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Low budget but, ambitious 80s Sci-Fi flick opens in 1969 with the first moon landing, where we find Armstrong and co. were being watched by some sort of robotic being. Twenty years later, space shuttle pilots Colonel Jason Grant (Star Trek’s Walter Koenig) and Commander Ray Tanner (Bruce Campbell) encounter a massive space ship whose orbit is decaying and is soon to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. Grant does a quick space walk to investigate and returns to earth with a strange pod and what appears to be a human corpse. The ship’s trajectory has it and it’s apparently ancient occupant, coming from Earth’s moon. To the horror of the NASA personal, the pod opens and the machine-like creature inside uses the surrounding mechanical devices to build an exoskeleton and go on a destructive rampage. Now the government wants Grant and Tanner to revisit the moon and find out what these creatures are and who are it’s ancient humanoid victims. The astronauts arrive on Earth’s satellite and not only discover a humanoid woman in suspended animation, but a nightmare beyond imagination that put’s them in a battle for the very Earth itself.
Moontrap is a pretty entertaining movie despite some flaws. As directed by Robert Dyke, from Tex Ragsdale’s script, the pace may be a little slow, but there is some nice action and Dyke takes the material serious enough to give it the respect it deserves. I give a lot of credit to the filmmakers for attempting a more serious Sci-Fi adventure in the post Star Wars era and they mix the action with the more dramatic elements well. There is some intensity to the scenes of alien attacks and the film is fun, despite it’s serious approach and it helps us get past some clunky dialogue, some definite plot holes and the fact that leading man Koenig isn’t quite our idea of a hard-nosed, tough guy astronaut. The SPFX are very well done on a modest budget and the extensive and well-executed model work and matte paintings really help sell the idea of mechanized aliens and hidden moon bases. The filmmakers also don’t try to shoot for more than they can afford and this helps the film from getting cheesy as it keeps it’s scope manageable. It’s simply an entertaining little movie with some nice atmosphere and even a little old fashioned charm, as it has a bit of an old 50s Sci-Fi film vibe to it, with it’s hot-shot pilots vs. alien invaders story. Evil Dead fans may also want to take note that not only do we have Bruce Campbell, but the score is done by Evil Dead composer Joe LoDuca as well.
The cast are fine. As stated, Walter Koenig wouldn’t be the first actor we’d think of to play a tough-as-nails astronaut, but he tries really hard. He delivers some very corny and clunky dialogue with a straight face and we do accept him in the role even if we don’t totally buy him getting laid with the buxom space vixen, Mera (Leigh Lombardi). Campbell is right at home playing the wise-cracking sidekick. He is charming and fun and we like his Ray Tanner a lot, but…it’s Bruce Campbell, how could we not? Leigh Lombardi is mysterious and sexy as Mera, a woman found in the ancient moon base and as her character’s English is limited, she doesn’t have too much dialog, so, mysterious and sexy will have to do. The supporting cast are much weaker in the acting department, but it sort of goes along with that 1950s style movie charm.
I like this movie a lot. Sure it’s a bit corny and it’s leading man casting was done more for having a marquee genre name than a perfect fit, but the film has a lot of charm and it’s heart is in the right place. The filmmakers did a good job putting together it’s alien invasion story on a limited budget and knew their boundaries, which helps us get past it’s flaws and enjoy it. We also finally get to see Chekov nail a space babe and not even Star Trek can make that claim…at least not that I remember.
Rated 3 (out of 4) moons.