Moontrap (1989)

moontrap-movie-posterIn the near future, a pair of astronauts discover evidence of alien intelligence aboard a derelict freighter adrift in space.

Hard on his luck Jason Grant bemoans his life as a ‘glorified truck driver,’ complaining to mission control that the food is lousy and there’s no atmosphere. His wise-cracking co-pilot Ray is a little more optimistic, having more years ahead of him to make similar mistakes that his superior regrets. Such is the adventurous life of astronauts in the late 1980’s when the dream of space exploration was reduced to a line item on a business plan.

The big pull for Moontrap is Star Trek actor Walter Koenig who delivers a serviceable (if awkward) performance as the world weary Colonel Grant. After retrieving a mysterious pod from the mystery ship, Grant insists that a full exploratory mission be launched but is discounted as a crank. The pod turns out to be a deadly weapon that cannibalizes nearby technology into a kill crazy robot. Even so, any further action is thought of as unlikely. Grant and his co-pilot go about their dead-end lives of hard drinking and broken homes until they are called back for a mission to the moon where only danger await… and a sexy single lady astronaut from the past.

Yes, Ray and Jason end up finding a hidden alien base on the moon where they find Mera, a lady astronaut from the distant past who sacrificed herself in order to warn future people of the dangers by the Kaalium who built the kill crazy tech. Being the senior officer, Jason calls dibs and luckily Mera has her own space suit so she can go on adventures with the two outer space bachelors.

Moontrap is one weird science fiction film. On top of producing the one and only totally bizarre pairing of Walter Koenig and Bruce Campbell (of Evil Dead fame), it is pretty violent and includes at least one forced Star Trek joke. Campbell is his usual surly self with wry comments and an excellent comic timing, but starring with Koenig, his one-liners fall somewhat flat and the movie appears even cornier than it really is. As buddy movie material, they lack the chemistry of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, Alan Arkin and James Caan or Joe Piscopo and Treat Williams.

The strangest part for me has to be when Koenig befriends the ancient astronaut miraculously sealed inside the hidden moonbase and says he wishes she could meet his son. Whoah! Dating 101, my friend, don’t go turning a gal you just met into a replacement mom on the first date, even if you are stranded on the lunar surface with no hope of rescue and she barely understands English.

Moontrap is a cult classic and a fun flick that captures the latter days of the sci-fi 80’s boom. The special effects are quite good and while the acting can be a bit stiff at times, it moves along well (though the soundtrack is more dated than the lead actress’ mullet). Developed into a comic book, it fully exploited its cross-market appeal. We may mock Moontrap today, but it wisely targeted its audience and, like a laser beam shone throw dry ice, zapped them between the eyes.

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