I put this movie on again last night. Again because I have watched it before. Like any good movie viewer, I like to track movies that good actors and or good directors have done, and sometimes that involves renting a movie like Slipstream because of the people involved. But seriously: Mark Hamill, Bill Paxton, Bob Peck, F. Murray Abraham, Ben Kingsley, and directed by Tron director Steven Lisberger. What is not to like right there? That's like a lot of great actors, and Tron was fucking awesome. I really, really thought I reviewed Tron. Guess not.
However, one must admit that this movie....was not that great. Sure, the ingredients are there. Great cast, and cool shooting locations. Good enough effects, minimal plot line, pretty linear. To me the real reason this movie wasn't great was that it felt very incomplete. Like perhaps it was never fleshed out enough, or someone came along and cut the shit out of it to fit it to 90 minutes.
Bill Paxton stars as Matt Owens, a free range drifter who stumbles onto a fleeing convict, Bob Peck as Byron. Byron is trying to escape merciless cop Tasker (Mark Hamill) and his partner Belitski. Matt rescues Byron, and Matt learns there is a large price on Byron's head. At first Matt keeps Byron around to try and turn him in for the price, but the two eventually become friends. Meanwhile they are pursued by Tasker. Byron, it turns out, is an android who has superhuman abilities like healing people. Matt learns from Byron, Byron learns from Matt, and everything goes mostly how you'd expect from there.
Like I said it felt incomplete. First of all, we're never really told what the deal was with Byron's price on his head. He supposedly murdered a guy, but there's like 3 times it's mentioned, and it never truly gets explained. Also, Hamill's cop tough guy doesn't seem like he'd really be a cop, but again, that's never explained and doesn't come up more than once. Paxton's character is a stereotype, but at least he's a complete character: he's the fun loving simpleton who lives his typical nomadic life much like the main character in Waterworld.
I compared this to Waterworld a lot when I watched it. In Waterworld, it's post-apocalypse, everything is on the water, people have these mini-societies and the main character is an outcast. The cool boats are fun to see, and that's like half the appeal. Similar in plot, they also both involve seemingly innocent people being chased by ominous baddies, and the nomad main character eventually becoming drawn into the story by helping the innocents.
Slipstream is post-apocalypse, everything is in the air, people have similar mini-societies that main character Matt is not a part of. Everyone has these neat personal planes that are like half the appeal. Hmmm, gee I wonder why I compared these two in my mind? Also, again like Waterworld, a lack of explanation about the how/why of the post-apocalypse. What happened? Aw, who cares, watch the movie. Not that I have a problem there. That's fine. But just another similarity. Since this one came out before Waterworld, could say this was a precursor to it. But Waterworld was simply a "wetter" rip off of Mad Max, so, you know.
Kingsley and Abraham fill out a few small roles, along with Robbie Coltrane and Roshan Seth. It's pretty cool to see a bunch of familiar faces in this, and that's practically half the fun. This movie was produced by Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back producer Gary Kurtz. Hence the casting. This was his big follow up to Empire after he'd parted ways with George Lucas. It was unsuccessful, a commercial and critical failure, and that's why it's on the Sci-Fi Invasion boxset.
I didn't hate it. It felt like an odd mix of Blade Runner and Waterworld. Which, two good movies right there in my opinion. I liked Waterworld, I give Waterworld like 3.5 stars probably. This one is not as fun. Much more dialogue heavy, barely any real action, and a lot more philosophical in feel. That's why I bring Blade Runner up. But the similarities to Blade Runner are minimal. If they added more development and action, cut some of the downtime, and made Tasker a bigger threat who was around more, it might'a been successful. But as it is, probably 2 stars.