Tag Archives: Nostalgia

Tony & Paul’s 90’s Kids Show Intro Challenge

My brother-in-law Paul bet me I couldn’t name at least 3 of 5 of the TV shows we watched as kids just from the music in the intro. I set out to prove him wrong. No.2 is a British show so don’t be surprised if you aren’t from the UK and don’t recognise it.

PLEASE EXCUSE the clip that displays alcohol. I assure you we were sober when coming up with the idea and making this video…Honest…

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REVIEW: Star Trek TOS “The Ultimate Computer”

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The Enterprise is summoned to a space station where Dr. Richard Daystrom installs his revolutionary computer M-5, to take control of all systems of the ship. The computer soon turns out to be superior to a human crew, in normal ship operations as well as in a simulated battle against another starship. Then, however, M-5 destroys an unmanned ore freighter, and a crewman is killed when he attempts to cut off the computer’s power. Unbeknownst of the situation on the Enterprise, as M-5 has disabled any communication, a task force of four starships under Commodore Wesley continues the simulated attacks. M-5 takes the battle seriously, cripples the fleet and kills hundreds of crewmen. Daystrom has programmed M-5 with his own engrams, and Kirk uses this knowledge to convince the computer that it is guilty of murder and has to shut down. Wesley is authorized by Starfleet to destroy the Enterprise but he breaks off the attack when he notices that the ship is dead in the water.

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This episode has largely been categorised as one of the better action episodes of the original series. This is thanks largely to the eye candy of seeing more than one Federation starship and the subsequent wargames. Indeed, back in the day it was one of the best looking episodes that helped finally give the series the genuine feeling that there was more than one ship in Starfleet. In the digitally remastered version we get even more eye candy in the form of the ore freighter that wasn’t seen properly in the original episode for budgetary reasons. Now we see none other than a recreation of the freighter we saw in the Animated Series. That alone is enough to make the most avid Trekkie’s heart beat just that little bit faster.

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However if you scratch away this glossy surface we have one of the most philosophical episodes of Star Trek ever; long before Star Trek: The Next Generation’s classic “Measure of a Man.” The question the episode asks is an old one; should machines do the work of man and if so what becomes of the man? This is Kirk’s question more than anyone else’s in the episode as the M-5 is aimed directly at replacing the decision making capability of a starship. Kirk feels useless in this episode in the face of the M-5 hence Commodore Wesley’s “Captain Dunsel” remark but alas we can’t have a TV show about a computer piloting a starship and so naturally the computer goes bad. One thing that does pop up briefly is that the ore freighter is unmanned which tells us already that some of the more mundane yet essential jobs in space are already entirely mechanised so it would appear starfleet has been heading toward an unmanned future for some time before the M-5.

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But the thought process behind Daystrom and his creation make us ask intriguing questions not just about this fictitious universe we like to sit and watch of an evening but also about our own future in space travel. Even if we discard the distances and time involved in space travel we are still left with an extremely hostile environment in which to go gallivanting around in cooped up inside a metal box. Is it wise therefore to say “What the Hell; we can go there so let’s go.” Science fiction is filled with examples of how this can be a bad idea not just for the crew of whatever ship we are travelling on this week but also for humanity itself. Death, disease, war, alien influences on human culture – it seems we don’t need to leave our planet to be affected by what goes on out there.

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This was touched upon briefly in Star Trek: Enterprise’s 4th season when there are Humans who believe that Starfleet’s exploration of space is advertising Earth’s presence to hostile aliens that didn’t seem bothered before warp flight. This is something Daystrom seems to have forgotten since he envisions a future where nobody dies in space exploration because machines are expendable.

Men no longer need die in space or on some alien world! Men can live and go on to achieve greater things than fact-finding and dying for galactic space, which is neither ours to give or to take!

– Daystrom, defending the need for the M-5

This leads him to fall in to the trap of many a scientist in science fiction who develop supercomputers or robots – he builds a machine that learns but still considers it expendable. Therefore surely there is the danger that this machine will learn that it is not expendable or, like HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey, it may judge its own importance in completing a given mission to be greater than the survival of a few humans in an unfortunate circumstance.

Ultimately, what this episode concludes is that the human spirit will always have a place. It was a foregone conclusion and is something that continues throughout all of Star Trek. As Captain Archer onboard the Enterprise NX-01 will later (or already said in canon);

“Starfleet could’ve sent a probe out here to make maps and take pictures, but they didn’t. They sent us so we could explore with our own senses.”

Star Trek Generations 20th Anniversary

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As amazing as it seems (at least to me) it is 20 years ago today that Star Trek: Generations hit movie theatres. The last on-screen outing for William Shatner’s Kirk and the very first big screen outing by the crew of the Enterprise-D has become on of those Trek movies that has polarized fans in that either they enjoyed it or absolutely loathed it. It is certainly true that the movie won’t ever make any Number 1 spots on the lists of best Star Trek movies but is it really that bad?

I don’t know.

I don’t think it is as bad as some people try to make it out. Sure it had its faults with a rather topsy-turvy story and obvious questionable decisions made by the characters; the classic being if Picard could return to any point he wanted why not return to the point where he first meets Soran and spare us the rest of the movie (and the Enterprise-D)? What always annoyed me was how much of the film felt recycled from previous movies. In some instances they were directly recycled. I am of course talking about the fact that the Duras Sisters’ Bird-of-Prey exploding is simply the reused footage of Chang’s ship exploding in the previous movie. Eeep! I do wonder also why if a ship with its shields and hull would get ripped apart getting close to the Nexus why doesn’t the same happen to Soran and Picard on that hillside?

But what did the film do right? Well, Malcolm McDowell as Soran was an inspired choice and I will say that not since Khan in Star Trek II did we have such a genuinely motivated enemy. He was actually quite sympathetic in his cause and actually does a pretty good job of convincing the audience why he is doing it. How many films can claim to give you a dose of Helsinki Syndrome while you are watching it?

A lot of fans (and I mean a hell of a lot of fans) hate how the Enterprise-D was destroyed in this movie and I really can’t see why. Their argument is how could the ship have survived so much throughout the series only to get taken out by a single Bird-of-Prey? Well in the series the ship faced enemies trying to destroy it conventionally and the Galaxy-class was just too tough for that. So how do you destroy a tough ship you can’t match? Well you cheat obviously and thats what the Duras sisters did. I don’t see the problem. Also with the Enterprise-D out of the way we got to see the incredible Enterprise-E that was much more suited to the big screen. Interestingly, ILM actually put NCC-1701-E titles on the Galaxy-class model in preparation for Star Trek: First Contact before they were told they were given a budget to make a new ship.

Well anyway. Love it or loathe it this movie did get the TNG crew we all loved so much on to the big screen and that’s not a bad thing. The movie certainly had a tough job acting as the intermediary between the 23rd and 24th centuries and for that we should cut it some slack.

COUNTDOWN: Top 5 Things Star Trek: Enterprise Did Right

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In many ways Star Trek: Enterprise has become Star Trek’s Phantom Menace in that it is a prequel that has become almost cliché to poke fun of. I am not going to stand here and argue that Enterprise was the best series of Star Trek because it wasn’t. What I am going to say in this article is that it wasn’t as bad as many make out and while much of the first two seasons were mostly recycled plots from previous Star Trek shows there were some hidden gems and a sign of the promise the show had.

PLEASE NOTE; This is just my opinion but I would be interested in hearing what you have to think.


Technological Inferiority

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Like many fans, when I saw the Enterprise NX-01 for the first time my response was “That looks like the Akira-class from Star Trek: First Contact! I thought it was supposed to be set before Kirk?” The most important thing about first impressions of a new Star Trek is the ship and the creators seemed to get it wrong. However…While it took a long time for people to warm to the Akiraprise, as some call it, one thing I have to say I really liked about it was that it was inferior to most of the enemies it faced. For the 30 years leading up to Star Trek: Enterprise we saw our heroes flying around the universe in the most advanced ship of its day. Now we had a ship that really felt like it was the cutting edge of human technology but since humans were new to spaceflight they weren’t the best on the block. In fact the ship didn’t even have shields and in an early episode we saw one of the really awful early torpedoes get shot out of the sky. Over time the NX-01 became more advanced and we started to see some of the more familiar technologies enter service like Photonic torpedoes but even in the last season the Enterprise was still largely the underdog. I really liked this.

“Evil” Vulcans

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OK they weren’t evil exactly but certainly there was an antagonist element about how they were portrayed in Star Trek: Enterprise. This was another of those decisions that seemed to anger militant Trekkies because since the very early days the Vulcans were seen as both peace loving and close friends with humanity. What those Trekkies seem to forget however is that we are seeing an earlier Vulcan people here who aren’t the intellectual element of an alliance of planets but rather they are their own people who have enemies and are cautious about their dealings with humanity who after all hadn’t long come out of a Third World War and were now joining the space faring nations of the galaxy. There is even a brilliant line where Suval actually tells Admiral Forest that humans achieved far more than Vulcan did in the same timeframe and that many Vulcans are fearful of what humans will achieve in the future. Translated, this means that some Vulcans in the 22nd century are afraid of being displaced by humanity in terms of galactic importance which in a roundabout way is exactly what happens. From the Vulcan point of view therefore it is understandable that they are distrustful of humans. One final note; we need to remember that there have been ‘bad guy’ Vulcans before including one who wanted to play Baseball with Sisko to prove Vulcans are better than humans – that’s racist isn’t it?

Racist Humans

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Overnight humans became wonderful and peace loving? CRAP! Perhaps the biggest thing Star Trek: Enterprise contributed to the Star Trek universe more than anything was showing the transitionary period for humanity and how that by the 22nd century there were still those who were fearful of aliens because they were different. Even better and perhaps more relevant for the 21st century audience was the fact that this racism was largely caused by an alien attack which lends weight behind why these racist elements are still thriving. This mirrors the post-9/11 world where many Muslims feel that the West has the view that all followers of the Islamic faith are terrorists which of course is absolute nonsense. I would have liked to see more of this but sadly the show finished before it could be explored further.

Trip and T’Pol

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Romances between central characters has been met with mixed responses from fans in the past. Some really worked well (Worf and Jadzia Dax in DS9) and some really didn’t work well at all (Chakotay and Seven in Voyager). Trip and T’Pol did work for me. Not only did it work but it actually interested me. In a pseudo kind of way we saw a little something of what Spock’s parents went through with all the dilemma of a love across species although in this case the genders are reversed. Connor Trinneer and Jolene Blalock had wonderful on-screen chemistry and many of their scenes were emotional in the later seasons. Their relationship showed how their characters had evolved over the course of the show; they were perhaps the only characters who really did.

The Augment Saga

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In the show’s final season multi-part storylines became the order of the day. Without a doubt the most exciting was the three-part Augment story arc which saw Brent Spiner make a guest appearance as Arik Soong, a predecessor of Data’s creator Dr Noonien Soong. When first advertised, this fact was seen simply as a gimmick to try and pull back some of the old school fans who had given up on the show but this episode was much more than that. What we got was a thrilling trilogy that explores more of why genetic engineering is banned in the future and makes us question more about what it means to be human; something Star Trek has repeatedly done with mixed success. It was also brilliant to see the Augments demonstrate their agility and strength far more than we have seen before and it would be something we would see again in Khan himself in Star Trek Into Darkness. Spiner’s performance was flawless and it was great watching him play a character who has not only an abundance of emotion but is actually manipulative and antagonistic. Perhaps Data’s evil brother Lore has more in common with Arik Soong than Dr Noonien Soong would like to admit? This was Star Trek: Enterprise at its best.

There is no escaping it; Star Trek Enterprise was heavily flawed but does it really deserve the disdain it has received? No. Not in my opinion. I am not being a blind Trekkie here as I have already highlighted some of the show’s problems but there was some gold mixed in with the bronze.

REVIEW: The Real Ghostbusters 2×03 “Ragnarok and Roll”

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Jeremy is a young man hurt by the woman he loves who can’t return his affections and so decides that there is far too much pain in the world. Aided by his loyal yet reluctant companion DyTillio whom he saved from being run over by a car many years earlier he sets about a chain of events that will bring Ragnarok… the end of the world! The Ghostbusters devise a plan to stop Jeremy summoning Ragnarok but will involve the four of them being killed in a blast that will destroy a quarter of a mile of New York around them. Fortunately however DyTillio manages to convince Jeremy that what he is doing is wrong and Jeremy reverses the spell to summon Ragnarok.

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This was a surprisingly emotional episode being very character driven around the antagonist Jeremy and his companion DyTillio. Honestly, it feels like it’s their story and that the Ghostbusters are just there in the background. Their relationship is an interesting one. I found Jeremy very selfish in his motivation and to me the fact he is doing this because a girl didn’t return his affection made him seem like an angry teenager who hates the world as a result. That was probably Straczynski’s intention while writing this episode perhaps to help it relate to some of the older members of the audience. DyTillio seems to be following Jeremy through blind faith and later it becomes clear that he doesn’t support Jeremy’s actions. DyTillio was very obviously intended to be a Quasimodo type of character being physically unattractive but having a beautiful soul. The last scene of them with DyTillio hanging over the side of the building was especially touching.

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The first scene in this episode with the Ghostbusters in it has them facing these gargoyle-type creatures on the streets of New York. I don’t think it was intentional but Ghostbusters: The Video Game has a similar scene after the Sedgewick Hotel level. On a similar note however I felt the climax of this episode on top of the building was almost a complete rehash of the original movie complete with demonic voice in the cloud and the Ghostbusters ready to use their equipment to sacrifice themselves in order to save the world. They even had the Ghostbusters saying good bye to one another. I didn’t like it to be honest as I felt it was cheap in terms of writing. I also thought that the image of the demon in the sky was very Walt Disney looking like it had been taken from Sleeping Beauty or Snow White. This episode did have its light hearted moments however in particular with Peter and Cindy although again in this instance she was simply taking the role of Dana Barrat from the movie; i.e. she is simply there for the villain to have an interest in and for Peter to flirt with.

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On the whole this was an episode with a great start, an interesting villain with a strong emotion-based motivation for his actions and a sidekick who starts off quite low and then seizes the moral high ground at the end. Unfortunately it doesn’t hold well throughout becoming what feels like a retelling of the movie and therefore losing the worth it had established in the beginning.

GAME REVIEW: Assault City

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Assault City holds a unique place in my gaming history in that it was the first cartridge I ever had for my Master System. Up until getting this for Christmas ’91 I was stuck playing Hang-On and Safari Hunt; the two built in games for the Master System Plus. After having pretty much burned out my console playing those games I was eager to try something new. Putting in that cartridge felt like I was loading a 30-round magazine in to an M-16 assault rifle and I was about to go on the rampage destroying the robot monsters that were poised to wipe out humanity (bare in mind I was 7 at the time). So playing it again over two decades later how does this game hold up?

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First thing you should know is that this game is very story oriented with cut screens between levels full of story. Is that a good thing? If you like reading and you like a recycled Terminator plot then yes. In the latter half of the 21st century, robots have been our servants doing all the tasks we humans don’t like doing and then one day the control system used to function these robots rise up to annihilate their human oppressors. You play as Joe, one of the last of the humans remaining and he is hell-bent on destroying, Skynet…uh…I mean the control system which forces the robots to kill.

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As a game this is a side scrolling shooter. You have no control over the speed at which the screen scrolls and this can be frustrating as it forces you to battle everything that comes at you. There are two versions of this game; the controller version and the Light Phaser version. Now I have never played the Light Phaser version as I am told the game is quite rare here in the UK. What I will say though is that the Light Phaser (if it was feeling accurate) would probably be the better version as I am sure you could shoot the hordes of robots a lot faster. Again though this was depending on whether it had the right conditions since playing Safari Hunt with the gun was often problematic. The controller version has the problem of the targeting reticle feeling slower than a bus at times. It can be an extremely frustrating aspect of playing this game as you seem to spend time sending it across the screen to attack a target that will have already fired at you by the time you get there and then another enemy will appear on the other side of the screen and the same happens again. All is not lost however because once you master how to best use the targeting reticle such as accepting a hit off the one guy on the left in order to destroy the four on the right you have pretty much mastered the game.

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What this game really has going for it however is the look and the sound. Firstly; it has one of the best looking covers of any Master System game in my humble opinion and I remember when I first saw it how excited I was by the picture of those two tripod robots. The look of the game itself for the most part is very good with some interesting robot designs. My only criticism of the robots is that some of the animation of their movements could be a bit smoother as there seems to be little in the way of transitions e.g. one of the bosses is this floating head thing that fires energy bolts from its mouth. The movement of this mouth is open then closed; there’s no opening of the mouth. Also the backdrops rarely change as you progress through the levels making the game feel reptitive at times. Some levels are more interesting to look at than others such as the junkyard but then you have scenes like the one in the picture below where its just blue bricks/lockers/whatever they are supposed to be. The music that accompanies the game is great and really makes you feel like you are in an action movie from the late 1980s.

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I still enjoy this game although I can’t figure out how much of that is nostalgia. I understand when people say that some parts of it is quite repetitive because in places, it is. It’s also a tough game with some segments feeling like the entire robot army is pouring on to the screen then at other times you might just get one little droid to destroy before a few seconds of nothing before the hordes attack again. I do like that they included a hefty amount of story which makes it feel more than mindless shooting. If you are a fan of shooter games I would say this would appeal to you.

GAME REVIEW: Pacmania

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Ok, I was born in 1984 and didn’t get my hands on a home games console, a Master System, until I was about six years old in 1990. As a result I missed out on the true classic games such as Gallaga, Space Invaders and of course Pac-Man. I can vaguely recollect a friend of mine having an old games console with a wooden front called an “Atari” (of course in my wiser years I now know this was the classic Atari 2600 that I would kill to get my hands on). He would occasionally get it out and we’d play it but never for long and we ended up on the SMS or the NES which was what was hot back then. Therefore I had no nostalgic investment or loyalty in Pac-Man clouding my judgement when I recently found myself in possession of Pacmania for the SMS as I went looking for the next instalment of my growing SMS library of games. It was in fact my wife who suggested I give it a go as she had the game and the original on an Atari 2600 when she was a kid. So what did I think?

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First off, you should know that this not exactly the original Pac-Man. It is a reboot of the classic game featuring an isometric viewpoint to give the illusion of it being in 3D. The goal remains the same; to eat as many of the little blobs on the screen as possible and fruit for extra points while avoiding the ghosts. The first level has a Lego look to it in that Pac-Man is travelling between giant Lego bricks. I have to say that this is one of the best looking levels I have ever seen on a Master System game. It is colourful with a lot of detail. Sadly however, except for one or two other levels, this quality doesn’t continue throughout the game and most of the levels are rather bland looking in comparison. Can’t help but feel they started off too high in terms of the quality of the levels.

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The controls on this game are extremely frustrating at times and getting Pac-Man to change directions sometimes becomes a feat only witchcraft can accomplish. On occasion it feels like he downright refuses to change direction and just strolls past the turning. That’s annoying enough but if you are being cornered by ghosts and he refuses to take the escape route you are directing him to it becomes a hair ripping experience. It’s been a long time since I have shouted at a video game but that’s what I found myself doing as though Pac-Man was going to hear me and go, “Oh you want me to go that way!” You can jump over the ghosts but that is like playing the lottery. It’s here the disadvantages of the isometric view come in to play because I suspect the programmers made it so that if Pac-Man’s pixels pass over a ghost’s in anyway you lose a life. This means that you seem to be able to jump further over them with more success going sideways than when going down the screen.

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With all these faults then why is it I keep going back to this game? Why is it I have developed a furious obsession with defeating this game? There’s just some charm about it and when you finish a level there is a real sense of achieving something and to me that is one of the most important features in any game. I don’t think this is going to make my top 10 but I have a sneaky suspicion that Pacmania will be a game I will be returning to time and time again. Maybe I am just a sadist. Who knows?

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Thanks for reading…

Oh R2!!!

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Ever wondered just what the hell R2D2 is beeping at C3PO? Well in early drafts of the script, R2D2 could actually speak English but more than that he had a rather foul vocabulary. That’s right. We always knew he was a cheeky little droid but we never had an idea of just how cheeky.

Ultimately the ability to speak English (or Bad English as the case may be) was deleted in later rewrites. It was felt that if they had a foul mouthed little robot on the screen the movie would lose its family appeal that the movie was aiming for. But while R2D2’s English speech was removed many of C3PO’s reactions to what he would have said were left in implying that R2D2 is probably doing to C3P0 what we are all thinking and that is telling him to “Shut the **** up!”

QUOTE: It’s A River Of Slime!

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It’s a river of slime! There’s gotta be 25,000 gallons of it! It’s flowing through here like a river! Van Horne! Pneumatic transit. I can’t believe it! It’s the old pneumatic transit system! It’s still here!

– Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd)

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The pneumatic subway line that Ray finds when they lower him below the street was based on a pneumatic line built in 1870 by Alfred Beach. It operated using compressed air and was built as a demonstration of a pneumatic transit system. The one-block-long tunnel was built prior to any other subways in the area and without any City approval. It had a single beautifully appointed station adorned with frescoes, easy chairs, statues and a goldfish pond. The line was shut down in 1873 due to lack of official and financial support. The tunnel entrance was sealed and the station was reclaimed for other uses. In 1912, when digging for the modern subway system, workers found the original tunnel, still in good condition, and the remains of the passenger car. The tunnel was removed to make way for the contemporary subway lines and the passenger car has disappeared into history. Today there are no physical remains of Beach’s experimental and ambitious subway project.

(SOURCE: IMDB)

REVIEW: Iron Eagle

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Brian: Plus, it’s given me a chance to work on my novel. And I finally have a title.
Lois Griffin: Oh, what is it?
Brian: Faster Than the Speed of Love.
Lois Griffin: [chuckles] That is… that is the worst title I’ve ever heard.
Brian: No, i-it’s the story of a boy who has to rescue his father, who’s a pilot that’s been taken captive by a militant Islamic country.
Lois Griffin: [laughs] That’s the movie Iron Eagle!
Brian: What? Is that-is that a recent film?
Lois Griffin: [still laughing] They made three sequels!

Family Guy
6×02 “Movin’ Out (Brian’s Song)

Action films of the 1980s are in a league all of their own. The ludicrousness, the over-the-top of it all and the seemingly invincible protagonists and 1986’s Iron Eagle had all of this in spades. The plot goes that a USAF pilot is shot down by an unnamed Islamic country (OK it was very obviously meant to be Libya, I don’t know why they never just came out and said it) and now his son and a semi-retired veteran pilot hatch a plan to rescue him using just two F-16 Fighting Falcons that his teenage friends have helped them steal.

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Remember what I said about 1980s action films being ludicrous? This has one of the most unrealistic plots ever. What was the intention of this film? Was it supposed to be a gritty action film or a teenage action-comedy? I am not saying that the idea of using fighter planes to rescue a hostage/loved one is bad. Far from it. If this script was tweaked and a few things dropped there is potential there for a fairly decent action movie. What I absolutely hated however was that a group of air force brats are able to hoodwink the USAF, especially at the height of the Cold War, to get the two F-16s. I know you have to suspend disbelief to an extent with most films but for this to work you had to shut off your brain entirely. It gets even worse when in a flashback scene we learn that before he was shot down Doug’s father has been secretly training him to fly an F-16.

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I have always felt Louis Gosset Jr was an actor who never got the chance to be the superstar he deserves to be but frankly if he chooses roles like this then its no surprise. That being said he does his best given the limitations of the script. When he is making the recording for Doug in case he gets shot down it is surprisingly touching to hear. Louis Gosset Jr was by far and away the best actor in this movie. However, I can’t help but think that his character, Chappy, must be suffering from some kind of Vietnam War psychological syndrome as this would be the only reason a seasoned pilot would go along with these kids and their plan.

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Of course, action movies rely on the action more than anything and to be fair here Iron Eagle does have a decent amount. The opening race between the Cessna and the motorbike was entertaining to watch and probably the most believable part of the movie (sadly). I know there is a lot of oil in the Middle East, at least there was in the 1980s, but did the not-Libyans put it everywhere because the buildings explode in huge fireballs. It looks daft. At one point a radio tower crashes in to a tent which goes up like napalm. The flight sequences with the F-16s are good but when you consider Top Gun came out a year earlier and looked far superior it does diminish the quality somewhat.

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Therein lies Iron Eagle’s biggest problem. It went up against one of the most iconic and beautiful movies of the 1980s. I am not saying Top Gun is perfect but it had such a higher quality to it in every way – acting, production, script – that it glossed over its own failings. One thing the two movies do have in common however is a great soundtrack with Iron Eagle enjoying songs from Queen and Steve Winwood.

In the end Iron Eagle is a rather uninspiring 80s action flick. Incredibly it did produce three sequels and while all suffered similar problems to the first movie they were in my humble opinion superior.