Every week, I scour Netflix for a movie rated at one star and put it in my queue, suffering through it for your entertainment so that you don’t have to. In the past, I’ve taken on anime cancer demons, softcore Iraq War porn and racist ventriloquism, and this week, it’s a sci-fi epic that doesn’t even meet the standards of Public Access.
MERC FORCE EPISODE 1: EDEN (2003)
Starring: The unholy union of community theater and the Super FX chip.
This weekend, I took a trip to Asheville for ActionFest, the first film festival devoted exclusively to action movies. I didn’t stay the whole three days, but while I was there, I caught a couple films making their American premiere that were beautifully shot, absolutely thrilling and ridiculously entertaining. And then, because I am who I am, I came home to watch the worst movie I could possibly find.
This week’s contender: Merc Force, a movie that has less of a plot and more of an attempt by the makers to make the world’s deadliest sci-fi cliché drinking game: In the distant future of 2045 (take a shot), the United Earth (take a shot) and the Sectagon Empire (take a shot) have entered World War III (take a shot), relying on Space Mercenaries (take a shot) to fight their poorly rendered battles (take a shot). Two groups of rival mercenaries (take a shot)–including a telepath (take a shot), an enhanced soldier (take a shot) and a deposed space princess (take a shot)–are sent from the Cybertech Mining Colony (take a shot) on Zarton 5 (take a shot) to a distant, unsettled planet (take a shot) in order to investigate the mysterious death (take a shot) of a squadron of space marines (take a shot) who were betrayed by a rogue android (take a shot) who wants to gain control of a doomsday weapon (finish your glass).
The only thing that really sets it apart is an astonishing plot point involving the deposed space princess and two of the other characters, where you find out she hates them because they sold her into sex slavery a few years back, which is not only played for laughs, but used as the basis for their budding romance in the inevitable (and as near as I can figure, nonexistent) Episode 2.
The whole thing has the air of something that was created for public access on short notice in order to fill an hour that would’ve otherwise gone to ShamWow infomercials if Vince hadn’t punched out that prostitute. There’s an ultra low-fi quality to it that’s less than low budget, to the point where its effects are outshined by everything but the video of your 9th birthday party.
From the looks of it, humanity will only exist in two locations by the year 2045: hallways with starfields digitally added to their windows by a Commodore 64 and distant planets that look suspiciously like the woods behind the high school. And while almost every character is listed during the opening credits as being from different planet, they all just look like regular guys, except for the one poor bastard who caked on green makeup and a Savage Dragon head-fin for his ten total minutes of screentime, with the added bonus that it made him blend in with whatever bedsheet the producers hung up to allow for the visual effects.
Also, while it’s possible that there’s a level of acting prowess that could convince a viewer that a spraypainted Nerf gun is actually a futuristic laser-pistol…
…it is not commonly found in the world of community theater.
But it’s not just the visuals that reflect the makers’ ineptitude. Actors flub lines and then just start over without the director cutting, one of the characters is inexplicably overdubbed in every scene in which he appears, even when everyone else is just picked up by the mic on the camcorder, and there’s a completely apropos-of-nothing cameo at the end by what is clearly someone’s dad. And then there’s the music, which goes back and forth between a local band trying desperately to be Linkin Park (with a truly, truly awful opening song that’s their attempt at hitting the lows of Evanescence) and the background loops from Neverwinter Nights.
And you know what? When you’re working with CGI that is only slightly less convincing than StarFox 64, you may want to make sure that it doesn’t account for a solid half of your movie’s runtime. Just a thought here.
But even with all that stacked against it, I’ve got a hard time really hating this one. Yes, it’s absolutely awful, but everyone in it seems to be fully aware that they’re spending the day in the woods making a terrible movie, and the utterly abysmal sets and effects make it feel like an unironic 70-minute production of LaserCats.
Plus, there’s Merc Force‘s insistence that chubby dudes aren’t fat, they’re just roomy enough to accommodate cybernetic implants that make them super-badass karate masters:
And that’s definitely something I can get behind.
|Chris Sims is a freelance comedy writer from South Carolina. He briefly attended USC before he dropped out to spend more time with Grand Theft Auto, and his career subsequently took the path that you might expect from someone who makes that sort of decision. He blogs at http://www.the-isb.com and creates comics at http://www.actionagecomics.com.|