actually seem to be any sort of plot goal here, other than avoid the bounty hunters. The whole thing ends when they reach some fancy pants museum were people live very comfortably having big parties and sex...or something. Where do they get all their fancy clothes, food, drink, heat etc...? All I know is that they must have been important and clever people because Ben Kingsley and F. Murray Abraham had small roles in those scenes.
Seriously I've not come across a film so jumbled and weird for some time, I still don't know what was supposed to have happened! The main duo spend their time simply travelling from one bunch of spiritual, wind worshipping weirdos to the next. Some are friendly, some are a bit aggressive, but most are poor and apparently mainly minorities (white folk are apparently better off in this world...ooOoo, racism). Most of this takes place in cave dwellings or cliffs tops or near caves and cliff tops...ugh! At one point some natives tie Byron to a huge kite and fly him in the night sky because...I really don't know, I had given up by then. This is all interspersed with some bits of flying, bits of the bounty hunters, a Robbie Coltrane cameo, and then they all end up in this swanky museum, the end. Oh and Tasker has a deadly finale face-off with Byron...kinda. Most of the effects are poor bluescreen shots, no action!! the locations are generally drab, the weather is generally poor making it even more depressing and boring, the plot makes no sense, acting is terrible, way too much emphasis on the small aircraft for some reason, yet they aren't thrilling, and freaky religious hokum just to make things that little bit extra worse. Sure I can see how this might have become a cult over the years, I can admit that. Its definitely got that unique, one-off thing going on, its pure crap but...yeah sure, whatever.
"Man against nature, and we lost. I could have told them that up front, but nobody asked me."-Matt Owens (Bill Paxton)
the most underrated sci-fi flick along with Alien4