While Moontrap is not going to blow you away, it certainly has something to offer. This is a low-budget eighties movie starring older Walter Koenig (Chekov from Star Trek) and young Bruce Campbell (Ash from The Evil Dead). It doesn’t fuck around and right off the bat, it hits the viewer with pretty intriguing imagery. Like a creepy-looking robot head popping up from the cold and barren Moon’s surface right after Apollo 11’s historic landing.
However, there’s something missing here. It’s like everyone is just going through the motions without any real conviction. Especially when you consider just how ambitious was the main story featuring a lot of mystery and relatively original ideas. Although I couldn’t help remembering that Futurama episode The Series Has Landed where they go to the moon. Jesus Zombie Christ, after all these years I just have think of Whalers of the moon or Crushinator and burst out laughing.
In the past few years, we saw a surge of science fiction movies set on the moon. Some of them were phenomenal hard sci-fi masterpieces like Moon, some fun oddities like Iron Sky or found-footage Apollo 18. And even some blockbusters like Transformers: Dark of the Moon. After all, is there a more iconic image from the early days of film than that shot of a moon with a rocket in its eye from A Trip to the Moon shot in 1902?
Now, let’s get back to Moontrap, a movie that perhaps offers one of the best Moon-related storylines out of all these movies. If they only had more money… I think that this would be another classic standing proudly with other masterpieces from the eighties. Not really knowing what it wants to be, it remains just another decent time killer.
Who knew that in 1989 we would finally discover that we are not alone in the universe? The crew of the Space Shuttle Camelot is slowly approaching a giant derelict ship orbiting Earth. It seems completely abandoned and devoid of all life. Col. Jason Grant discovers a strange object that looks like a pod and decides to bring it back to Earth. This single action will prove to be both a blessing and a curse because he, along with the rest of us, will learn the truth behind this mystery. A mystery that threatens the survival of mankind.
Visually it feels a bit outdated. Scratch that. It feels charmingly outdated. The special effects are acceptable although there are some pretty crappy ones, especially towards the end. It’s so eighties that if you’re wondering what type of weapons our crew brought to the Moon, of course, they were Uzi’s. I was half-expecting them to pull out a bag of powdery substance to give themselves a bit of bump in the middle of trouble.
And there are a couple of really funny sexual scenes. You’ll know them when you see them, trust me. Moontrap lacks that fully fleshed-out world where you get the feeling that there’s something else going on apart from the story we’re seeing. If you combine it with Moon 44 that features exactly that but missing a strong story you get one hell of a movie.
If you’re looking for movies to watch after this one, I recommend Screamers that feature a much better storyline, special effects and pretty much everything else. Or if you’re in a mood for more independent but pretty engaging science fiction movies take a look at Stranded. And in the end if you’re looking for a more commercial but entertaining flick look no further than Virus.
Director: Robert Dyke
Writer: Tex Ragsdale
Cast: Walter Koenig, Bruce Campbell, Leigh Lombardi, Robert Kurcz, Tom Case, John J. Saunders, Reavis Graham
Fun Facts: Because the “moondust” was actually quick-set concrete powder, there was always a sign at the set proclaiming “No Liquids!” And a bonus one: the NASA control room was actually filmed at Enrico Fermi nuclear reactor #2. It’s located south of Troy, MI in Frenchtown Charter Twp., MI. The lighted circular display in the center of the panels shows the control rod positions in the reactor.