Film Review: Megaforce (1982)



Re-escalation of the Cold War in early 1980s was enthusiastically embraced by Hollywood and boosted careers of Sylvester Stallone and Chuck Norris. This trend, however, failed to help Megaforce, 1982 action adventure film directed by Hal Needham, which had tried to exploit it. The plot was based on the sound premise of direct confrontation between USA and Soviet Union being unlikely due to inevitable descent into mutually assured nuclear annihilation. Instead, Soviets and their Communist allies were to be confronted through proxy wars and use of entities that allow plausible deniability. One such entity is Megaforce, small but elite force manned by top veterans of leading Western militaries and equipped by various futuristic vehicles and gadgets. The plot begins when fictional pro-Western country of Sardun becomes targetted by "revolutionaries" operating out of neighbouring Communist country of Gamibia. Sardun sends delegation General Byrne-White (played by Edward Mulhare) and president's daughter Major Zara (played by Persis Khambatta) to seek help from Megaforce. Their leader Ace Hunter (played by Barry Bostwick) agrees after giving them the tour of Megaforce underground base. He devises plan to bring Megaforce over the Gamibian border, destroy supply depot and lure its main force, commanded by Colonel Guerrera (played by Henry Silva), over Sardun border into a trap. Plan initially works, but Sardun government suddenly decides that it won't risk open hostilities with its neighbour and leaves Megaforce behind enemy border. Ace Hunter, however, quickly devises plan to deceive Guerrera and bring his men to safety.

Megaforce was produced by Golden Harvest, Hong Kong film studio which attempted to penetrate Western markets in early 1980s. Hal Needham, former stuntman who had great success with series of car-themed action comedies in previous years, seemed a like perfect choice for this project. The film indeed features some impressive stunts (Needham was actually injured during the shooting of one scenes), "cool" looking futuristic motorcycles and dune bugging equipped with missiles as well as lot of pyrotechnics. But all that can't compensate for serious deficiencies in the script and conceptual problems. Almost all of the action takes place in the last thirty minutes of the film and before that audience is provided long and, at times, boring exposition of Megaforce which only underlines how cliched, unrealistic and poorly written characters are. Although this film had rather decent budget and featured some spectacular action, all that hard work was ruined by some cheesy special and general tone which made Megaforce look like unintentional parody of itself. Most notable are costumes, which were actually designed by Mattel, toy company which saw this project as an excellent way to promote its merchandise; they make Ace and his men look more like disco dancing troupe than elite unit of hardcore mercenaries. Despite this, Barry Bostwick enthusiastically embraces campiness of his role, same as Henry Silva who seems to enjoy playing villain who is in the same time protagonist's former best friend. Persis Khambatta, former Miss India, also does well in rather thankless role of Ace's obligatory love interest. Megaforce was ntended for family audience and the violence was maximally toned down; because of that massive explosions that occur throughout the film fail to cause any death or injury. The film, faced with serious competition in Summer of 1982, fared disastrously at the box-office and ended what was supposed to be a lucrative film franchise. Time was, however, kind to Megaforce. In the era of private military companies like Blackwater or Wagner it got something of a prophetic quality. Furthermore, it gained something of a cult status and fans like Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who took it inspiration for their own similarly-themed 2004 film Team America: World Police.

RATING: 4/10 (++)

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