Space Truckers (1996)
Film review #505
Director: Stuart Gordon
SYNOPSIS: John Canyon is hauling a shipment of hogs to a remote space station. Failing to get paid, he takes on another job to deliver a secret and sketchy cargo to Earth. When John’s truck is hijacked by raiders, they open the cargo and inadvertently release an army of killer robots. John and his crew must stop the robots before they can get to earth and cause untold destruction to the planet…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Space Truckers is a 1996 sci-fi film that is succinctly described by it’s title: it’s about truckers in space. John Canyon (Dennis Hopper) is hauling twenty-thousand tons of hog fat to Titan Station. However, because he is late, his employer refuses to pay him the full amount. Now broke and without a job, he takes on a seedy contract to take an unknown cargo to Earth. Taking along Cindy, a waitress who needs a lift to Earth, and Mike, a newly qualified space trucker, the three set off with their cargo to Earth in this film that feels so very quintessentially 90′s. The bright colours, comedic tone give off the impression of a typical sci-fi b-movie parody, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. The story is a little threadbare and takes a while to get into the heart of the story, but it takes its time to introduce a fair amount of detail into the world. Regardless, it’s still a fairly simple story to follow, and all the plot points are familiar and fun: it’s basically just trucking in space, but it allows for some entertaining set ups and fun across the board, with even a few twists thrown in to keep things interesting. There’s a mix of comedy, action, parody and even some darker thriller elements in the film, which is a lot to take in, but it handles the constant switching well. The film obviously tries to appeal to a wide audience and not get entrenched too much in one genre or another.
The characters should feel very familiar to viewers: John Canyon, portrayed by Dennis Hopper is the grizzled trucker veteran who teaches waitress Cindy and new driver Mark about the trucker lifestyle (along with the viewer). A host of smaller support characters are vividly brought to life and serve very specific purposes making them stand out, just not in any unique way, and even though the acting can sometimes feel a little flat, on the whole the casting feels pretty solid. In classic sci-fi fashion the world it creates feels different, yet familiar: the diner where one of the opening scenes takes place looks like a typical American diner, but has a sci-fi twist with it being a zero-gravity “wheel” shape obviously inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey. We don’t get too much information about what it is like on Earth, but that perhaps enhances the feel of being a trucker; out on the road far from civilisation.
For a middle-of-the-road sci-fi movie that meanders between action and comedy, Space Truckers has an impressive amount of effort put into it’s designs and production. The models used for the spaceships have plenty of detail to catch your attention, and they look very sturdy. The killer robots were designed by noted Japanese illustrator Hajime Sorayama, who specialises in these types of creations, and again they are brought to life brilliantly, both in terms of their construction and their choreography. There are some weaker elements in the production though: the CG is pretty bad, but thankfully it is used very sparingly, and the majority of the effects are practical. Also you can often see the strings attached to the actors when they are “floating” in zero gravity. These are minor things that don’t really distract from a fun experience though. Space Truckers isn’t ground-breaking, but it’s a good mix of genres that makes an entertaining watch, that quietly stands out in terms of some of it’s production and design.