THE SHAPE OF SPOILERS TO COME
I've waited no less than thirty-five years to see this film. The first time I ever heard about it was a crushing review by "Bobby Dupea" (shamefully, it took me years to get the reference) in a very early edition of Starburst magazine. The film never played my local and I wouldn't have gone anyway, but the title has stuck with me ever since. Strangely, I never managed to catch the pre-cert VHS or the later PG-rated tape; perhaps less surprisingly it has never been granted a British DVD release (there is a Region 1 DVD available for import, but why would you?). And then suddenly, there it was, available to stream. How could I not?
The Shape Of Things To Come has absolutely nothing to do with HG Wells beyond giving him a meaningless possessory credit at the start, and retaining one character name (not even spelled the same) in an entirely different role. Otherwise they've done a Moonraker and ditched everything from the source material in favour of their own aberrant silliness. Now Things To Come is no longer a terrifying work of prophecy about the future of the human spirit, but a cheap Star Wars knockoff where the producers clearly thought they could grab themselves some Lucas dollars by tossing in spaceships, explosions, rebels, an evil Emperor and some ungainly comedy robots. After the great robot wars, Mankind has now largely abandoned a radiation-riddled Earth and has either spread out through the galaxy or holed up on a moonbase, but everyone's dependent on life-saving drug Radic-Q-2, which is only available on one planet in the entire cosmos. Trouble is, the planet (which appears to have no native population) is ruled by mad Jack Palance who wants absolute power or he'll withhold Radic supplies....
How come the moon has clouds and a sea (visible from ineffective senator John Ireland's office windows yet not visible from outer space)? How come children have been left to scavenge the empty and radioactive wastelands of Earth? Why the hell has Palance installed an explosive device capable of blasting his entire planet to smithereens? Why indeed can't Radic-Q2 be manufactured anywhere else? Why have the rebels on Delta Three - all twelve of them - decided on identical red jumpsuits as their uniforms? Were those waddling stumpy robots the best that super-engineer Palance could design? How is dying Earth scientist Barry Morse supposed to be Palance's old mentor when they're practically the same age (there's only eight months between the actors)? Why did no-one proofread the opening caption scroll and corrected the debatably bad spelling (dependant vs dependent - admittedly not a problem in America but this is Canadian) and the misplaced apostrophe (it's vs its)? And that's a problem: less than a minute in and already I'm distracted by bad grammar in the scene-setting crawl.
I waited thirty-five years to see this film and it wasn't worth the wait. To be honest, if it had been thirty-five minutes it still wouldn't have been worth the wait. It's not even as much fun as Aldo Lado's idiotic The Humanoid, which at least had Barbara Bach in it, and even Jack Palance's overacting can't even raise The Shape Of Things To Come to the level of terrible but enjoyable. Whatever you might think of Star Wars now (and I still like all three original films), it was great at the time, hugely entertaining and caught the imagination like few other films. This is just rubbish: it has no interesting ideas, and it doesn't have anywhere near the resources required to bring off the ideas it's swiped from George Lucas. It looks like TV, it's got the feel of an old episode of Star Trek. Except that Shatner would have sorted the whole thing out in half the time and with eighty per cent less silliness. Executive produced by veteran rubbishmeister Harry Alan Towers and directed by George (Frogs) McCowan.