Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Andreas Pape, Leah Grimmson, Reggie Bannister, P. David Miller, Katherine Pawlak
Directed by Ron Karkosko
Distributed by Midnight Releasing
Ever notice that The Asylum has completely avoided making any superhero mockbusters? I’ve even been told by former Asylum employees that they have a no superhero policy. They’ll film a 90-minute nature walk and market it as an Indiana Jones mockbuster yet draw the line at dressing a guy up in a costume and having him fight crime?
Here to pick up the Asylum’s slack is Halcyon International Pictures and no-budget super-producer David Sterling. Their first offering is Metal Man. Can you guess what superhero this is a rip-off off?
Reggie Bannister of Phantasm busts out a near fu manchu mustache to play Dr. Arthur Blake, the creator of a high-tech super-powered helmet. Blake declares himself to be a pacifist who deplores the glorification of warfare, thus explaining why he’s invented a weapon system and his research is funded by an evil weapons manufacturer.
Scheming weapons maker and possible Billy Bob Thornton stand-in Sebastian Reed kills Dr. Blake in a tussle when Blake gets knocked softly to the floor and suffers a wound someone will later describe as looking like his head was bashed in despite no visible head wound being present.
Dr. Blake had prepared for Sebastian’s violent interloping by implementing a fail-safe involving a research student named Kyle Finn, a young man who brings to mind a slightly more heterosexual Perez Hilton. Kyle thought he was assisting Dr. Blake in an experiment to test the helmet, unaware that the peaceful scientist was irrevocably altering his life by turning him into a permanent guinea pig. Kyle will find himself trapped for the rest of his life inside this rinky dink power armor that will leave him looking like an anorexic VR Trooper, forced to eat and drink by plugging a tube into a neck port that feeds him a foul-tasting nutrient paste, and forever haunted by Dr. Blake’s presence programmed into the helmet to pop up in his field of view to guide him not unlike that Microsoft Office animated paperclip.
Dr. Blake tells Kyle he chose him after careful screening because of his good moral standing and nobility. This doesn’t speak so well of Dr. Blake’s moral standing and nobility. Was he not actively searching for an unsuspecting guinea pig and wasn’t putting Kyle in the helmet a premeditated decision, not a last minute bit of desperation to keep the helmet out of the wrong hands?
So what are Metal Man’s superpowers?
Bulletproof armor: But absorbing the damage greatly drains his powers.
Stealth mode: Helmet and armor can become invisible so you just see Kyle in his permanently attired, never able to wash, holy-mother-of-god-how-terrible-will-the-funk-be-after-a-few-years, street clothes.
Shield mode – A force field surrounds him. Not entirely sure why he needs this if he’s already bulletproof.
Invisible mode – Makes him and anyone or anything he’s touching invisible.
Healing powers – He can heal people with a single touch. Talk about the filmmakers overreaching. You don’t see Iron Man curing lepers with a wave of his hand.
Rocket launcher – Can fire mini-rockets from his shoulders.
Kung fu – Kyle suddenly knows kung fu – sort of. Was this programmed into him MATRIX-style? All this kung fu prowess, and still Metal Man will spend much of the time battling foes in clumsy wrestling matches.
Dr. Blake died and altered Kyle’s life to make absolutely certain that his invention never fells into the hands of someone wanting to use it as a weapon, and the only way to stop such bad guys is to use its weaponry that was not intended for warfare to fight back. I’ll spot Dr. Blake the god-like healing touch only if he agrees to explain his non-violent applications for the rocket launcher.
Yet, despite all those powers to travel from place-to-place, Kyle still has to get behind the wheel of an old station wagon or minivan and drive around looking like a cut-rate Iron Man knock-off heading to a children’s birthday party – hilarity.
Sebastian schemes to decapitate Kyle to get the helmet while Metal Man putters around getting into a series of brief skirmishes with random goons in cramped living rooms, parking lots, and on front lawns. Time will also be spent trying to convince us Kyle is not really gay by having him flirt with his college dream girl and Dr. Blake’s scientist daughter. All in all, just your standard superhero plot mechanics brought to life for pennies on the dollar.
The finale builds to Sebastian unveiling his secret weapon against Metal Man: Mecha Terror, a junky hybrid of the Green Goblin, an old toy robot, and something out of Kaiju Big Battle. I have never seen a state-of-the-art battle droid created by a mega rich supervillain that looked like a comic convention costume created in a teenager’s garage.
You kind of have to admire the ambition even as you shake your head at the cheapness and, to be perfectly honest, the awfulness. Oh, there is a goofy charm to the film and a good number of schlocky moments to laugh at; just be prepared to wade through a sea of monotony to get to those scenes. Metal Man most definitely needed more moments of we’re-broke-so-we-might-as-well-go-for-broke filmmaking like when Metal Man gets into front lawn shoving matches with rent-a-thugs or the final horse farm smackdown with Mecha Terror in which two state-of-the-art armed cyborgs appear to keep forgetting they are just that and instead kung fu battle like a community theater production of Ice Pirates.
If you think I’m going a little soft on this one, that might be because I have also seen Sterling’s other superhero mockbuster The Black Knight Returns, a Batman rip-off so insufferable it makes Metal Man look like The Dark Knight.
Perhaps The Asylum was smart to stay out of the superhero mockbuster game after all?
2 out of 5
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