United States – 1982
Director – Hal Needham
CBS/FOX Video, 1990, VHS
Run Time – 1 hour, 32 minutes
Who can forget those ascetic days of the Carter Era when we were admonished to be ashamed of ourselves and all reticent and stuff? What a drag, no fun at all. It really didn’t feel good to be American. All we wanted was for people to get a shiver down their spine just knowing how awesome we were, but instead we were told to be more humble. Where’s the fun in humility? What the world needs is a little hubris. Hal Needham, director of such astute visions of grandeur as Smokey and the Bandit and The Cannonball Run understood the United Statesian yearning for escape from such philosophical self flagellation and conceived a new vision, a new concept of proactive intervention that coincided perfectly with our desire for a resurrected self-image. Hegemony and war needed to be fun and sexy again, and Needham, pungent genius that he was, went right for the jugular, hell bent on stuffing as many wheelies and explosions into this foreign mis-adventure as Megaforce’s already strained spandex seams could take.
Barry Bostwick) and his prominently bulging manhood bankrolled by Hong Kong's Golden Harvest pictures. This guy has so much love that he can’t give enough, like a messiah offering himself up as golden spandex clad sacrament. Drink of me he seems to say, for this is my blood engorged ego. Eat of me, for this is my throbbing self-confidence. Hunter is the lone and solitary leader of Megaforce, a man so charismatic that he disdains substance or depth, relying instead on the potent charisma and sexual power of a gazillion dollar fantasy techno-boner to lead his followers to the end times.
The Megaforce milieu is introduced with a sweeping display of impractical but inspiring armored, missile-armed dirtbikes and a grand tour of a giant invisible base stuffed to the gills with secret military hardware, all of it received unsolicited from anonymous donors with the promise that Megaforce will “defend freedom wherever in the world it might be threatened.” But I’m getting ahead of myself. This is not supposed to be a point by point recital of the plot in which a sparkling wonderforce uses a dirtbike-smoke-screen rainbow and a script written by a stuntman to stop cigar-chomping Central American dictator Duke Guerrera (Henry Silva). It’s supposed to be a reminder of our national potential, a potential we have allowed to slip away, or simply to be forgotten.
It doesn’t matter that there is no substance or depth to the Megaforce message and mission, for neither the film, the messengers nor the rhetoric from which it springs require such petty practicalities to look awesome. What matters is that Megaforce (and yes, by extension the USA) believes itself, for this is above all an instrumental politics of posturing, a self-deluding canonization of the ego. That’s exactly what our troubled nation needs, a thick and heavy slice of realpolitik smothered in messianic exceptionalism. It’s just too bad we all threw our VCR’s away.
This review originally appeared in Paracinema issue 12.
Clip courtesy of lucienpsinger.