Apr 27, 2020
Megaforce (1982): a recap (part 6 of 6)
Last time on Megaforce: Hunter and Co. got the shaft and now must sneak up on and fight their way through Gurrera’s forces to make it to the planes in order to make their escape.
Well, this is it, the last installment of Megaforce. It’s all been leading up to this massive confrontation, the big finale where friend will fight friend. Whose beard is the mightiest? And which is more stylish, hat or headband?
Guerrera, seated in the cupola of the lead tank, spots the C-130 transports coming in, and all thoughts of last minute trickery are blotted from his mind as he sees the easy win: blow the planes out of the sky and it’s done. The aircraft come down at the lake bed…
…and say what you will about this movie’s writing and acting, there’s nothing wrong with the cinematography as the camera slowly pulls back to show the tanks waiting for the C-130s. Hal Needham at least knows his way behind a camera. And whatever they paid to rent those planes, they got their money’s worth. Duke orders his men to open fire, and the air is full of bullets and shells as Guerrera’s mercs do their level best to knock those magnificent fat targets out of the sky. We get this guy…
…and yeah, you can tell he’s loving this. He’s spent weeks rolling around in a tank with nothing to do but guard over factory workers, not able to shoot at shit while the main gunner gets to have all the fun blowing stuff up. Now he gets to let loose. Hell yeah, he’s gonna enjoy himself! He’s probably got Iron Maiden’s “Number of the Beast” running through his head. The gunfire is Megaforce’s cue. They go tearing down the mountain and across the dry lake bed.
Oh hey, remember what I said about Hal knowing his way behind a camera? I take it back. Christ, I can’t think of any less exciting way to shoot a charge than to have the camera sit as far away as possible; it doesn’t matter how fast the vehicles are going, the perception is they’re moving slow. Yeah, that works when you want to show a panoramic shot like the one with the planes coming in, and it works when you want to show the size of an army to give a sense of its grand scale. But when you have a limited number of vehicles, it should be shot like an old school horse charge, with a camera mounted on a truck following the action up close, like so:
The scene should be kinetic, exciting, and in your goddamn face. We should feel the jog and bump that the riders and drivers are feeling as they go hell-bent over uneven terrain, dammit! Don’t tell me you couldn’t find a pickup truck in Nevada to mount your camera on, Hal!
The C-130s are swooping down, getting ready to land, when one of them gets hit. Okay, Hal, you won me back a bit; it really would have stretched credulity to the breaking point if with all that metal flying through the air, one of those planes hadn’t gotten tagged. The wounded bird has to bank away, leaving only one left, and the pilot of the retreating “Eagle Two” asks the pilot of “Eagle One” that as long as he’s heading back, can he call on the man’s girl? Eagle One’s pilot replies, “Why not, everyone else does.” And he says it with the laid back manner of a Manly Man, but you can tell the knowledge that his woman is two-timing him with everybody in town means there’s a sad, sad clown crying inside.
With them being down a plane, that means everybody has to leave their toys behind. The order’s given to set the rides to self-destruct. Man, SCUFF is going to be pissed when they read those after-action reports; I can’t wait to see them hand the nation of Sardun the bill. Well, I guess now it’s use ‘em or lose ‘em time as the order is given and the first salvo is launched.
Okay, that’s more like it! Missiles go flying and nail Guerrera’s tanks in their asses…
…and ole’ Duke realizes he should have listened to his first instinct and maybe sent off those armored personnel carriers to scour the mountains. File that one under “O” for “oops”. Duke’s people are all confused, both because they’re getting blasted from behind and also because I’ll bet it’s been months since they’ve been in a stand up fight and they’ve kind of forgot how that works. Duke tries to get his people to turn around, but that goes about as well as can be expected. Megaforce goes for the center, the weakest part of the perimeter, and as the bikes and buggies hit the line, Megaforce makes sure they leave Duke’s boys some parting gifts. One cyclist drops a grenade in the back of an APC and one guy gets out before it goes off, meaning the rest of the guys inside probably look like chum. Hey, shark week just passed; I’ve got fish guts on my mind. Hunter takes to the sky and drops a grenade.
Wow, good thing there just happened to be a ramp leading up to the side of the tank. Unless Hunter’s motorcycle can fly or something. But that’s just stupid. Megaforce punches through the line and not a single bike or buggy gets hit. Yeah, calling bullshit on that. Three vehicles get taken out at night by sheer luck, and in broad daylight Guerrera’s people can’t hit shit? I know they’re out of practice, but come on! Duke finally gets his helmeted head out of his ass and orders the plane shot down, but Megaforce has an answer to that:
Okay, I know what some of you might be thinking: Tom’s been making the odd gay joke here and there. Tom even posted a link to a Village People video. And now we’ve got the gay pride flag blowing across the screen. But I’m not going to take the bait; I’m going to rise above it. This scene is just low hanging fruit.
And hey, somebody finally gets tagged…
…and it’s Hunter! Word gets out and Dallas tells everybody to not stop, and to get on the plane. There’s a professional behind that shit kickin’ grin of his, after all. And he probably figures if Guerrera gets Hunter, the boss has got a 50/50 chance of being alright. Or he just secretly really hates Hunter and wants his job. Huh, the more I think about it, the more I’m thinking there might be more to that good ole’ boy…
The C-130 spins around and the Megaforcers (which sounds better than calling them MFers) pull up to the plane…
…and it looks like somebody’s a big fan of old John Ford movies:
And hey, nothing wrong with that at all. If you’re gonna borrow, might as well borrow from the best, right?
The gang un-ass right quick, and credit to the actors and stunt men, they really are acting like their asses are on the line. You get a real sense that things are desperate just by the sense of urgency.
Annnnnd then it’s ruined when Suki’s ride gets wrecked and Zach stops to give him a lift.
Meanwhile, Hunter comes to and finds his bike. And then he makes a little detour.
Duke is understandably incredulous that Hunter’s knocked on his cupola, but you also get the feeling he’s kind of glad, too. Kidding aside, you gotta think that a guy surrounded by hired killers who would stab him in the back for a cheap buck and who thinks of them as “Just numbers!” must get real lonesome. Hookers and blow can only get you so far, man. Hunter smiles at his old Arm buddy and delivers a quip:
Hunter: Hey, Duke, just wanted to let you know the good guys always win, even in the ’80s.
Oh God, this scene is so cheesy, I feel like Pizza the Hutt just watching it:
And yet, I expect nothing less from this movie. Hunter leaves Duke with a parting gift of a cigar, and don’t ask me where he was hiding that. No, seriously, don’t ask me where, because in that skintight outfit, speculation takes me places I don’t want to go. Ace’s off with Guerrera screaming obscenities in Spanish as he tries to get the tank blocking him to get the hell out of the way. Unfortunately, the delivery of that parting witticism to his most esteemed opponent has put Hunter well behind schedule and he’s gotta ride hard to catch the plane, but it’s too late and Dallas orders the C-130 up. Huh, was that a fast two minutes there? It felt like a really, really fast two minutes. Just sayin’. The C-130 tears across the dry lake and into the air, and with so much of it being seen in the third act, I’m wondering now if Lockheed helped fund this movie. That, or Hal’s got a real love affair with this plane.
Dallas spots Hunter and okay, all kidding aside… again… he actually looks glad to see him. He orders the plane down but the pilot says no can do, they’re committed. And then…
Okay, remember back in the beginning of the movie when Egg was telling Hunter about the red buttons to be used “only in an emergency”? This qualifies. Hunter mashes the buttons down, one after the other, and then…
Duke stares incredulously as Hunter takes to the sky…
…and I’m willing to bet real money that was the same expression on his face when he read this part of the script. Hunter lands the flying motorcycle in the back of the plane and lo, there is much rejoicing. Back on the ground, Duke sits in his tank, as he tries to process what the hell just happened in the last ten minutes, when Hardcore Communist drives up.
This causes Duke to laugh and he puts the cigar in his mouth. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out Hunter’s new lighter and we realize Guerrera either stole it or Ace gave it to him as a gift earlier. Guerrera seems truly happy Hunter got away, and he says, “All right, Ace! I’ll see you another time!” and Henry Silva delivers the line like he really believes there’s going to be a Megaforce II. Damn, can that man act.
Elsewhere, the General is holding a press conference claiming that Zardun’s got no idea what the hell was going on across the border in Gamimbia, when he gets word that a plane’s been spotted. He and Zara look up to see the C-130, and the General seems really glad to realize that Hunter’s people made it out. Oh, did you forget about the whole “Life’s like a wheel” thing Hunter mentioned before? Ace has the plane come in close, and uses a reloaded set of missiles to remind the man.
Zara laughs, and it’s either because she’s really, really happy Hunter’s alive, or the pilot and co-pilot were in that ‘copter and the sight of burning corpses brings her maniacal joy. Hunter tells the pilot to push it, because he’s got a date in London! And we end the movie with…
Yeah, couldn’t have ended any other way, really.
Okay, so that was Megaforce. And what do I think of it? Well, first, let me talk about the zero percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. What does that mean, exactly? It means, obviously, that no critic gave the film a positive review. But that implies that a score of 5/10 is equal to a score of 1/10, and that one or two out of five stars is the same thing as zero stars. There is a way for critics to say a movie is not good but is also not complete crap, which is why many of them use a rating system. But taking Rotten Tomatoes’ score at face value means you don’t get those subtleties. It means that Megaforce ranks alongside Adam Sandler’s The Ridiculous Six (which got 33 reviews, all bad) or The Lonely Lady.
Megaforce is not a good movie, but I can’t say in good conscience that it’s a bad movie. The performances for the most part are competent, the action is good, and the directing isn’t bad. The soundtrack isn’t great, but I’ve heard far, far worse (e.g. the aforementioned Fright Night, a film dragged down by its score), and the cinematography is decent. Yeah, Zoptic and Introvision don’t do the film any favors, but I think they were used more to keep the budget down while presenting the director’s vision in a manner that couldn’t be accomplished any other way in 1981-82. If I were a critic, I’d give it a five out of ten, just shy of acceptable. I don’t regret watching the movie several times to write this recap; I laughed both intentionally and unintentionally, and I loved the action set pieces. So would I recommend it? Only if you’re in the right mindset and are with a bunch of friends who are looking for some mindless fun.
So, did the film have any lasting impact? Well, it certainly didn’t set the world on fire and it didn’t do Barry Bostwick’s career any favors in regards to motion pictures, though he later became a solid TV actor. Michael Beck’s roles got no better or worse, and Edward Mulhare achieved timeless fame as Michael Knight’s boss Devon Miles on Knight Rider. Henry Silva’s career kept right on going up until 2001 when he apparently retired; I especially loved him in Ghost Dog as the aging mobster Ray Vargo, who apparently suffered from Alzheimer’s but would experience moments of telling lucidity. Sadly, Persis Khambatta was in a car crash and had to have heart bypass surgery, and some years later she died from what many believe were complications from that surgery at the age of 49. So while Silva would go on to get steady work, Megaforce didn’t create any superstars.
However, I would say that maybe the movie did leave its mark here and there. Four years later, a little film called Delta Force came out, where Chuck Norris and Lee Marvin led a special unit to the middle east to rescue hostages taken by Muslim terrorists. And what’s Chuck Norris riding?
Why, is that a weaponized motorcycle, complete with rockets and machine guns? Huh, I wonder where Golan and Globus got that idea from? And hey, Chuck Norris is a blond haired bearded dude. It’s like putting the 1996 Batman…
…alongside Nolan’s Batman Begins, i.e., two interpretations of the same characters.
Personally, I’d go with Megaforce; as much fun as it might be to see Norris blow shit up and beat the crap out of terrorists, Bostwick is more enjoyable to watch. And David Menachem is no Henry Silva. What else? Well, there’s Team America, of course…
…and I’m not just talking about the rocket powered motorcycle with the machine guns, either. Team America is very much in the spirit of Megaforce, although the global message is instead replaced by the idea that the world in general is pretty fucked up and only America can set things right. It might sound sappy, but I like the idea of nations coming together to take on global threats. America being on its own sounds so, I don’t know, lonely.
Finally, when watching the final battle, something caught my attention. Here we have weaponized motorcycles and dune buggies going up against tanks, and it made me try to remember where I had seen something like this before. It wasn’t a movie, or a TV series, or even a comic book. It was Command & Conquer.
For those of you who don’t know what that is, Command & Conquer was a computer game franchise that ran from the mid-’90s to the early ‘00s, and depending on which game you were playing, you were either in an alternate timeline where Einstein traveled back in time to kill Hitler and messed things up, or you took sides in a war between the GDI (Global Defense Initiative) against the Brotherhood of Nod. GDI was an international force like SCUFF, and their primary color was gold, like Megaforce. And what were some of the vehicles used by the Brotherhood of Nod, who specialized more in hit and run? Dune buggies and motorcycles. I can’t help but think that the game designers had seen Megaforce when they were kids and were, shall we say, inspired?
I hope you enjoyed the recap. It was certainly a lot of fun for me to write it. In closing, I thought I’d maintain my tradition of including a video. In this case, how could I close out Megaforce without including its theme song, sung by 707?