Review for Space Truckers
Space Truckers was a flop. I mean, it must have been a flop, a movie that sunk without a trace on its release in 1996. I say that, as in 1998, one of my favourite anime series was released, Cowboy Bebop, which shares a certain visual aesthetic with Space Truckers. Indeed, one Cowboy Bebop episode, Heavy Metal was about the cosmic equivalent of container transportation, and the ‘trucks’ in that episode, with their train of containers snaking through space, bear so much of a resemblance to those in this film, that I suspect that the two productions must share a concept designer or two. Although I couldn’t find any trace of that in the credits. I say Space Truckers must have fallen under the radar, as surely someone would have noted the connection otherwise. Still, I get to watch a comedy action sci-fi that passed me by back in the nineties, back when I would have lapped stuff like this up.
John Canyon is an independent trucker, the last of the independent truckers when all the others are signing contracts to work for ‘the man’. He’d much prefer to own his own rig, pulling freight across the solar system on his own terms. His own terms means that he gets stiffed on a bill from a pig importer, and winds up having to take a questionable contract, to transport a load of sex-dolls to Earth with a strict timetable to adhere to. This time he’s got passengers too, thanks to a hasty departure from the space station. Mike Pucci is a newly qualified trucker, while Cindy is the cute waitress that John is sweet on, and who’s agreed to marry him in exchange for a trip to Earth. The one problem is that those sex-dolls ain’t no sex-dolls.
Space Truckers gets a 2.35:1 widescreen 1080p presentation, and it’s had a restoration for this Blu-ray release. It’s the kind of restoration I can get behind, which is genuinely filmic and natural. The image is clear and sharp, detail levels are excellent, and the colour reproduction is dazzling. There is a decent level of film grain, and even a hint of flicker and cinewobble (the latter evident during the credit sequences). Space Truckers is old school sci-fi, reliant on model-work and visual effects to get its vision of the future across, a splendid cornucopia of production and costume design. The one or two moments of primitive CGI tend to stick out a mile.
The sole audio track is a PCM 2.0 English Stereo affair with optional English subtitles. The audio comes across clearly without glitches or dropouts. Give the stereo a little prologic, and you’ll get some decent surround action too, which is good for the space trucks rumbling by, and the various explosions, disintegrations and fist fights. The dialogue in the film is quite a delight, although subtitles are useful on the odd occasion. The film’s music has the Western/Country aesthetic that you’d probably expect from a movie about truck drivers, in space.
The disc presents its content with an animated menu. You get three featurettes with the film.
Space Trucking with Stuart Gordon is a 22:53 interview with the film’s director, as he shares memories about the making of the film, and the film’s cast.
The Art of Space Truckers lasts 8:07, and in it Simon Lamont talks about the look of the film.
Scoring Space Truckers lasts 12:31 and features an interview with composer Colin Towns. This is the most disappointing of the extras, as Towns is not the most erudite of speakers.
All of the extra features are presented in 1080p format.
The sci-fi action movies of the nineties were all colourful and tongue in cheek, with larger than life characters and an emphasis on fun. Films like Demolition Man, Stallone’s Judge Dredd, Tank Girl, Timecop, and Johnny Mnemonic were all films that played up the comic book aspects of their respective worlds, with the emphasis on the comic. Space Truckers goes one step further by becoming an out and out comedy, and is a whole lot of goofy fun as a result, mostly on account of the characters and the writing. It’s a little bit Ice Pirates mixed with Red Dwarf and Hitchhikers. A mid-budget film from the mid-nineties, the lack of money does sometimes show on screen (they didn’t bother erasing the wires for the zero-g sequences), so the film has to do what films did in the old days before CG, it has to rely on the story and the actors to work.
Dennis Hopper is brilliantly cast against his 90s villain type as the protagonist of the film, John Canyon. A blue-collar astronaut of the sort introduced in Dark Star and Alien, characters that would later turn up in Firefly, his life is his job, although he seizes the chance for happiness when Cindy needs a lift. The rookie Mike serves as the audience proxy, asking the right questions when they get into stranger situations. On the other hand, there is Charles Dance as a cybernetics genius turned cyborg pirate captain, in a role that is certainly one of his most memorable.
The plot revolves around a shipment of killer robots, which Canyon has to haul to Earth without being in a position to ask questions as to what his cargo actually is until it’s too late. But the film plays out rather episodically, which is what you’d probably expect from a road movie in space. These are little moments of action, comedy and entertainment rather than a consistent narrative flow, but that certainly doesn’t hurt the movie. Space Truckers is a whole lot of fun from a more innocent time, back when sci-fi action movies didn’t have to do dark and gloomy to get noticed.
Space Truckers has the same kind of crazy colour scheme as The Fifth Element, and all of that comes across refreshingly well on this Blu-ray from Second Sight. It fits the definition of a cult movie to a tee, a quirky sci-fi comedy that is hard to easily categorise, but easy to fall in love with. Space Truckers is well worth a second look, although given how it fared back in 1996, this will probably be a first look for many people as it was for me. I still can’t believe how much Cowboy Bebop’s visual style has in common with Space Truckers!