Hello and welcome to a very special edition of Buried Credits we have dubbed “Star Wars Month”! For three weeks in January we will be exploring the films of the three main actors of the original Star Wars trilogy! Buried Credits is a column that deep dives into the IMDB pages of favorite actors, directors, and writers to find their lost, forgotten, or unknown film and TV credits. This weeks actor…
For the first week of Star Wars Month we are covering the lesser known or forgotten films of Mark Hamill. Hamill, one of the most well known faces in sci-fi/fantasy cinema, has an incredibly large filmography, despite most people only knowing him for playing Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars franchise. But for Batman aficionados, they’ll know him for his voicing the Joker in several DC and Batman animated shows and films. He’s recently “retired” from voicing the Joker after the video game Batman: Arkham City, although he did return briefly for Batman: Arkham Knight as well as the animated film The Killing Joke. Going through Mark Hamill’s filmography, it can be learned that he tends to gravitate towards two things: 1) Lots of random voice acting work, and 2) B-movies. I’ve stuck mostly to the fun B-movie genre for this week, as you will learn from my first pick…
During the 70’s and 80’s, producer Gary Kurtz worked with George Lucas on several huge projects – which included American Graffiti, Star Wars: A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back – before both men parted ways over creative differences with the Star Wars franchise. He went on to produce two more popular films, The Dark Crystal and Return to Oz, before working on the late 80’s post-apocalyptic science fiction film – and the subject of this discussion – Slipstream.
Directed by Steven Lisberger (writer/director of TRON), Slipstream follows Matt Owens (Bill Paxton), a small arms dealer who “rescues” a fugitive with a huge bounty on his head, Byron (Bob Peck), from two bounty hunters. The bounty hunters, Tasker (Mark Hamill) and Belitski (Kitty Aldridge), are quite obviously morally ambiguous, yet always try to get away with flashing their badges stating what they do is the law’s work. Matt only rescues Byron so that he can collect the bounty on his head, as well as screw over Tasker who confiscated some of his weapons. They then take to the skies to fly through the “slipstream,” what people call a “river of wind” that showed up after the planet started dying and fighting back against humanity.
The post-apocalyptic setting of Slipstream is realized interestingly, as it’s unconventional compared to other stories set in a world gone wrong. There are no cars turned over or wreckage of old buildings and planes. In fact, it almost looks a little neat. That’s mainly because, as opposed to any sort of outbreak or war, it was planet Earth that decided to fight back and create disasters to attack humanity to save itself from destruction. This makes the visual aspect a little bland as it doesn’t look different from the way the world normally looks. That said, the set pieces are impressive.
The film as a whole isn’t that good, though. The acting is bland mostly across the board, the cinematography is uninspired, and the plot is an absolute mess. Sure, the basic plot idea is easy to nail down, as we’ve already discussed. However, every 20-30 minutes the entire plot and tone change drastically. It’s as if writer Tony Kayden wrote three completely separate acts and decided to mesh them all together for the sake of it. It’s still a fun plot, but it is a complete mess.
When the acting is good, it’s B-movie good. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but it’s for an acquired taste and you have to have a tendency to appreciate B-fare find it enjoyable. Paxton channels his inner-Private Hudson from Aliens (1986) with 90% of his lines, and that helps proceedings be more entertaining. Peck is the standout here, though, portraying a character with healing capabilities, religious and philosophical thoughts, and an odd way at looking at things (which is explained with a slight twist to his character around the middle of the movie). Speaking of healing capabilities, the subtle ways this film goes through its world building is definitely a highlight. It doesn’t over explain anything, and it tells you of things in this world when it wants to tell you – such as exploring how people survive here as well as different almost religious aspects towards the wind as an entity. It’s really quite fascinating stuff.
Despite some bland acting for the most part by other cast members, Hamill is a blast. Tasker is a morally deranged character who seems to think he’s doing good, but he kills without remorse. He has a badge and works for the law to justify his killing, but he has his own code of morals and anyone who is doing wrong in his eyes. He’s the judge, jury and executioner when he sees fit to be. Hamill explores this wonderfully, with intense characterization and the ability to be a cold-hearted jerk, with just an occasional semblance of sensitivity. He is also the second greatest actor to chew on something while talking and it looks bad ass. But the prestigious honor of number one spot goes to Cillian Murphy in In Time (2011).
Verdict: Better Left Buried
Don’t get me wrong, I adored this movie, but it is not good. Hamill and Paxton are fun, and Peck is genuinely good, but the film is a mess. The cinematography is boring, and the majority of the acting is very bland. If you enjoy bad B-movies, then definitely check it out. But I still think, for the majority of people out there,, they should let this credit stay buried.
Come back tomorrow when we check out a different kind of crazy killer Mark Hamill in a wonderful little film distributed by Cannon films!