Genre: Sci-Fi, Action
Director: Charles Band
Stars: Tim Thomerson, Helen Hunt, Megan Ward
The highly anticipated sequel to the 1985 film Trancers reunites the same great cast from the first film with director Charles Band. This DVD has been sitting on my desk for months since I reviewed the first film but I finally did get around to watching it last night. Immediate thoughts? Well, it’s no Trancers. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine enough film – but it seriously has some problems. I’ll go ahead and say SPOILERS because one of its major problems is its BS ending.
Six years after the events of the first Trancers film Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson) and Lena are happily married. The alcoholic ex-baseballer Hap Ashby has cleaned up his act, invested in some commodities and is now a wealthy fellow who lives in his mansion collecting fire trucks – of course Jack and Lena live with him too because Jack feels its his personal mission to watch over Hap, at least until the old man who never leaves his mansion or firetrucks procreates. Meanwhile, in the future, trancers have started to make an appearance again. Scientists have developed a way to retrieve people from the past and take them into the future. They can’t completely send people back in time yet but they can still send their consciousness back to inhabit an ancestor. Since a new Trancer War is brewing they’ve decided to offer Jack a seat on the counsel. You see Whistler, who created the Trancers in the fist film had a brother named Edward (aka Wardo) who has now gone back in time to inhabit his ancestor’s body and create a new generation of Trancers. Jack’s former police chief McNulty goes back to inhabit the body of his 15 year old ancestor (Alyson Croft) in order to bring Jack back with Wardo. Why they need to bring back the inhabited body of Whistler’s ancestor is a bit confounding because in the first film they were able to inject people with a serum that would send that alien consciousness back down the line and allow that ancestor to carry on with their life. It’s not like the filmmakers forgot about this because it is mentioned – but I will have more to say about this particular issue later.
I honestly tried giving the film the benefit of the doubt when it came to all the paradoxical problems generated when time travel is a part of the story. Though I was a bit bothered with it’s sloppy handing of temporal paradoxes in the first film, I was able to put that aside and enjoy the movie as a whole. I knew those issues weren’t going to be fixed in this film and attempted to avoid being bothered about it but Band made it so much worse it’s just creates MASSIVE plotholes. First, we have the introduction of Jack’s dead wife Alice Stillwell. You see, the trancer hunters went back in time to Alice the day before she died and sent her consciousness back in time to collect Jack Deth for this mission – however she hasn’t returned. NO! It’s established that PEOPLE can’t be sent back in time – only the consciousness of someone can be sent to inhabit the body of an ancestor. So how did they go back in time to the day before Alice died in order to send her back? Considering they would have been sending someone’s consciousness back only a few years there would have been no ancestor’s body to inhabit – that is unless they sent some 6 year old kid back in time to take over their parents body and instruct people what to do which doesn’t seem bloody likely. Second, Jack has permanently taken over the body of his ancestor – meaning that he his is own great-great-grandfather. He and Lena have not had any children yet so taking this body away to the future means that Jack won’t have kids and therefore Jack won’t exist in the future therefore wouldn’t be able to go back in time and [HEAD EXPLODES]. YOU’D THINK THE PEOPLE CONDUCTING THE TIME TRAVEL WOULD HAVE TAKEN THIS INTO ACCOUNT! Going to try and leave these time travel annoyances aside FOR NOW!
The reason that Alice Stillwell was not able to complete her mission is because her ancestor was a crazy woman living in a mental institution. I’m assuming/hoping this is after the ancestor had a child because the idea of women getting pregnant in mental institutions is too disturbing to address in what should be a fun science fiction film. The mental institution she currently finds herself at is run by Greenworld – an ecological corporation run by E.D. Wardo (Richard Lynch). The ulterior motive of this company is to create trancers. Though “ulterior motive” is perhaps giving Greenworld too much credit – Greenworld is OBVIOUSLY making Trancers. Wardo even goes on television and gives an interview and says that Greenworld is the militant branch of the ecological movement. After this interview the movie slams, like a runaway train, directly into this:
Yeah a trailer for another Charles band movie right in the middle of this one! The story stops DEAD and the characters drop what they’re doing to watch this on the television. Someone should really tell Charles Band that trailers are supposed to play BEFORE the feature begins – not play in the middle of the movie.
Jack rescues Alice from the mental institution but not before he shoots an innocent security guard. Jack Deth is a hard man but what made him such a likeable character in Trancers was that he was not without compassion or a sense of morality. For instance, while chasing after Whistler in the first film Lena asks Jack why she just doesn’t kill the guy, why does he have to use this serum to send his consciousness back. Jack explains that if he did that he would be murdering an innocent man that just happens to be possessed by an evil descendent. This stalwart protect the innocent ethic is thrown right out the window when Jack shoots an innocent security guard in the chest when he rescues Alice. Singing trancers is one thing because those people, while innocent once upon a time, are beyond redemption. Though I really would have appreciated if there was a way to “cure” a trancer as this would have opened the story up to a lot of different options and made Jack a much deeper and more interesting character as he struggles with a moral dilemma of protecting the innocent or murdering someone in order to save his life. Instead the noble and fun Jack Deth from Trancers is now a hyper-cliched cop who shoots bullets with the same carelessness he shoots one-liners. A key example of some of the flat one-liners here:
“Damnit McNulty! Next time someone hands you an exploding ham, I’m gonna pass the mustard!”
Who puts mustard on ham? Hot dogs, yes… but HAM? Thomerson usually has great one-liners in any film, regardless of which specific character he’s playing. This ham line however, this is just sad.
Things get worse for Jack when he gets Alice home and realizes that this woman is his dead wife. She doesn’t know that as soon as she goes back up the line she’s going to die – she doesn’t know that it’s been six years for Jack and he’s moved on with his life. he can’t really explain to Alice either why he’s suddenly remarried because, as sloppily as the rest of the film has handled time travel at least it acknowledges the grave wrong it would be to tell someone how and when they will die in the future. The whole two wives situation doesn’t change how Jack feels about either of the women and he handles the situation as best he can. His goal is simply to stop Wardo from creating trancers, send Alice back into the future to unknowingly meet her fate and then just get on to enjoying his life with Lena. Of course Lena, on the other hand, I find it difficult to express how much I HATE this character now.
The first time Lena catches Jack in an uncomfortable embrace with Alice she is understandably upset. When Jack explains the situation to her, however, Lena seems to begrudgingly accept it. It happens again and Lena is upset once more, even says the exact same line: “Jack, you son of a bitch.” They have an argument about it where Lena says, accusingly: “You still love her, don’t you.” FUCK YOU LENA! Of course he still loves her – she is/was his dead wife. Is she really presuming her that people are not supposed to bear emotional connections to loved ones who’ve passed on? NO, Lena, that is not how the human experience works. Even divorced couples still love each other – you need to understand that there is a difference between loving someone and being IN love with someone. While Jack may no longer have the same kind of romantic love for Alice that he shares now with Lena – Alice was still his WIFE who died unexpectedly – of course he’s still going to love her. Lena’s refusal to accept or even attempt to understand the situation is irritating and adds unnecessary complications to a plot that was going along just fine without her screwing it all up with irrational emotions. Even with Jack explaining it to Lena in the simplest possible way: “She is going to DIE within the next 48 hours – just try to understand the situation,” Lena wants none of it and leaves him, just packs up her stuff and drives off. I had a great time with this character in the first film, and Helen Hunt was good looking in that movie with her punk rock style and her Santa suit. Here she is just a nagging and cruel character clad in unattractive wifey apparel. When Wardo kidnaps her and tries to turn her into a Trancer I almost didn’t want Jack to come to her rescue. “Let her become a trancer,” I thought, “It’ll improve her personality.”
Finally there is the end of the movie. Now remember how I mentioned how confounding it was that the future cops (I really know of no other term to describe them) wanted Wardo physically sent back in time? It wasn’t enough to just send his consciousness back and leave the body of an innocent ancestor alone. Well Jack KILLS the guy anyway. To reference the first movie again, Jack would not kill the man hosting Whistler’s consciousness because that would be the murder of an innocent man – but apparently this Wardo fellow just doesn’t matter at all. I’m assuming that since he’s old he’s already had kids in order to continue his lineage and therefore the man inhabiting his consciousness actually exists.
The movie was fun enough and captured most of the spirit of Trancers. It was great to see these characters again on a new adventure even though they had changed a bit. Jack was a bit too cold but Tim Thomerson still made him great. Lena, on the other hand, I’m glad she only makes a brief appearance at the beginning of Trancers III and is not seen again because that character is dead for me – she changed far too much into a generally unlikable character. Alice, on the other hand, I would LOVE to see again, mostly because the actress, Megan Ward, was so utterly adorable. Yeah there were a lot of things in this movie that bothered me and it was a greater struggle to just put those aside and enjoy the movie. Despite those annoyances, however, the film still had a quality cast and was a great way to breath new life into the series after an absence of six years. I’m still going to continue with the Trancers saga even though I know it’s all going to be downhill from here.