The Ice Pirates (1984)
SEE... A Universe on the Rocks! SEE... Great Special Affects! SEE... Space Herpie the Love Bug! SEE... The Evil Emperor and his Bird! SEE... Action-Packed Action! SEE! Ferocious Space Possums!
You know what modern films haven't always done a good job of doing? Parody films. Yeah, we get the occasional one (like Shaun of the Dead) that's phenomenal, but compared to back in the day when Mel Brooks was constantly pumping out quotable riot after riot, it's hard not to miss the glory days. Speaking of the glory days, tonights entry comes right from that sweet spot back in the 1980's, named Ice Pirates. It promises rollicking good fun, space herpie, and even ferocious space possums. Can it truly be a riveting adventure on the rocks, or will it leave us floating in our own disappointment?
In the distant future, the only resource so hard to find that carries any value has become water. To make transporting water across the galaxy easier, it's frozen to that wonderfully chill state known as ice and flitted across the galaxy aboard Templar ships. Templar, you see, control the last remaining planet that serves as a source for water - and in turn they have become quite very powerful. It is only natural then that even in space those with little will rise up and try to take from those who have more than needed - and thus the Ice Pirates are born! Although it should be noted that it would appear that most the pirates are less Robin Hood and more grand-scale thieves looking to turn a profit.
Our main pirate crew is doing just such a thing when we are introduced to them. Comedy immediately ensues as robots get quirky and mishaps happen (as well as some literal potty humor), but the best kinds of pirates tend to be those with amusing hijinx anyways. In one such derailment, the pirates discover the presence of a princess aboard the ship in the very next room they are in - the lead pirate, ever the ladies man, is of course inclined to go and kidnap her while the others in his crew try to keep him on track with the task at hand - the huge bounty of Ice waiting further within the ship! It's during the escape with the ice and princess in tow that things take a turn for the pirates, with the main two pirates being captured and sentenced to reforming (kind of like recycling a person).
It's at this point our story starts to take its main plot roots, as the princess saves the two captured pirates under the circumstance that they help her find a man who knows the whereabouts of her father. Her father may have found the legendary 7th planet, a place full of water rumored to have been knocked free during an old war. It is upon this quest that the craziness of events escalates, as their adventure takes them to other planets full of warrior women riding unicorns, seedy pirate homeworlds, and even into a time warp! Never far from danger, the templar are only a step behind them the entire way with the help of a bounty placed upon the pirates. Can they find the princess' father, survive the Templar, and discover the planet of legend?
So it's safe to say that a movie from the 80's is going to have a bunch of practical effects, but the level of quality can differ drastically from one title to the next. Heck, for the most part, they can vary rather drastically just form scene to scene here as well. Mostly speaking, anything that isn't an outer space shot ends up looking pretty wonderful, and even some of the iffy outer space effects are still completely disregardable - which is to say that thankfully any shortcomings in the effects department is more than made up for by the wide variety of things and constant fun delivered by the movie.
Equally tying into the effects department as much as the acting field, the costume designs are just as over the place as the on-screen events. From futuristic robots down to the almost-pirate pirates, you could get a feel from nearly anything from Mad Max to Lady Gaga in the wardrobe for this movie. Set pieces and props aren't far behind it - as you can see from one of the attached pictures on this entry. The diversity is widely appreciated from me, as it keeps things from getting too stale on the screen even without action taking place, and leaves you wondering what could possibly come up next.
Actors do a fine job, with lines well delivered and in-character jokes and shenanigans. If I hadn't known it already, I would almost think that I was watching a Mel Brooks flick, with the humor that finds no joke too low to make (from scaring the crap out of a robot to painting a robot black to make it "perfect") and at moments even touches lightly (very lightly most of the time) on things such as racism. Background audio supports things well, giving it that space-adventure vibe with necessary perk-ups and downs, although it's nothing I would call too out of the norm either.
While certainly not for everyone, if you enjoy Brooks flicks like Blazing Saddles or Spaceballs then this one should be on your radar. It's certainly a humorous and enjoy movie, downright whimsical at times and hardly willing to take itself too seriously. If you find it in a five or ten dollar bin at your local supercenter, it'd be money well spent in my book, or at the least worth a rental to witness just how crazy things become by the credit roll.