Available on SciFi Movie Marathon (America 3000, Arena, Eliminators & The Time Guardians) . Clink link to purchase.
We’re A Long Way From Alderaan.
In 1984, Hemdale Film Corp unleashed a new vision of the future on theaters around the world. Set in an apocalyptic future, the technology that man created has turned against him, now programmed to destroy the human race. To prevent this from happening, the leader of humanity’s resistance forces sends a soldier back to the 1980’s in order to protect his own mother from being murdered by a cyborg that has been sent down the timeline, thus preventing the birth of said resistance leader.
Obviously, I am talking about The Terminator. I don’t need to tell you the response to that film. The 4 sequels, the millions of fans, and the endless line of licensed merchandise speaks for itself.
Hemdale would follow the success of The Terminator with a few other profitable & critically successful films, such as Return of the Living Dead, At Close Range, Hoosiers, & even Oscar winner Platoon. After the string of early successes, Hemdale signed a deal to produce another 10 films for distribution. Unfortunately, they released a long series of duds that would ultimately bankrupt the company. Included in this line of flops was our featured film.
The Time Guardian was written and directed by Australian filmmaker Brian Hannant, screenwriter of The Road Warrior. However, this was only his second job directing a feature film, the first being the 1972 Australian film, Flashpoint. It’s worth noting that this would also be his LAST feature film.
Backed by a multi-million dollar budget, the intent was to produce Australia’s first “high-tech sci-fi” blockbuster. Instead, they produced nothing more than a rehash of the Terminator concept, but with more of a time-travel element. In an attempt to ride off the popularity of another recent franchise, they brought in Star Wars‘ Carrie Fisher to co-star.
Don’t get too excited yet! This may be 1987, but the 4 short years between this and Return of the Jedi may as well have been 15. Simply put, we’ve come a long way since the bikini top that she wore in Jabba’s palace. No, not at all like that. By this point, it’s more like ogling your mom. Hey, if you are into THAT kind of thing, so be it. It’s not my place to point out that you might have serious Oedipus Complex issues. Not my place at all, you twisted shit.
Needless to say, the movie was a bomb. Well, of course it was. If it were a successful movie, I wouldn’t have to inform you of what it’s about. And I probably wouldn’t be reviewing it. In this case, it was a HUGE bomb. The production cost 8,ooo,ooo AUS and grossed just under 100,000.
The year is 4039. Earth is now a desolate wasteland. Machine wages war on man, intent on our mass extinction. Leader of mankind’s resistance forces, John Connor, is preparing to send his buddy back in time to knock up his mom. No, that’s Terminator again. Or, at least, that part about John Connor is. The rest is still this movie… and Terminator.
The “Jen-Diki”, our film’s unstoppable killing machines, were once humans themselves. They are the survivors of Earth’s first Neutron War. I have no clue what a “Neutron War” is, but if it’s anything like the “Neutron Dance”, then it’s just awful. And it may involve combustion, so take precautions.
Forced to live underground for centuries to avoid radiation, the Jen-Diki are now cursed with extreme light sensitivity. Because of this, they are now forced to attack under the cover of night. This really isn’t a pivotal plot point, even though the film occasionally tries to make you believe differently. If anything, it’s more of any excuse to copy The Terminator‘s explosive nighttime battles, and to do jack shit during daytime scenes.
The human citizens of 4039 live in their “city”, a large mass of rising towers and jarring angular walls, enclosed in its own force field. As has become routine, the Jen-Diki attempt another raid on the city. The film does separate itself from its T2000 trappings by making its “robots” look more like the Borg or Mandroid, but with beetle-like horns. Anyone remember the Transformer Insecticons? Kinda like one of those. Kinda.
In a lame attempt to tie-in to its Star Wars connection, an early scene features the Jen-Diki using the same “breathing” effect that was used for Darth Vader. This effect is not used again during the remainder of the film. That’s probably for the best since, you know, robots don’t breathe.
Veteran actor Dean Stockwell (Quantum Leap, The Dunwich Horror) is cast as the “leader” of this new society. He only has a few minutes of screen time, spending most of it just walking around & yelling at people. There is no semblance of “depth” to the character. Shit, the closing credits list him as “Boss”. They didn’t even bother to give him a “real” name. That’s just sad. Spending his whole existence with no real sense of identity. No wonder he’s so mad all the time.
The film opens in “grand” fashion. Our hero, Ballard (Tom Burlinson – Man From Snowy River, Flesh + Blood), leads his battalion out to defend the city walls against the approaching Jen-Diki forces. This consists of shooting a few Jen-Diki, stopping long enough to rip out one’s “heart”, deliver an awful one-liner, turning around, and then heading back into the city while the cyborgs follow them in.
To escape infiltration, the city prepares to “spin” itself back through time to when the Jen-Diki did not exist. Saying that they were “preparing to leap” would have been going “too far”. Gotta draw the line somewhere. I don’t believe that there was any hope that the next leap would be the leap home, because home kinda sucks right now.
Jen-Diki have followed Ballard (pronounced “Bal-lard”) and his squad back to the city. Ballard is forced to detonate a bomb to stop their further advance, but proceeds to blow up one of the city’s support columns in the process. The city “spins” its way back through the years, but will be unable to “stop” as it now, ahem, doesn’t have a leg to stand on.
I want to make sure that I get this next part just right as it will be the main plot of the movie.
THIS IS A MOVIE ABOUT TIME TRAVELERS WITH A FLAT TIRE AND NO JACK!!
We now jump ahead… jump backwards… It’s modern-day 1988. Annie, a young geologist, is driving through the Outback looking for a place called Midas Valley, a one-time hot spot for gold. She picks up an old prospector hitching a ride, and they head into the nearest town.
The smudges of carbon copy can almost be seen on the screen as The Time Guardian lifts yet another scene from The Terminator. Whereas Sarah Connor ended the first film at a run-down, middle of nowhere gas station, this film’s heroine has her start there, accompanied by an effect of clouds rapidly rolling across the sky. This, of course, used by both films to represent the “storm” awaiting mankind.
I will credit The Time Guardian for doing one thing differently. As the clouds accelerate, the temperature in the town quickly drops. We get a quick, mildly humorous scene of a urinating police deputy having his piss freeze mid-stream. And as Annie refuses to wear a bra, she helps reinforce the belief that it actually was a bit nippy out. Just a tit bit.
Meanwhile, the city is still traveling backwards through the years. It’s discovered that the Jen-Diki have the ability to track the humans through time, thus preventing them from ever reestablishing themselves in any other timeline, and also endangering the occupants of whenever they “land”. Ballard, bravado like a sledgehammer, beats in the idea that it’s time to stop running and fight back. Um, isn’t that kinda what you’ve been doing?
Ballard is sent even further back in time to find means of building a support of his city to land on. He is accompanied by Petra (Fisher), a soldier with extensive knowledge of 1980’s civilization. Really, she’s just there as a distraction. If the producers can get you to spend 45 minutes questioning what happened to Carrie’s career, that’s only 45 additional minutes that they have to fill with plot. They are “sent down the line”, and emerge from the waters of a small desert oasis. They are greeted by an aboriginal medicine man and his small tribe, the old man seemingly expecting their arrival.
As they enter our timeline, the clouds once again pick up speed and the temperature once again drops. And once again, Annie forgets her bra. And her pants. Thank you, Annie.
A squad of Jen-Diki follow them through. In the ensuing battle, Petra is shot in the shoulder. She faints from the injury. After the Jen-Diki are defeated, she is taken back to the oasis. The next morning, Annie sees a Jen-Diki walking through the surrounding woods. Wait…. weren’t we just in a desert? Before she can make a sound, Ballard stops her. Once the Jen-Diki has passed, he talks her into returning to the oasis with him to tend to Petra’s injury. Fisher spends the rest of her screen time just lounging around.
Annie is brought up to speed on who Ballard is and the nature of his mission. Naturally, she doesn’t question it much. This shit happens all the time. She agrees to help him on his quest to find the one device that will save the future.
That’s it. A bulldozer. Time travelers from some advanced future are sent to our time to pile some fucking rocks! That’s the movie. They find a bulldozer. They pile some rocks. Annie finally takes it all off for some dirty oasis lovin’. And we wait for the final battle. And wait.
And that’s another thing. Petra is sent back to the oasis to recover from her injury, but yet she’s nowhere to be seen while they are piling up their rocks. Where is she at while these 2 are screwing in her drinking water?
There are a few subplots that arise, but they go nowhere. A lot of them feel like there was originally more story somewhere, but was unfinished due to budget cuts or sheer indifference. There is even one scene of dialog between a supporting character and another we’ve never seen that seems like it was supposed to be of some importance, but actually serves no purpose at all.
After a run in with some local police, the duo are thrown in jail. Outside, Jen-Diki are preparing an Assault on Precinct 13 style raid on the police station. This actually should have been the climax of the film, but the filmmakers insist on trying to fit in yet another battle. This proves to be a horrible decision as the final battle involves a lot of people just standing around not actually being shot at.
The Jen-Diki are finally defeated, not with guns or fire, but with a rousing speech. I’m not really making that shit up. Ballard starts delivering his spiel about how humans are so much cooler than cyborgs, and Jen-Diki start vanishing from the screen, presumably off dealing with their newfound issues of insignificance and self-loathing.
The Time Guardian has all the elements needed to be a legitimate sci-fi classic. With the right actors and a director willing to take large risks, it could be a franchise that carries on for 30 years. Even longer. As a matter of fact, it already is.