Space Mutiny (1988, David Winters, Neal Sundstrom)

This is a really entertaining bad ’80s South African sci fi film that manages to somehow avoid the usual space opera territory in terms of plot while being just very, very incompetent in the best of ways.

So the ship is called the Southern Sun and I really can’t figure out what that’s supposed to mean. We’re supposed to believe they are in space, on a “generational” space craft but directions matter?

The Southern Sun consists primarily of one or two factories and some really cheap sets. And when I say factories, I mean actual factories – the film is very clearly filmed in a factory (or possibly two) with very little window dressing most of the time. Though there are lots of laughable moments concerning said factory the best is the scene that takes place within a brick building, where you can see the bricks. Now, maybe in the future all spaceships will have bricks as we will have discovered how vital they are to space travel but, at the moment, it’s hard to understand how bricks walls would benefit a spaceship.

It’s really hard to understand how this spaceship functions, physically. So often it feels like the rooms are in completely different places, specifically the (cheap-looking) sets feel like they are in a different world than the factory scenes, almost all of the time. The film does a terrible job of helping us understand the layout of the ship.

And that’s a problem because, unlike basically every other space opera film I’ve seen from the ’70s and ’80s, this is about a mutiny (obviously). It’s never clear how the security force is going to take over the ship because it feels like, to the extent you can believe they’re on a spaceship, it feels like they’re on two different spaceships. It’s hard to understand how this “Flight Commander” (who is apparently in charge of security) could have both just taken over part of the ship without anyone noticing (he’s supposedly killed or disappeared 38 people and nobody noticed!) or how he will be resisted. There are basically two bridges.

Another funny thing about the sets is the sun. There are multiple scenes in which the sun is streaming through the factory windows and there is no attempt to explain it away.

One highlight of the film are the costumes: most of the women are scantily clad while the men are fully clothed, but of course. The one man who isn’t fully clothed is wearing what appears to be a set of hockey pads as a shirt.

But it’s the hair that is really incredible and specifically the men’s hair. It’s as if they hired all these actors but never forced them to agree to change their hair for the film. So we have one of the greatest mullets I’ve ever seen and what Jenn dubbed a “nerdhawk.”

There is a subplot to the mutiny, involving these women who wave their arms in the air and appear to be able to be telepaths. I have no idea what purpose they serve. At one point it seems like they will un-brainwash the security forces but that doesn’t go anywhere. I guess they needed to add runtime.

There’s a club on the ship. The club is suspiciously like some uncool film producer’s idea of an ’80s nightclub, complete with hula-hoops. The club is relevant to the plot in two ways.

The first way is that the highlight of the film begins with the club. A woman, who is possibly going to expose the mutiny, is escorted out of the club by security and promptly murdered. Moments later, in one of the greatest continuity errors in movie history, she is working away at her console on the bridge.

The other reason the club is relevant is that these people like to party. At one point, a supposedly crucial part of the plot is that they are in “pirate territory” and they are being attacked. This would normally be one of action set pieces of the movie. But, instead, there is a party happening on the bridge, during the attack. They are no longer in the club but they have moved to the bridge and they are enjoying themselves. And, somehow, the attack is neutralized.

The whole backstory never makes sense, by the way. This is the ship that is the last hope for mankind but there are other humans (including pirates) in the galaxy. They never reconcile those two points.

A lot feels stolen or repetitive. I swear I’ve seen these space fighters in another movie or show. Maybe the original Battlestar Galatica? I actually thought they were lifted from some other property. (That’s happened before.) But I couldn’t find anything about it. Jenn mentioned at one point she thought they were reusing death screams and once I started paying attention, it sure seemed like they were. So whether or not they stole some of the footage of space, they didn’t have enough money to have a full audio track.

This ship is supposedly huge, so there are these Go-kart vehicles that function as part of the plot. And the climax is literally a car chase involving futuristic looking Go-karts. It’s one of the slowest car chases you’ll ever see. The final crash is so badly put together you can’t figure out what happens. And yes, this space opera needed a car chase for its climax because…why not?

So SPOILER ALERT the villain is left for dead for a second time but he is SPOILER ALERT still alive! In the second best scene of the movie, he aggressively opens his eyes to let us know the sequel is coming, Space Mutiny 2: Space Twotiny.


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