Space Truckers

Like Smokey and the Bandit? Like Sci-Fi? Like the 50's? Like the New Millennium? Then you'll love Space Truckers. Dennis Hopper's arrival with a flight of square pigs is the most fun thing since Slim Pickens rode the H-bomb. All those free-floating screens advertising spatial garbage among the debris of the universe in the opening sequence lead us along the entrance pathway toward a new world in which not much has changed. John Canyon (Dennis Hopper) is a long distance trucker (yeah, man) with a rocket-powered rig (wow, man) working between planets in the solar system (out of sight, man). He hacks a hard living and his transport, a Pachyderm 2000 freighter, is in need of a few more repairs than Han Solo's. Way up there on the hierarchical scale of industry is The Company under the direction of Chairman Saggs (Shane Rimmer). The Company tries to screw Canyon for late delivery, so he decides to go it alone in order to survive. Pulling together with his new found accomplices Mike Pucci (Stephen Dorff) and Cindy (Debi Mazar), he heads toward Earth with a black market shipment of contents unknown. They wind up captives of vicious, if somewhat incompetent, criminals in the Scum Cluster only to discover they have been carrying a force of Bio-Mechanical Warriors. Nabel (Charles Dance), the mastermind behind these creations, once managed to rebuild himself after an attempted assassination by Saggs; left to die with only one arm, one leg, half a torso and a portion of face, he managed to survive and still likes the ladies. Now he is Macanudo, the leader of the pack in the Scum Cluster, and wait till you see his machines go into action.

The main premise of the film is: can two space truckers and a waitress save the world from annihilation by cyber-robots? Answer: go see it and find out.

Deep Space in the year 2196 might not roll around for a while, but many of mankind's glitches shown in the film seem to have remained the same. Aboard the main vehicle, the motley crew of three deal with situations as best they can. Sexy Debi Mazar adds a nice touch to a rambling spaceship, Stephen Dorff delivers a performance superior to some he has given recently, Charles Dance displays his wide aptitude for comedy in a role diverse from his usual fare, and Dennis Hopper shocks everyone by being a good guy. George Wendt (known better to many as Norm on TV's "Cheers") also puts in an appearance as the proprietor of Interpork and manages, in a short time, to make an unforgettable exit. (For his last scene, a dummy had to be made, the preparation of which included casting his entire body in plaster on a hotel balcony one hot summer day. According to Wendt, when they left him alone to dry, a number of hotel guests called the manager and complained that some sort of devil worship was being practiced on the balcony.) If you think his exit is something, wait till you see the amazing "Dowager" (Eileen Dromey) in the toilet on the way to Zesty's (Birdy Sweeney)lair. Where do they get those toys?

Superb points for director/producer Stuart Gordon who intended to make a sci-fi film of a different order and has to a large extent succeeded. Gordon, co-founder of the famous Chicago Organic Theatre where he directed and co-wrote the noted Warp in the 70's and left the group originally to direct his first feature film Re-Animator, has an impressive list of films behind him and this one can be easily added. Superb points for scriptwriter Ted Mann, who, expressing his point of view, says, "I think we'll all end up in the great dust bowl here on Earth. But what I did like about Stuart's vision was the thought that wherever we are, people will be the same, the usual suspects pretending to work for the ægreater good' of mankind. I also like the notion of taking over the world by privatising it, which is what Saggs plans to do. It seems to me the entrepreneurial spirit is already being crushed and big corporations have taken over the right to tax and spend."

Superb points as well for the FX teams that worked both separately and together, including Mike Measimer and Dave Snyder of Optic Nerve Studio (thanks for the hairy square pigs, guys), Scot Oshita of the Greg Cannom Sudio, and Tuck Porter and Mark Wetherby, and that creator of visually stunning and deadly BMWs, Screaming Mad George, as well as make-up assistants Maria Bruce and Liz Dean.

(Would make a great double-feature with John Carpenter's "Dark Star".)

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett