Movie sign! My capsule reviews of the new Mystery Science Theater 3000, Part 1

Here’s something no one asked for – my opinions on the new round of Mystery Science Theater 3000! I’ll eventually report on all of them, assuming the world doesn’t end in the meantime. I mean, I wish that was a joke, but sadly it’s not. Okay, so, let’s go.

1. Reptilicus – It’s hard to believe the original MST3K never got around to covering this one, as it is the perfect MST3K movie, in that not a single element works. The script, the acting, the effects, the directing, the editing – all terrible, top to bottom. A Danish attempt at Godzilla, this one fails to conjure up a single scare. It also crashes down hard in the suspension of disbelief phase, which is critical in any movie of this nature. You have to agree to go along with the movie’s reality to buy anything on screen, and this one doesn’t even try. The late comedian Richard Jeni had a great bit about the blatant stupidity of Jaws 4, and how it basically slapped you in the face for daring to watch it and try and make sense of any of it, and this is in that camp. It slaps you and says “This I a stupid movie, sucker. Now just sit there and swallow it for ninety minutes, and don’t make a sound.” It’s a really bad film, and they do the best they can with it. This kick off episode is unusual in giving us a bit of back story in how Jonah, our new host, gets captured. It’s fine, and I guess it is cute to try and add a little world building to the MST3K story, but it was never super necessary.

2. Cry Wilderness – Okay, here’s my favorite film so far. A fever dream of a kid’s film, it makes no attempt to craft a coherent story or characters or plot, and is perfect MST3K fodder because, much like Reptilicus, not a single thing about it works. But it is far sillier at its core, and therefore much more enjoyable. It’s about a kid with a forest ranger dad, who has a close personal relationship with Bigfoot – a terrible costume, which is pointed out even if you don’t notice how it changes throughout the film – who’s set up as a missing link kind of character. Also there’s some soft ‘70’s era racism here, with a Native American sidekick and a magical Native American ghost. It’s terrible, and the lack of any plot makes it simultaneously worse and better. The villain of the film might as well be twirling a mustache while punching a kitten, as he is cartoonishly bad, and yet he meets a surprisingly grisly end. Again, this is supposed to be a kid’s movie. Remember that when the villain gets his comeuppance. I think this movie has a moral – leave animals alone – which is good, but considering the movie decided to have no plot, why slap a message on it? It makes no sense, and I was really delighted with this one. If you only have time to watch one new MST3K before the bombs drop, I recommend this one. Deeply silly. I’d be remiss in not pointing out the cameo from Pearl, Professor Bobo, and Brain Guy. They have aged well, except the new Bobo mask can barely move and looks fakey as hell, but oh well. Can’t have everything. I enjoyed it anyway.

3. Time Travelers – Written by the weirdly named guy also responsible for Reptilicus, this is one of those films that’s mostly foam peanuts. In The Screaming Skull, they suggested there was about ten minutes of movie, with the rest being packing peanuts, which was true for that movie, and is true for this one as well, but in a slightly different way. In Screaming Skull, it was an attempt to create tension that wildly misfired, and here it was just poor story development. It’s about a bunch of scientists who invent a time machine, and through general stupidity, get stuck in the dystopian future. The problem is, as soon as the scientists get stuck there, the movie’s story is basically over. An arbitrary deadline means they have to rebuild their time machine or else, and that’s about it. The rest of the movie is foam peanuts, and what could have been an interesting look at the dystopian society really never materializes. I was expecting an android rebellion, or maybe the discovery that the so called good guys are really the bad guys, but nope, that never happens. Everything is pretty much what it seems, and the androids never figure into anything, except clearly the writer thought they were futuristic and cool, and that was enough. Nope. I think you could study this as an example of what not to do in a film. It doesn’t help that the characters actually have no character whatsoever, so you don’t care if they survive their predicament or not. If you want to watch a film that’s slightly similar and yet more successful at its goofy aims, may I recommend MST3K’s The Human Duplicators? They even try and throw in a twist, although it barely qualifies, as it’s obvious from the get go.

Report so far? These are all films that could have been done in past MST3Ks, and the comedy standard is pretty good. I got the most laughs from Cry Wilderness, but I got some good chuckles from the others as well. Will report back when I finish viewing the other films.

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