Where overly heroic heroes and needlessly futuristic gadgets always save the day. Well, okay, mostly.
After rescuing the last survivor of an alien race of weapon-making molten men, Captain Matt Mercury (Matt Lavine) of the Rocket Rangers learns that Earth is in danger of being stolen away by the evil mutant super-genius Professor Brainwave (Bill Hughes), the once-human servant of the Galactic Mastermind! With his valiant crew members including snarky Sparx McCoy (Lauren Galley) and underappreciated Jinky the Robot (voice of Heidi Hughes), Matt must save the day…as long as his involvement with old flame Mulkress Dunner (Chantal Nicole) doesn’t distract him more than repeatedly than finding milk in his tea. Will Matt succeed? Will the Earth be returned? What’s with the robot lima beans? Rip open a Rocket Bar and sing along with the Rocket Rangers until the day is saved!
Where Spaceballs spoofed modern space fantasy adventure, Matt Mercury skewers classic sci-fi serials with hairy rubber aliens, hand-painted lasers beams, and actual model miniatures of locations and spacecraft. Sure, they had to incorporate a lot of green screens to pull this off on a small budget, but it lovingly reflects the look and feel of everything up to the original “Star Trek” series, wallowing in the absurdity instead of just playing it straight. While comparible to the understated, overacted brilliance of The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, genre fans will find plenty of familiar tropes and more than a few Easter-egg absurdities for sharp-eyed viewers – not to mention those wonderfully quotable one-liners!
Comic artist Bill Hughes serves as writer/producer/director and still found time to guest star as the central villain himself. Put together over three years, the script is hilariously bad in the best possible way. From posturing cowboy-diplomacy captains and depressed robots to space babes and an addictive theme song, it has all the makings of a cult classic. Joe Grisaffi (of Haunted Trailer fame) puts in an appearance as Matt’s old war buddy Royce Rogers, Doug Drexler plays Captain McCloud in retro Bill Shatner glory, and Rick Corrigan brings Dr. Syfer to life for a dose of mad scientisty goodness. Independent productions like this encourages creative minds to find new ways to get critical shots, and the final cut of this project measures up well next to inspirations such as “Space: 1999,” “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century,” Flash Gordon (1980), “Quark,” and the original “Battlestar Galactica.”
It’s great to see a film this ambitious come together from concept to reality and really work. While indie horror has traditionally taken a bunch of kids out to a cabin in the woods with a barrel of fake blood, Wondervista Studios science-fiction ambitions had to be realized with computer-generated sets, functional hand-made props, alien creature costumes, space ranger uniforms, and scale models to serve an entire universe. Future filmmakers aren’t all being trained in New York and California; they’re picking up cameras and using off-the-shelf software to create whatever they can think up. Given the choice of watching another overblown installment of Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise or sitting down to a delightfully dorky hand-crafted labor of love, I’ll take a sequel to Matt Mercury any day.
(a three-skull recommendation out of four)