Moontrap (1989) — As dull as the moon’s surface itself

“We don’t take no shit from a machine!”

PoolMan’s rating: Two of geekdom’s greatest heroes reduced to this?

PoolMan’s review: I have this naive theory that, no matter how many times it has failed me in the past and will inevitably fail me in the future, it’s a good idea to occasionally watch a movie you know absolutely NOTHING about. I don’t mean the one you meant to see in theater, and didn’t catch till it came out on video. I mean a movie that, when you woke up this morning, you had no idea it had ever even been committed to celluloid. I honestly believe this is a noble practice for me to undertake, because it gives all kinds of things you normally wouldn’t see a chance to be enjoyed.

The problem is I have never once been lucky at this little game. I swear to God, if I could force myself to write out a list, it’d be the kind of thing you threaten your child with to make them go to bed on time. Still, I hold out hope that one day, I will be vindicated, and actually see an unknown gem. I foolishly thought this would be it.

Now, I get what B-movies are. They’re cheap. They’re tacky. They’re practically SUPPOSED to be terrible, but enjoyably so. The fact that I sat through all of Moontrap has given me the understanding that it is all of these, except sadly enough, it lacks that enjoyable part. Mostly. I mean, I just happened to stumble onto the opening credits, which were done in an interesting way. The movie opens with stock footage of man’s landing on the moon all those years ago, sure to show the alien eyes that watched us as we did. And as the credits rolled (to the sounds of a tense phone conversation, instead of music, which was quite cool), I saw two names any geek worth his salt would recognize: Bruce “The Man” Campbell and Walter “Which is the Fake Accent?” Koenig.

Well colour me sold. How could I lose?

The flick features Ash and Mister Chekov together as a pair of gung ho astronauts who discover a huge ship in erratic Earth orbit (previously undiscovered because, um, its orbit is, uh, erratic) during a shuttle mission. Being perfectly natural NASA procedure, Koenig spacewalks to the derelict ship, and starts looking for souvenirs. He settles on a giant red Easter egg and a body which chooses that moment to float by him. The body turns out to be human, dead for 14,000 years, and the egg, SURPRISINGLY ENOUGH, is made of unidentifiable alloys (gasp!). It is also confidently deemed, and I quote the script and a confident-sounding scientist here, “empty.”

Imagine my surprise when the “empty” Easter egg cracks open and reveals a sinister mini-robot! (I guess the NASA scientist determined it was empty by knocking on it or something.) Naturally, the robot’s role is to kill the first person it finds and start grafting machinery and body parts onto itself. This leads to a hilarious battle between a completely immobile pile of junk and twenty armed guards in NASA’s basement.

Honestly, if you watch this flick, get used to the action in this scene. The humans run around like monkeys, shooting the now huge robot in the leg, the chest, and the arms while it blasts them with lightning from its eye and otherwise DOESN’T MOVE. After five minutes of gunfire, someone finally cracks it in the head, at which point it falls apart like a stack of matchsticks. Because there was lunar dust on the derelict ship, and thanks to this attack, NASA gives the two astronauts the go signal to go to the moon and see if there’s any sign of more of these things.

I know I’m already running long here, but I feel compelled to keep explaining the plot. Trust me, that’s as good a review as you’ll need.

So our boys go to the moon (a scene change so abrupt I thought it was a dream sequence until it never changed back), fool around for a bit, and finally start looking for killer robots. Just them, mind you. There’s a third guy in orbit waiting to pick them up, but he’s of no consequence, he’s only there to be killed by terrible special effects. They tool around the moon for a while and discover a GIANT TEMPLE WITH A BLINKING GREEN LIGHT ON TOP OF IT ON THE LIGHT SIDE OF THE MOON. Forgive the caps, but I want to emphasize a point here: astronomers on Earth have apparently missed, for longer than recorded history, not only a humongous ship floating overhead, but a lunar base on the side of the moon that faces the earth, topped with marker lights. You could HEAR my eyes rolling.

It all gets better though. Inside the base they find what appears to be human bones all over the place and a cryo chamber with a woman inside it. Naturally, she’s got big boobs and a terrible haircut (this IS a B-movie after all), and just as naturally, she revives in almost no time flat. She doesn’t speak English, but she clearly demonstrates that the skeleton draped over her chamber was someone special, as she cries and takes the bracelet on its arm before they leave. Keep this in mind.

Of course, the first thing that they discover is that their lander has been taken, so they follow the tracks leading away from where it was sitting. This leads to the biggest surprise twist in the whole plot: Mr. Chekov gets the girl, not Ash! Poor Bruce is killed almost immediately, leaving the creepy and disturbingly old Walter Koenig to inexplicably seduce the moon-babe into a roll in the hay. In an inflatable tent. On the moon. Surrounded by killer robots. Not half an hour after the poor girl discovers what was probably the remains of her husband and family stacked around her cryo unit. My goodness.

I’m out of enthusiasm. I’m sorry, I can’t finish the whole story, it’s just reminding me how much I was yelling/laughing/cringing with fear at my TV screen while Chekov messily starts giving this girl the old photon torpedo. Suffice it to say they blow the aliens up and get back to earth. Add the obligatory sequel-inducing closing shot, and that’s a wrap.

Moontrap, despite what could have been a fun little romp through space, is long, dull, and occasionally funny, though certainly not enough to warrant its own existence. It’s a waste of Bruce Campbell, and a seriously warped use of an even-then-aging Walter Koenig. This flick may not have what it takes to knock Doom Generation and Very Bad Things out of the Bad Movie hierarchy, but it certainly gives it a try. I hope I never even hear mention of it again.

Didja notice?

  • They gave Bruce Campbell one macho line, and it’s terrible.
  • NASA doesn’t seem to have any capable scientists, do they?

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