The Time Guardian (1987)

Time Guardian

Outside of Star Wars Carrie Fisher made some pretty interesting films, fairing more successfully towards writing than acting. There were a few odd decisions made by the actress in the 80’s and 90’s. The Time Guardian is one of those curiosities on her filmography given that she was not even the star of this Australian epic. The story behind Time Guardian is much more interesting than what appeared on screen, and no doubt should have stayed with John Baxter and Brian Hannant’s original story instead of the pathetic twaddle producer John Daly pushed that makes up the majority of the runtime in the finished film.

Earth has been ravaged by war and the last standing city in 4039 travels through time in an effort to avoid the enemy, the Jen-Diki, and protect the inhabitants. That’s quite an ambitiously imaginative idea and it’s a shame John Daly had no intention of realising the scope of Hannant ad Baxter’s creativity. Ballard (or as I misheard due to the aussie accent – Bellend) is a tough soldier who leads the fight to overthrow the enemy. Explaining the plot any further becomes tiresome… even for the writers who can’t be bothered to explain who this enemy is and why they want to destroy humanity.

Opening with some promising action reminiscent of the scenes set in the future in The Terminator, the film has the problem that it has no real goal, other than it wants to be a family friendly adventure film. The plot does not make sense as is, there’s a lack of any charm, humour or magic. Bellend is your typical guff, no nonsense warrior, however, there is the odd moment here and there where you can see the actor Tom Burlinson valiantly adding whatever he can to the horrendously flat character. Nikki Coghill plays Annie, a modern woman who makes contact with the future civilisation and turns in the only interesting performance as her character has the most to do. The middle of the film sees Bellend and Annie spending more time dealing with the local police than the deadly Jen-Diki.

The “big get” of the film really is Carrie Fisher, however, she is just playing Leia from Star Wars. Her snarky responses and tone is exactly what she used in the once celebrated saga and now looks a little embarrassed about being attached to this garbage, especially when kitted out in one of the outfits. I watched this as a kid due to my love for Fisher and remember being intrigued by this outfit, whilst not quite Return of the Jedi or Man with One Red Shoe levels of drooling it was memorable enough. Dean Stockwell pops up, shouts a few lines and wears some weird blue sideburns that had me adjusting my TVs colour settings to see if there was a problem.

I was a little shocked to see the additional nudity of Nikki, I have no memory of this at all and wonder if the UK PG VHS version was cut. There are a couple of scenes in the film where the producers must have insisted that the gorgeous actress gives the parents of the target audience what they are hoping for. The inclusion is welcome, however, it’s thoroughly inappropriate given the target audience.

The story paints the background of an epic war that had raged for millennia, however, the conclusion of the movie sees a terrible face-off between Bellend and Darth Vader-esq baddie, who I’m sure had a name but I missed so I’ll call him Hose Nose, in an old pumping station. The two scramble around with Bellend rolling back and forth between the pumps until Hose Nose is a little closer for a couple of precision shots, compared to the exciting climax in A New Hope, Flash Gordon, Krull, Wrath of Khan… heck, even The Motion Picture, Time Guardian is severely disappointing.

The locations and production levels are increasingly unsatisfying. Sets are filled with 80’s technology, you will see a Sony Trinitron in your first glimpse of the year 4096 and an Monochome Amstrad PCW in your second. The film features a faintly interesting idea that the aboriginal people of Australia have seen the city before, however, this is completely forgotten as the story plods on. There are some fairly impressive special effects with matte paintings, miniatures and use of perspective early on but those are forgotten by the climax as the silliness overtakes.

The Villainous Jen-Diki are embarrassingly poor foes for our heroes to battle. Whilst appearing to seem like they are Terminator level baddies, they have a big circular button on the front that, once hit with a couple of bullets, destroys them. They are slow, lumbering pantomime costume villains that make Stormtroopers look like crack-shots. The final scene sees Bellend produce a big glowing laser gun that he instantly drops before the final confrontation with Hose Nose only to pick it up afterwards and squeeze off a few shots at the wobbly adversaries. The whole climax is so lacklustre it’s incredible to think the production company wanted 10 movies in the series!

For years I thought this a cheap direct to video Star Wars knock off and was shocked when I investigated to see that it was a modest attempt to create a viable franchise. The Time Guardian is embarrassing nonsense with the only thing of note being Nikki Coghill… and Carrie Fisher’s outfit.

There isn’t much in the way of art work for the film, with big laser guns being the attraction for the kids.

Time Guardian

The Time Guardian is out on Blu Ray and pretty widely available, however, it’s a region 1. It’s te best option right now, if you have the hardware to play it.

There are some DVD releases on Ebay and Amazon from various markets.

1 Comment

  1. Mod

    Hello dear article author,

    I was born in 1987 and was lucky enough to see this film as a child. I actually thought that something like that was happening in the film and that someone had just recorded it passing by. It was the same with the films Home Alone, RoboCop etc.

    Your conclusion about the film is very impressive and I have to agree with you that nowadays we see some films with completely different eyes and judge them by different standards.

    Apart from Star Wars, the only other films that can be compared are Blade Runner, E.T., ALIEN, Predator, Star Trek and Terminator. But the fact is that all other low-budget films, even if they were hype at the time, were one or two stepping stones for production companies. Nowadays the standards are very high and the special effects are even more elaborate than back then, considering that back then the miniatures and backdrops, masks (Terminator) alone had the reputation of having been created digitally.

    But I actually think that the generation that made really good films is slowly dying out. The last to go, in my opinion, are Tarantino and Christopher Nolan. I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone from the last generation. I don’t want to mention Spielberg and Cameron because they are set in a different era and also belong to it.

    Today’s films such as Lord of the Rings, Marvel, Pirates of the Carribean and others are very good, but here too I fear that the well will soon be empty. And just as the actors will one day leave, only the memories will remain. The best I can see is that the wheel will be reinvented and the films will appear in further adaptations. New actors, new luck…………………………….. and still our vintage will remember the old films and how great it was back then.

    Thank you for your contribution

    Best regards from Munich

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