The Time Guardian (1987) — Princess Leia saves a time traveling city

“You’d be amazed. The technology’s enormous. We’ve got powers your time only dreams about.”

Justin’s rating: Oh were this a time desk!

Justin’s review: In 1984, the Hemdale Film Company cranked out a surprise hit with James Cameron’s The Terminator. But was it possible to strike gold with an ambitious scifi time travel action flick once more? In 1987, the company gave it a serious go with The Time Guardian.

Billed as Australia’s first big budget scifi epic, The Time Guardian was helmed by The Road Warrior co-screenwriter Brian Hannant and given a relatively meaty budget of $8 million. Hopes were high that this would put Australia on the map as a major player in the scifi genre, but those hopes were dashed with Hemdale slashed the budget and actively began middling with the production process. Eventually Hannant walked off the film, and the company pieced together what had been made so far into a released product.

So suffice to say that this Ozploitation flick is a mess, with many unexplained moments, weird continuity, and a plot that may be a little more complicated than it could pull off. Yet there’s some actual talent put into this movie, including some great special effects and an ambitious concept, so it’s hard to write off as “unwatchable.” I had a pretty OK time with it, in fact.

In the far future, cyborg-robot-beasts named the Jen-Diki have just about wiped out humanity. The rest live in a shielded city that’s constantly under attack. Fortunately, this city doesn’t only look sparkly and neony, it also has the capacity to travel back through time as a defensive measure. As in, the entire city is a time machine. And the crazy thing is that it’s done so in the past, although it’s never explained why it would return to this hellscape of a future.

In any case, the time city prematurely activates its ability and begins to cruise back toward the 20th century. However, it’s damaged several of its landing pylons, so there’s a good chance that it’ll crumble apart when it arrives.

To avoid this, city mayor Dean Stockwell (giving about 5% of his range here) sends an advance team back to the past to help build pylons in the crater. This team is made up of just two soldiers: Ballard (Tom Burlinson) and Petra (Carrie Fisher). Don’t get too excited to see Fisher in another scifi flick, as she is almost instantly shot upon arrival in 1988 and spends most of the movie lying next to an oasis in the Outback.

Unfortunately for us, that leaves us following Ballard around for most of the movie. He’s not what you’d call “leading action man material.” Sure, he snarls out lines and expects everyone to fall down at his feet in awe, but the truth is that Ballard is a tool and not worthy of anyone’s respect.

Some of the Jen-Diki come back in time too, because why not, although they lurk underground until it’s night, as that big ball of fire in the sky is scary and all. If the threat of the city and the robots aren’t enough in the way of antagonists, there are also backwater cops that are only slightly greater jerks than Ballard. This threat is offset by Ballard’s new love interest, a geologist name Annie (Nikki Coghill) who wears the skimpiest clothes that a PG rating will allow.

The biggest misstep for The Time Guardian is doing practically nothing with Carrie Fisher. Burlinson is such a bland beefcake that the lead role is begging for a sassy princess to take over. Alas, Fisher is squandered and the opportunity missed.

With too little in the way of adequate explanation and scenes that are held together with pluck and masking tape, The Time Guardian is not advised for intellectuals or stationary, non-moving cities. But if you can shut off your brain and go on a very janky ride with a lot of silly moments and good SFX, you might have a better time than you’d figure.

And if not, well, you can always rewind and try again.

Didja notice?

  • Echo makes any scroll narration more epic!
  • How does a city exist without any external farms, power supplies, or other imports?
  • Those are some wicked awesome robot designs
  • Humanity in the future must have been bred from Stormtroopers for how easily they die
  • Dean Stockwell and the least impressive outfit ever
  • Yes, bunch up together, that’ll make us much more easy to shoot!
  • “Earth Time 1988” is the most awkward time card ever used in a movie
  • Frozen pee?
  • The cave paintings of the time city
  • That is very form-fitting future armor
  • The trucker that saved the world
  • Getting shot in the upper shoulder makes you incapable of doing anything, including walking
  • This movie loves, loves, loves its low shots, even when it’s just characters’ butts walking across scenes
  • He just got… FUTURE MURDERED
  • I like how there’s a huge earth mover… and two guys doing piddly with shovels

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