Monday, 19 January 2015

'The Ice Pirates' Review

In the distant future, water shortages in the known galaxy have caused the value of water to skyrocket. Into this new economy stepped Ice Pirates who steal water from the Templers, who cruelly control what little water remains. Jason, the leader of a group of these pirates must help the deposed princess to find her father and the fabled 7th planet, which is said to be covered in water.

So ‘The Ice Pirates’ is a post-apocalyptic pirate film, harking back to the pirate movies of the 1940s. It harks back considerably closer to Star Wars than anything else however. Around this time studios were desperate to cash in on the rise in fantasy and science fiction films. However in some cases they really didn’t want to have to put any money down to do so. In those cases you get films such as ‘The Ice Pirates’.

To say this film is cheap would be an understatement. I honestly can’t think of a major studio picture, in this case MGM, which looks this cheap. The visual effects are ropey, the prosthetics look awful and the sets look as if they’ve been made in a garage. When you find yourself wishing a film looked as good as ‘Hell comes to Frogtown’ you know the movie has budget issues.

Now I won’t knock them for not trying, this film is very inventive with visual effects. One scene notably has marbles in clear tubes being used to simulate travel pods over a city. I’ll also give them credit for not limiting their ideas. One of the worst things you can do with a low budget is giving up creatively. That being said much of this film’s cheapness could have been hidden using creative lighting and smart direction, of which this film has neither. I usually wouldn’t knock a film for being cheap but this film is genuinely kind of embarrassingly low budget, as if made by students.

The production design is pretty strong, although also hampered by a lack of budget. ‘The Ice Pirates’ has an interesting mix of classical pirate elements, such as cutlasses facing off against science fiction elements like laser guns. Although cheap, it’s clear that thought went into making the props and costumes to the best standard they could with the money, all none of it.

The script is weird, it feels incredibly dated. Being a comedy film it has a problem of not really being funny, although I suspect this may be partially due to it being dated. This film was made in the time where a man being black was enough to form a comedy punchline. I was honestly stunned when the following scene appeared for example.

Now a jive talking, pimp robot is certainly not something I expected from this film or any film really. Now I don’t sense even the slightest amount of ill will from this film but it comes from a time when this kind of stuff wouldn’t raise an eye, Hollywood has changed since…ish.

In addition to feeling dated the script just meanders along from sequence to sequence. We get all the standard moments for this type of film including an Amazonian planet. It’s a tendency of these kinds of space epics to show you a huge amount of different worlds, to impress the audience through spectacle. This effect is somewhat ruined when your spectacle is not impressive, being that it is made out of paper plates or bubble wrap or some other household good.

I will say however that the ending sequences of this film are really interesting. While trying to reach the 7th planet the crew must pass their ship through a time warp. While passing through the time warp the crew begin to rapidly age, what with time passing at an elevated pace. While passing through the time warp they are attacked by a Templar ship, this causes a battle which takes place over a few minutes, or about 60 years to the crew. Cue giant beards and quite a few vastly more interesting moments based on the idea of quickly passing time.

So ‘The Ice Pirates’ isn’t great but I don’t hate it. It’s cheap to the point where it damages the movie and the script isn’t great. It’s interesting to see a young Ron Perlman and Angelica Houston appear in this film, even if they don’t manage to salvage it. The real saving grace of this film is weirdly the weirdness of this script, weirdness which will only increase as more time passes since it was written. I’m not the kind of man who could ever say he truly hated a film in which a robot shits itself, I simply can’t do that and I suspect you won’t be able to either.

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