Unlike a lot of these movies, I have no fond memories of Megaforce as a little kid that could possibly be smashed by my blurry memories of faux-military sweetness. I’ve been through this a million times with TV shows, movies and cartoons that I thought were the shit when I was a kid only to grow up and watch them again years later, all childhood illusion swept aside. But I didn’t see Megaforce back in the day. I actually caught up to it on video at a much later date and it was then that it staked its claim in my heart as one of the most ridiculous movies I’ve ever laid eyes on. By the time that Megaforce and I had caught up to one another, it was too late. I was becoming critical and could recognize a real turd when I saw one whereas had I seen this when I was 7, I probably would have been standing on the theater seat, declaring it the single greatest work of film since The Empire Strikes Back.
The thing is, the production company, Golden Harvest, best known for a ton of Jackie Chan pictures and one of the first Hong Kong production groups to cross the ocean and work with Hollywood on the Bruce Lee classic, Enter The Dragon, were poised to invade the United States again but I gotta tell ya, I don’t think this would have even worked in much more forgiving markets such as South East Asia. The hopes were high. I have a shitload of Uncanny X-Men back issues plastered with the poster for this on the back cover. There was a line of toys developed, a fan club and an Atari game. The plan was to market all of this and make a fat mint, but the plan bacfired. You may not believe me but such market saturation is the norm these days, so if I may be as so bold: Megaforce was way ahead of its time. Take a stroll through any given Walmart and tell me how much merchandising you see for The Transformers (specifically the movie version), Pirates of the Carribean, Spiderman and now Iron Man. There has always been a degree of movie tie-in to any movie you could comfortably market to 12 year olds but this shit is out of control. Had there been rampant Walmart invasions back in 1982, I’m almost certain that Megaforce would have been a hit. Spandex, flying motorcycles, penis bulges and all.
You don’t know this, but there is an elite, multinational army of badasses that operate beyond the confines of the government. They are outfitted with the most advanced weapons and equipment the world has ever seen. If you can dream it, they have it and it’s painted gold and black because nothing says black ops quite like brightly colored motorcycles and dune buggies. They are Megaforce and they are called in when the circumstances become too hot for conventional armies. Maybe it’s the Middle East or, I don’t know, Africa, but a mercenary group of Russian guys in tanks blow up a model of what could be an oil refinery or a power plant and then book it for the border. On the way, they’re attacked by the local military but manage to cross their border to safety. With their hands tied, the army of Sardun are forced to fall back. This, of course, calls for Megaforce. A secret meeting is set up and we finally get to meet our players.
The movie up and breaks a million bad movie laws right out of the box and makes a lot of assumptions about who is watching this movie. For starters, Golden Harvest and director Hal Needham (best known as the director of Smokey and the Bandit, Cannonball Run and a handful of other Burt Reynolds good ol’ boy movies) seem to think that you are a 12 year old boy. Maybe they think you’re strapped into your seat and you have no choice but to watch Megaforce but everything about the first ten minutes of the movie, titles included, is completely idiotic, even to a child. A commie stereotype reads a long-winded speech from a composition notebook, punctuation included, to a group of terrified locals. The big bad guy, Guererra, played by professional villain, Henry Silva, stands around looking bored before yanking the notebook and ordering his army to destroy a model with some bottle rockets. Eye roll inducing comedy? Check. Really shitty models and special effects? Check. Russian stereotypes worse than Rocky 4? Check. It’s all there and it only gets worse.
The top military brass of Sardun played by ‘Knight Rider’s’ Edward Mulhare and Persis ‘the bald chick from Star Trek: The Motion Picture’ Khambatta, notably the only woman in the movie, roll out to meet Megaforce through mysterious means. For an organization that isn’t supposed to exist, these people do nothing to conceal themselves. They’re greeted by another pair of awful stereotypes, headed up by Michael Beck doing his best Woody Harrelson impression. It probably would have been in Beck’s best interest if he had fired his agent at this point, but a more effective solution would have been to burn him where he stands and purify the earth where he died with salt. Beck never stood a chance. What started out as a strong outing as Swan in the Cinema Suicide favorite, The Warriors, he took a nosedive opposite Olivia Newton John in Xanadu and then nailed his own coffin shut with Megaforce. Poor guy. The guests are then treated to a motorcycle stunt show as three golden bikes with machine guns and missiles shoot some balloons. In a scene of pure hilarity, one of the stunt bikes is seen losing control and about to wipe out before the camera cuts away to a scene of the three bikes in perfectly controlled unison. Enter Ace Hunter, leader of Megaforce, played by the Brad half of The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Brad and Janet. Better know to you and me as Barry Bostwick.
At all times, Hunter is dressed like a member of the band Loverboy. He thrusts his spandex-encased bulge at Khambatta every time they share screen time and no matter the helmet, his hair is always a perfectly blow dried coif, complete with a baby blue headband. For a better mental picture, take the Will Ferrell character Ron Burgundy. Remove the irony and you have Ace Hunter. He seems at ease with what he’s doing at all times, as though Bostwick is in on the joke. Unfortunately, he plays it straight and has no idea what this movie is going to do to his career. Megaforce was more or less last stop for everyone involved. True box-office poison.
The plan, is that Megaforce is going to go into Gamibia, where Guererra and his goons originate, hit a Gamibian target and draw the tanks out to Sardun territory where the Sardun military will engage Guererra and his army on their own terms. Meanwhile Zara (Khambatta) des everything she can to prove that she is worthy of joining Megaforce. Unfortunately for her, the entire movie is drenched in so much machismo and testosterone (not to mention purple key lighting) that idea is laughable. She does fall for Hunter, though. By the way, Hunter and Guererra are old war buddies. And their motorcycles can fly.
For a movie that is supposed to be slam-bang action from top to bottom, the first half hour creeps by. Thankfully, the remaining sixty is a predictable mess of an action movie crammed with motorcycles, missiles, dune buggies and terrible special effects. Consider Team America without the funny. Actually, that’s not fair. This shit is funny as hell. There’s a lot of shooting, a lot of tanks getting blown up by model rockets, a wicked double-cross and the funniest line you’re likely to hear in a movie (“The good guys always win. Even in the 80’s”). Cap it off with a casio-metal theme song and Hunter’s trademark thumb-kiss and you wind up with this dizzying sugar high of an action movie.
Throughout the flick you get the impression that they were pretty excited about what they were doing. The blue screen effects are proudly credited to the Zoptic Special Effects System. Have you ever heard of this thing? Me, either. I suspect that it was supposed to be the next wave of compositing. An evolution of Dykstraflex, if you will.
I feel bad about ragging on Megaforce, though. It’s a foregone conclusion, really. Released 26 years ago, it disappeared into a world of obscurity reserved for flops on the level of Ishtar or Heaven’s Gate and has flirted with a release on the cult film circuit but it never seems to happen. As ironic entertainment, it outperforms most of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 catalog is so easy to pick on that you could provide your own riff-track. It should be fairly obvious from even the most vague of screenshots and package art that Megaforce is the ultimate golden turkey. The title, alone, should also tip you off. You could write a particularly negative review without even seeing it, but to do that would be dishonest. You’d also be cheating yourself of prime comedy. Since you can’t write jokes like this, it’s best to take it on face value. The intended jokes fall flat but it’s always funny when it shouldn’t be.
I’d love to pair it up against Dark Side of the Moon and see how it syncs.