SOLAR CRISIS was announced in 1989 as an epic Japanese-American sci-fi co-production extravaganza, an adventure movie that would push back the boundaries of special effects spectacle and debut with a ready-made theme park opening in its honor. Four years and $43 million later, SOLAR CRISIS
limped quietly out onto home video, with production personnel concealed behind pseudonyms.
SOLAR CRISIS opens with an echo-chamber voice stating that by the year 2050, the menopausal sun is having hot flashes, such as the present thousand-day heat wave. Experts predict it's a preview of the main attraction, a "colossal mega-flare" that will burn all life from the Earth. In a
last-ditch effort to divert the flare's path, technicians construct a computerized anti-matter bomb, a sentient, fussy machine named Freddy (the voice of composer Paul Williams). Space Commander Steve Kelso (Tim Matheson) is given the responsibility of commanding the well-insulated space vessel
Helios to the solar corona and sending Freddy into the sun at a crucial moment.
Arnold Teague (Peter Boyle), capitalist boss of the huge IXL Corporation, doesn't buy the flare theory but knows that as long as the global scorcher continues, he can gobble up resources and territories at fire-sale prices. To ensure that the Helios can't cool his profits, Teague carries out a
sinister scheme of sabotage. Among the crew of the Helios is Alex Noffe (Annabel Schofield), a sexy test-tube babe whom Teague's henchmen brainwash into wanting to destroy the Helios and Freddy. Kelso must also contend with his teenage son Mike (Corin Nemec), who is sick of his military academy
and goes AWOL in a stolen plane, crashing in the Nevada desert. There he meets Travis (Jack Palance), eccentric ex-colonel-hippie-biker-hermit-shortwave radio enthusiast. The mismatched duo head to a nearby settlement, where a dissident IXL researcher has just been dragged in by scavengers. Cast
into the wastelands to die because he supported the Helios mission, the scientist tells Mike of Teague's evil plan. IXL security hears of the leak, however, and they plug it by killing Travis and capturing Mike before he can contact authorities.
Mike's grandfather, Admiral "Skeets" Kelso (Charlton Heston), directs his commandoes to raid Teague's gaudy Las Vegas corporate headquarters and blast the escaping bad guy out of the sky, as the Admiral and the boy reunite on a beach. Meanwhile, Kelso catches Alex attempting to destroy Freddy
with an ax; she manages to overcome her IXL programming by force of will and makes amends by knocking Kelso out and taking his place in the suicide mission, piloting the small bomb-delivery vehicle into the sun. Just before Alex makes the ultimate sacrifice and saves humanity, the viewer is
treated to her perspective deep inside the photosophere; a randomly-edited light show of shifting atoms in the dance of nuclear fusion.
The resemblance to the eye-and mind-filling finale of Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY may be wishful thinking, but it provide some career closure for producer Richard Edlund, a special effects ace whose achievements include the STAR WARS films and the gas environment of the planet Jupiter for
the sequel 2010. SOLAR CRISIS features extensive and lavish special effects work, but the small-screen aspect of the average VCR setup diminishes their impact considerably.
SOLAR CRISIS was a spectacularly troubled production, which opened in Japan in the summer of 1990 as CRISIS 2050 and failed to catch on at the box office. Desperate to land a worldwide distribution deal, the producers reshot and recut it so extensively that director Richard Sarafian had his name
replaced with the conventional pseudonym "Alan Smithee," and his son Ted, who contributed re-writes, went incognito as "Crispan Bolt." While ads and promos for the evolving epic continued, a proposed SOLAR CRISIS amusement park was, understandably, scrapped. By the time the rather minor Trimark
Pictures picked up the property for limited US theatrical distribution, its cost had ballooned to $43 million. The result is a patchy combination of military-service drama, disaster movie and futuristic techno-thriller, gracelessly siphoning off elements of various other pictures the way that only
bloated international co-productions seem to do, and key transitional scenes and character exposition were clearly left on the cutting-room floor. Enjoy its awesome visuals or scorn its slipshod execution, SOLAR CRISIS amounts to one small step for cinema, one giant leap for Alan Smithee.
(Profanity, violence, nudity.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1990
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: SOLAR CRISIS was announced in 1989 as an epic Japanese-American sci-fi co-production extravaganza, an adventure movie that would push back the boundaries of special effects spectacle and debut with a ready-made theme park opening in its honor. Four years a… (more)