Del and Mladen review ‘Space Truckers’

“Space Truckers” Starring Dennis Hopper, Debi Mazar, Stephen Dorff, Charles Dance, George Wendt and others. Directed by Stuart Gordon. 1 hour, 35 minutes. Rated PG-13. Amazon Prime.

Del’s take

“Space Truckers” is Mladen’s revenge for “A Recipe for Seduction.”

He’s been stewing for months about being forced to watch that dreck, and plotting ways to make me pay. Well, he came up with a doozy. “Space Truckers” has a cult following – of kooks with bad taste. Trust me, it’s boring schlock.

Director Stuart Gordon, who captained some pretty good movies like “Reanimator,” intended this to be a lowbrow sci-fi comedy. He succeeded with lowbrow but the comedy part fails, and it fails miserably. I can’t think of a single funny moment in this movie.

It features some real talent – Dennis Hopper, a young Stephen Dorff, Charles Dance and George Wendt – but the problem with “Space Truckers” is the script. It falls flat and I doubt defibrillator paddles could shock some life into this toe-tag of a screenplay.

The story goes like this: Hopper is the last of the independent “space truckers” driving goods and whatnot from one planet to the next. After a late delivery of square pigs and only partial payment, he takes on a sketchy consignment from a shady group headquartered at the Neptunian moon Triton for rapid delivery to Earth. As you might expect, “rapid delivery” becomes anything but after an encounter with space pirates, and then the load itself becomes problematic when it turns out to be a swarm of Terminator-like robots bent on killing all humans.

In theory this kind of movie should work. Ironically, a day or two after I finished “Space Truckers” another comedy – this one very funny – was playing on cable: “Airplane.” I was struck by the differences in the two movies – “Airplane” has a similarly thin plot but that’s OK – the movie is nothing but one rapid-fire joke delivery after another. In “Airplane” some jokes are visual, some physical, and some are embedded in dialogue. “Space Truckers” exhibited none of those qualities. It was an hour and a half of Dennis Hopper glaring and leering at the camera Quint-style with Debi Mazar almost flashing her boobies and Stephen Dorf showing off a not-bad stack of abs.

Comedy relies to a great extent on timing and “Space Truckers,” like its bumbling space truck-driving Hopper, misses delivery time and time again. He could never get a job with intergalactic Fed-Ex. Couple that with nonsensical special effects – I mean you can see the wirework in the scenes of weightlessness – and you get a movie that’s not quite “Plan 9 from Outer Space” but darned close, maybe “Plan 8.”

I expect some folks love this movie and will sniff at my dismissal as the grumpy curmudgeoning of a foul-tempered old man. Maybe Mladen will be one of them. I’m good with that.

I didn’t like “Space Truckers” and I don’t mind saying so. It rates a solid D on my grade scale.

And that’s a 10-4 good buddy.

Mladen’s take

There is absolutely zero wrong with Debi Mazar almost flashing her boobies in “Space Truckers.” If there is a problem, Del, it’s that the “almost” does not become an actual.

“Space Truckers,” despite the way bona fide critics and Del have characterized the movie, is not a comedy.

Yes, it has elements of farce which, I suppose, can be construed as a form of comedy. The space truck space lane approach to Triton is lined with ugly billboards like a U.S. highway. The message? Leave it to mankind to fuck up even deep and beautiful outer space with its garish drive to sell shit.

Yes, cyborg Macanudo (Charles Dance) trying to start his mechanical penis’ erection by pulling a cord as you would do to start an uncooperative chainsaw is clearly intended to be humor and it works.

But this 1996 film – let me say that again – this 1996 film – that’s three years before “The Matrix” hits the big screen – gives it its all to take advantage of emerging computer-generated visual effects and provide an action-adventure joy ride.

To enjoy “Space Truckers” requires a pinch of mercy, a dollop of appreciation for effort and two tablespoons of understanding. Del lacks all three.

Mercy because “Space Truckers” is imbalanced. Set design and costumes are good, as is most of the acting. The special effects – models and electronic visuals – ain’t bad either. The movie is tainted, as Del noted, by the often-visible suspension wires used to make it look like people are floating or tumbling in low gravity. I have no idea why that significant flaw wasn’t disguised in film post‑production.

Appreciation because other movies of that era, “Escape from LA,” for example, directed by the great John Carpenter had crappier computer-driven animation. You have to appreciate “Space Truckers” for what it is: A movie made as the landscape of moviemaking was changing with the introduction of the microchip and graphic arts software to a director’s pallet.  

Understanding because … see Mercy and Appreciation above.    

I didn’t know that “Space Truckers” had a cult following until Del mentioned it in his review. And, though I’m not a cultist except as it regards Godzilla movies, I can understand why the movie would draw a particular kind of audience. “Space Truckers” is campy, studded with absurd characters, hampered by not infrequent special effects malfunctions, and, if your tolerant of imperfections, fun.

I give “Space Truckers” a B for effort and the likelihood it’ll appeal to 1 out of 7 viewers despite its flaws.

Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical writer. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.


2 responses to “Del and Mladen review ‘Space Truckers’”

  1. David Ross says:

    It’s not good.
    It gets some props for at least attempting hard-SF in our own solar-system.

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