As everyone was “celebrating” the fact that yesterday was the actual day they went to in “Back To The Future 2”, the ISCFC did it the proper way – by reviewing a trashy old Australian sci-fi / time travel movie with a couple of odd cameos in it.
Dear movie people: if you’re going to have a text scroll to start your movie, don’t also have someone read out the text scroll. Do you not trust us? One or the other is fine. But it tells us, both ways, that it’s the year 4039 and humanity has retreated to a series of cities with special force fields protecting them; this is down to a race of baddie cyborgs called the Jen-Diki (who it turns out, shock horror were created by humanity a few decades ago to fight a war for them) deciding the best thing to do would be wipe us all out.
So, humanity in the last remaining city figures out time travel, and uses this to escape the Jen-Diki, going back in time to Australia long, long before the white man turned up there, but then the Jen-Diki do too, and…this bit is all slightly confusing. I guess they bounce around time, trying to escape? God knows. Anyway, our hero is Ballard (Australian charisma vacuum Tom Burlinson), one of the handful of soldiers humanity has left, and fighting alongside him is Petra, played by…Carrie Fisher!
Having such an iconic actress in a movie like this raises all sorts of questions. Her career was going great in the 1980s, so it’s not like she was even in her drug-dependent wilderness years (although it’s very possible she was still using heavily at the time). Although she’s in the movie til almost the end, they clearly only had her for a few days, or she was in no condition to perform, as there’s some really poor cutting round her obvious absence from the set. She gets injured, and despite it being to the shoulder, has to lay down for the next hour of the movie, so we see people look down at her (but not her looking back up), very long distance shots of her next to a campfire, which could be anyone, and lots of shots where she’s the only person in the frame, with the lighting looking suspiciously different to the other people in the same scene.
Ballard and Petra are sent back to 1988 to prepare a dirt mound to sit one of the city’s damaged legs on, and after Petra gets shot (about five seconds after going back in time) the lion’s share of the work is done by Ballard and his new friend, modern day geologist Annie (Aussie soap mainstay Nikki Coghill). Small town rural Australia has a lot of similarities with rural USA, but there’s more of a sense of humour of their mockery of authority, so it rattles along with plenty of laughs, as they try and build the mound, the locals wonder what’s going on, the Jen-Diki try and track them down, and the city slowly flies back through time – in other “we could only afford him for a day” news, the ruler of the city is Dean Stockwell, just after “Blue Velvet” and just before “Quantum Leap”.
It’s definitely not one of the worst films we’ve covered here, and there’s quite a lot to like about it. It’s nicely paced, the plotlines tie together in the end, the cyborg special effects are fun, and it’s interesting to see a movie set in Australia going for a bigger sci-fi theme.
I’d suggest the biggest problem “The Time Guardians” has is the tons of dropped plot threads. There’s a whole backstory for the city hinted at, with posters everywhere telling people to conserve water, but it’s just left there (and why do they need to conserve water, if they can travel in time and go anywhere? Just park by a river and take as much as you want!). Ballard is referred to several times as “the Time Guardian”, as if it’s a title bestowed on him, but as far as the movie’s aware he’s just a grunt being sent back on a mission. And the reasoning behind the ending is not so much flimsy as entirely non-existent.
By all means watch this if you can track it down, but be prepared to scratch your head a few times. Fun by completely inconsequential.
Rating: thumbs in the middle