This television movie is one of the most obscure of the movies Joe Dante directed.
Unfortunately, that is probably the most interesting thing about it.
Curiously, it bears enormous resemblances to Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda which would debut in syndication two years later: both involve an attempt to restore a fallen Republic, with the help of the last surviving top of the line ship of the once great fleet; in both, an important and highly respected race proves to have a secret plan of conquest (and for our own good!); and both assemble a rag tag crew, made up of people who were once enemies. Considering how poorly this film performed, it seems unlikely that anyone would have stolen from it. But you never know.
Yes, The Warlord, gives us a more personal reason for the hero’s quest, but he still ends up as the Captain of a ship on a mission.
And then there’s the rather strange fact that Caleb Carr, the author of novels like The Alienist, wrote the script. Which doesn’t change the fact that it is…unremarkable.
One would be hard pressed to find anything that connects this film to Dante’s other work – all in all, it seems a fairly routine production, without the usual post-modern references to other works of SF and horror. The cast seems as unremarkable as everything else, with the only really recognizable face being Rod Taylor (of the 1960 The Time Machine), although he’s old enough here to be more or less unrecognizable. Perhaps it would have been better if Joe Dante had managed to hire his first pick for the role – Christopher Lee – although that does seem unlikely.
Perhaps the one standout element is the Sublime Plenum, the supreme council of the race of Engineers. It is marvelously grotesque and features some standout effects work. And it is true that the ships and sets are quite well done, in a routine sort of way.
Oh, well, you completists know you’ll have to see it. It isn’t bad. It’s just sorta…there.
Which, ultimately, is the real problem.