2012 Film Challenge #25 - The Humanoid

How about that. We're about a quarter of the way through the year and I'm exactly a quarter of the way through my 2012 film challenge.

And what better way to celebrate this milestone than through watching a film whose entire existence seems to bank on being mistaken for Star Wars?

As rip-offs go, this one's utterly shameless. You have desert planets upon which the only discernible feature for miles is generic geometric machinery. You have long, wedge-shaped spaceships. You have an antagonist with a deep, gruff voice who walks around in a giant shiny black helmet. There's a pet robot, who sometimes makes identical noises to R2D2.

Only in this case, the robot's supposed to be a dog with a magnetic mouth. He has an aerial for a tail, which he wags when he's happy.

You see, it's in the details that The Humanoid transcends its status as a Star Wars rip-off.

The Humanoid in question is created when a gentle giant of a character is attacked by a pathetic little missile. Immediately, he's transformed into a grunting aggressive version of his former self – distinguished by the fact that his beard vanishes.

The bearded one's friendly, the clean-shaven one's evil. It's the opposite of that Star Trek opposite universe. Very clever.

He's created in order to bring the planet Metropolis to its knees. Metropolis is a nightmare of modernist design, where beatific slogans are piped almost subliminally into the minds of its bland, emotionless inhabitants. Nonetheless, our Darth Vader-aping antagonist wants nothing more than to rule this questionable nothing of a planet.

Perhaps we're being asked to question the notions of good and evil? Perhaps we're being invited to consider that, despite his gruff voice and shiny black helmet, the antagonist is actually the liberator? He wants to free Metropolis from the grasps of misguided utopian ideas and allow people to be human once again.

But then again, he's planning marriage with a woman who has ridiculously rigid flowing hair framing her face like an oversized cowl. She's being kept in a state of perpetual youth through putting young women in a curious glass machine which advances on them threateningly.

And anyone will tell you that you simply don't get more evil than that.

It's a total mess. In populating this hackneyed landscape with bland, wooden characters who seem wholly incapable of expressing any emotion, it actually ends up owing more to the Star Wars prequels than it does the original trilogy. There's even an annoying young boy running around being all precocious. It's The Phantom Menace twenty years before the fact.

But it's always amusing, entertaining and very, very watchable. The humanoid, when “running rampage”, is a shuffling pathetic zombie who vaguely manhandles scores of soldiers, sending them flying. Cheap laser effects ricochet off his barrel-chest, causing him to flinch just a little bit too late to make it look real.

And the music! It's Ennio Morricone, and veers from orchestral grandeur to bleepy Radiophonic electronics – sometimes within the same scene. The soundtrack alone would be enough to make this worth watching.

What I'm trying to say is, even as a cheap and tacky Star Wars rip-off, The Humanoid is unique. Not so much “so bad it's good” as “how was this made with a straight face”?

They should do a boxset of all the films which were hastily put together in a desperate attempt to cash-in on the success of Star Wars. It would contain this and Ice Pirates. But what else?

Then there could be a boxset of all those films featuring cute aliens in peril which came out in the wake of ET; and one of monstrous, murderous and adorable critters that sprung up post-Gremlins.

Have there been any films lately which were so popular they inspired scores of imitators?

The Matrix. Remember when everything in the world featured stoic slow motion Kung Fu in long black trench coats?

Jesus Christ, why is everything so boring these days?

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