Megaforce

Not unlike a megaforce
★★
☆☆☆☆☆
Released: 
1985
Director: 
Not unlike a megaforce
Starring: 
Barry Bostwick, Michael Beck, Persis Khambatta, Edward Mulhare
The Setup: 
Band of cycle warriors in the future protect something or other in gold spandex bodysuits.
Discussion: 

I remember when this movie was out, and I totally would have seen it, but it obviously looked mega-cheesy even then and I don’t think any of my friends even brought it up. I also remember the title song by 707, and standing in the record store with the LP in my hand wondering if I should get it. Oh dear. Anyway, so this movie has always been in the back of my mind somewhere, and I’ve always been curious to see it. Then, upon doing a little investigation and seeing the video box below with its one salient and rather bulbous feature, I decided maybe I should invest. Unfortunately the box of the used VHS I received [it’s not on DVD] had a different cover. Drat!

This film is directed by Hal Needham, former stuntman turned director, who also directed and appears briefly in The Cannonball Run II. It stars Barry Bostwick [who I recall being turned on by in my teens for the simple reason that he had a beard], Michael Beck, of Xanadu infamy [and also The Warriors], and Persis Khambatta, of Star Trek: The Motion Picture fame. I like those new sandwiches they serve on toasted Khambatta.

Anyway, I think there might have been some kind of story here, but I was wholly unable to follow it, or reconstruct it from my notes. We begin with some kind of tank warfare in the desert, then meet Khambatta as some princess or other and she’s with this general type, hanging out on these rocks. As with seemingly every desert rock, this one has a deadly snake hunting for humans, and he does one of those things via editing where he approaches the rock… then we see the helpless princess… then the snake approaches the rock again… cut away to something else… then the snake approaches the rock again. Suddenly a shot rings out and the snake is dead. He was shot by Barry Bostwick as Ace Hunter [guffaw!], and he stortly thereafter introduces the Megaforce, an um, FORCE, that ride souped-up motorcycles with toy rockets on the front and a variety of other ridiculously made-up all-terrain vehicles. They come on—like a megaforce—and show how they can destroy a bunch of balloons and shit with their super mobile rocket launchers. We find out from the IMDb that these things attached to their bikes are in fact store-bought model rocketry sets. The effect is to make us all marvel at this stunning display of force. MEGA-force, in fact. Talk about shock and awe.

So conventions require that Bostwick and the lovely princess have some hostile repartee before they fall deeply in love, which they execute along familiar lines. Bostwick looks like some lost member of The Statler Brothers with his creepy, charmless smile and overall palate of TAN, accented by his ludicrous powder-blue headband. Now Bostwick, and his entire team, choose to attire themselves in skin-tight golden lycra bodysuits, which do not leave much for the audience to wonder about, which is fine with me, as I prefer movies where basket issues are firmly and clearly outlined. Bostwick has some sort of package action going on, but he’s obviously wearing something that smoothes the whole thing into a Ken-like, Kiss Me Kate-esque featureless bulge, which still works for me. I read a review of this movie on a small bad movie site and the guy said something like “Do I really need to be forced to look at this guy’s crotch?,” reflecting the straight man’s common fear that seeing the merest hint of another guy’s cock will in fact render him impotent for life, forever shatter his sexual identity, cause society to revert back to manual can openers and very likely cause spontaneous combustion. To protect those fragile fellows, this movie restricts the majority of its shots to above-the-waist, although this is not the case when viewing Bostwick from behind. Yes, his ass receives extensive and rather unwelcome coverage, and… there’s just something so unembarrassed about his entire demeanor, the way he walks around nearly naked with this kind of swagger… I don’t know, I think he should show some shame. It’s one of those situations where the main character just looks so ridiculous throughout that every few seconds you spontaneously burst out laughing.

So Barry and friends take Persis and whoever into Megaforce’s underground lair, which the older scientist declares “puts the pyramids to shame.” From here Megaforce monitors every single conversation going on across the planet, which is presented as a good thing, leaving pertinent issues of illegal wiretapping and right to privacy undiscussed. THINK of how relevant this movie could be to our current situation if they had gone into some of this stuff. Apparently the Megaforce works in the service of SCUF, and they show the galactic senator or whoever these dumb holograms that explain what they do, all of which made no sense to me. Michael Beck shows the senator some idiotic Porky Pig hologram. And somewhere in here you get the sense that this movie is trying to protract everything as long as possible because it has next to no ideas.

So for some reason Bostwick and Khambatta have to go skydiving, which they do in this airborne love scene where we are to understand that they bond while free-falling through space. It is accompanied by soaring love music, and the whole thing feels like it lasts a half an hour. Then Persis wants to come along with them on their mission, but Barry forbids it, so she feels that she needs to prove herself in action, which the skydiving served as part of, but is soon added to by pointless helicopter and motorcycle scenes. After all this he still won’t let her go, which apparently he knew at the start, but still made her go through all that rigmarole, which only makes her love him all the more rather than considering him a sadistic, manipulative fuck stick. As he leaves, they do this thing in which they kiss their thumbs, and then hold it out toward the other person. It is slightly sexual and wholly stupid and just… just ain’t right.

So the Megaforce is on this transport that sort of turns into the party train [they are a wild and crazy bunch, btw], where one guy asks another to “call my girl and tell her I’ll be late” and the other guy suggestively says “I was gonna call her anyway.” So they reach their mission which is apparently to blow up this deserted camp [I think it’s supposed to be populated, and you’re supposed to just not notice that there are no people there]. Then there is this fucking LONG desert jim-jaw with the senator and the princess and some other politician and this new, Lando Calrissian-type character who is an old buddy of Bostwick’s but we are to understand is a treacherous traitor.

It all hinges on the fact that the Megaforce have to get away, I guess, and for some reason can’t. The bad guys are going to be arrayed with their tanks facing the only entrance to this dried lake-crater, so Bostwick decides that maybe... just maybe... they could come in from behind the tanks and meet this transport plane and get to wherever it is they need to go. So the transport planes fly in and create a diversion [and it IS remarkable how tanks and air force planes have changed so little between now and the distant future on another planet], while the Megaforce goes into ‘stealth mode,’ which is where they run virtually silent. Apparently their mega-vehicles are equipped with mega-mufflers, which is apparently supposed to make us in the audience shout “Fuck yeah!” as we view the majestic slow-motion footage of the silent vehicles racing across the desertscape. Fuck yeah, man! What if we had mufflers like that here on Earth? How fucking awesome would THAT be?

So there’s a big tank battle, wherein most of the tanks are destroyed by the aforementioned model rockets, and Bostwick stays behind the rest of the Megaforce to say to the Lando-type—oh wait, BEFORE this, back when the Lando-type suggested that Bostwick dump the rest of the Megaforce and set off for himself, Bostwick said “There are some things you’ll never understand! That there are some things you can’t put a price on!” THEN, after he blows the tanks up, he goes up to Lando-guy and says “You see, the good guys always win—even in the end.” EVEN in the end? So it’s generally considered as accepted that the good guys win in the beginning and perhaps middle, but quite unusual that they win in the end? And as you can tell, Bostwick is quite the supercilious little bitch.

So Bostwick got left behind from the rest of the Megaforce because he fell off his bike, then wasted time making snide kiss-off speeches, and now is way behind. The rest of the Megaforce is speeding toward the huge transport plane, and for some reason they feel it necessary for each vehicle to [pointlessly] issue a stream of colored smoke, making this entire thing look like some sort of small-town Fourth of July celebration. They all make it onto the plane, and wait for a while, but finally give up on Bostwick and leave him behind. But wait! His motorcycle has these 1/16th inch thick “wings” that come down and, when he applies the super-turbo-thrust, his motorcycle becomes a flying machine, composited over the background footage using technology that rivals, if not exceeds, that used to create the magical visual effects of Land of the Lost. He catches up to the plane in mid-air and everyone cheers. Then they fly over the field where Khimbatta waits, and she and Bostwick have time to have a conversation with her on the ground, and him quickly passing 40 feet overhead in a cargo plane.

And on to the credits, in which we review the “highlights” of the film while we hear the hard-driving title track by 707, some low-grade 80s rock band that never went much of anywhere. The singer states that their rock is “coming on like a megaforce.” Not THE Megaforce, mind you, but A megaforce. Which would imply that there is more than one megaforce, or that there is a measurement of force or a phenomena called a megaforce. And that his rock is, in fact, coming on like that. Then, at the very end, we have a repeat of the “Good guys always win—even in the end” as the words “the end” appear on screen. Yes, it’s THAT meta.

It was semi-amusing. As you’ve deduced from by total inability to relate in any way what the plot might have been, there isn’t much here that hangs together, but what it does have is a potent mix of quite low budget, idiotic general concept, and stupid-looking actors in ridiculous costumes, and that is a hard combination to beat. I found myself giggling at the senselessness of it all on several occasions. And of course you have Barry in his gold spandex, and Michael Beck, who no one ever thought they’d see again after Xanadu [and I have to say he is significantly more charming here, probably because he is not being eclipsed by Olivia at every turn], and Persis Khimbatta, who no one ever thought they’d see again after Star Trek: The Motion Picture. She, by contrast, is significantly LESS fun, but I guess it’s hard to follow up any role in which you’re bald and stalking around the Enterprise speaking a robot voice and destroying shit left and right before fucking tasty Stephen Collins in an explosion of universe-altering energy. Anyway, if you like really dumb, totally low-rent sci-fi that’ll make it feel like you’re in back in your friend’s basement watching cable on a Saturday afternoon in 1986, this is your movie.

Should you watch it: 

I would say that this depends entirely on your predisposition to material like this. If you aren’t particularly into it, there is no reason anyone need ever watch this.