Friday, 6 November 2015

Turbo Kid (CA/NZ, 2015)

A movie with a heavy 80's retro theme? who'd of thought it. A movie with a heavy post apocalyptic Earth theme? who'd of thought it. A movie with a heavy, over the top, comical, bloody violent theme? who'd of thought it. Yes this movie isn't the most original of ideas to come along, in fact its a complete rehash of many many movies we've seen many many times. The main differences here are...umm...its a joint Canadian and New Zealand collaboration, yeah, take that...originality.

So in this universe (1997, because remember, retro), the Earth has been decimated after some kind of war or whatever, everything has been destroyed leaving a familiar looking barren wasteland where people live in a primitive steampunk/Mad Max-esque existence. Naturally everybody has gone a little crazy, everybody wears really bizarre attire, everybody carries various bizarre weapons, everybody partakes in various barbaric games, oh and everybody travels around on bikes because presumably there is no more fuel for vehicles. Its basically you're common wild west scenario with Mad Max visuals, life is cheap and people do what they gotta do to survive. Oh and if you haven't already guessed, there is indeed a violent horde of lunatics that semi-rule this new land with an iron fist, and Michael Ironside is their sadistic leader (picky reviewer 0-1 movie).

Yeah so basically the plot revolves around this kid, called simply, Kid, yet clearly played by a much older actor. This guy lives alone and survives as best he can as a scavenger, then you have this tough cowboy type fella who aptly dresses like a cowboy. He appears to be the main hero and protagonist, or so you think, and he kinda is and kinda isn't, if you get me, a turns out to be more of a sidekick to the kid. Finally there is the obligatory female character called Apple who is rather eccentric, you find out why later on. As you can guess, all these characters get mixed up and involved with the sadistic roaming gang which leads to much fighting in order to free the land of the blood thirsty horde that grips it. Its you're basic hero story, the young lad who defies the odds with his love interest and older companion, to beat the forces of evil.

Now our main young protagonist, the kid, is actually obsessed with a fictional character within the movie called Turbo Man, a comicbook character who looks like some kind of cheesy retro space ranger toy. The kid tries to imitate this character in every way, his weapons, his moves etc...he idolises him. At one point he even discovers some crashed spaceship thing that seemed to contain some kind of military type who just happened to look and dress like Turbo Man, or it was actually the real Turbo Man, I'm not really sure, but this leads further into the whole 'dress-up' playtime angle of the movie (twas an amazingly lucky coincidence he found that crashed ship too). You see, the plot plays out from the kids perspective, which is obviously immature, childish, young at heart, so everything feels light-hearted and awesome, everything is an adventure and the suit just makes it feel even better. He's not any kind of superhero or action man, but the suit makes him believe he is, plus the suit also comes with this natty wrist laser cannon thing, so not too shabby for killing bad guys huh.

The obvious hook for this movie is the outrageously old school, retro visuals, which homage a variety of nostalgic elements from toys, bikes, clothes and kitschy junk. Turbo Man looks like something outta the 90's but is adorned with very 70's graphics which mainly consist of rainbow go-faster stripes or swooshes. Indeed the old rainbow swooshes are a common visual element in this movie, they tend to pop up on various things and do give off that classic 1970's Atari-esque vibe (mainly because Atari used rainbow go-faster stripes as part of their gaming logo back in the 2600 days). The kids base is adorned with lots of trinkets and dated pop culture items from this universe, but obviously look deliberately familiar to reality. While his wrist laser cannon weapon seems pretty unoriginal the way he uses it, his poses, his quick little He-Man/Lion-O moment are all instantly recognisable to the keen eye. His female companion Apple is also dressed in a very retro looking outfit, all light pastel colours with glitter makeup and a headband, she kinda looked like a walking homage to My little Pony, Jem and the Holograms and Care Bears to me, certainly the vibe I got. And finally we have the ultimate retro callback, the BMX bikes, everyone rides around on BMX bikes or similar. This is both highly amusing simply because, how the fuck could you travel around that terrain on a bike without getting knackered all the time. Secondly, the whole notion just looks so passe, I know that's idea but all I could think of was shitty movies like 'BMX Bandits'.

The one thing I think let this movie down was the hyper violence to be honest. If you think along the lines of the Robert Rodriguez movie franchise Machete then you know where I'm coming from and what to expect. This was a disappointing aspect for me, there is nothing wrong with a good amount of violence and gore, I'm all for it with adult flicks, but there needs to be a certain level of realism. I get that this movie was deliberately going for the shocking, gaudy visual effects, and to that degree it certainly works, but I just felt it was unnecessary. The movie could of been much better if the violence was toned down a bit, given a bit more edge and lost the farcical tomfoolery. The villains in the movie would have been much more enjoyable and menacing had the violence been a bit more down to earth. But when you've got body parts flying all over the show it becomes tiresome very quickly, I think you can only take it so far before you spoil what you've got.

Speaking of villains and characters as a whole, they actually weren't that great. Michael Ironside (Zeus) is obviously the best thing going here and he goes for it, chewing up the scenery like no ones business, we've seen him do this before, we know he's great at it. Our young protagonist is also pretty good actually, he's likeable, not overly big-headed, not some overly tanned, pretty boy with perfect muscles, he's just a regular kid with a well styled retro hairdo. Unfortunately that's where it stops, Apple is just kinda annoying with her wide-eyed wackiness, plus she has to be rescued like...a tonne of times. Zeus's male sidekick Skeletron (eh eh!!), is you're typical mute, insane, mask wearing, crazy weapon wielding, Mad Max-esque type henchman, nothing new there. Same can be said for his female sidekick who has a typical tribal type hairdo and just grins evilly all the time. The last main character, the cowboy, merely comes across as a Kiwi's idea of what a wild west cowboy should look and sound like, in other words, a lame Clint Eastwood wannabe. Alas he comes off more like a typical looking Kiwi sheep farmer wearing a stetson.

Clearly the whole movie plays out like a comicbook, or videogame even, to a degree. Its not suppose to be taken seriously on any level, its meant to be cheesy and unashamedly retro, kitschy and nostalgic. Indeed the retro vintage charms did work for me, visually at least, they all looked great and did hark back to the good old days nicely. Its just a shame the rest of the movie is pretty glum looking, unexciting and too obviously confined to a specific area, a quarry apparently. I really wanted to love this, the moment the Turbo Kid title popped up, emblazoned across the screen in a shameless Tranformers logo rip-off, I got all excited.  Yeah I could overlook the plot holes like how the hell does the kids power gauntlet/laser cannon thing work? what exactly powers it in a world of no power, and just who the hell was that suppose to be in the crashed spaceship?? what was his story? But overall the endless daft violence, weak characters and shallow plot just overshadow everything.