Directed by Ernest D. Farino
Expectations: Pretty high. This looks cheese-ball enough to be awesome.
On the general scale:
On the B-Movie scale:
Finally getting back to the Moonbeam films (Full Moon movies aimed at kids), and this one is a doozy. It’s the first part of a six-film series and it literally opens with a five-minute “catching you up on the plot” montage that details all the pertinent plot points, the devious villain and the hero and his small band of friends fighting through time to save the universe. Leave it to me to actually get the characters mixed up during the opening montage, but what do they expect me to do if I’ve never met these guys before? Regardless, it’s a slam-bang opening, so it’s somewhat jarring when we drop into the movie proper and the first scene is played subdued and nearly dialogue-free. Both are a bit misleading, as the film is neither slam-bang action nor quiet subtlety, although if you expected subtlety from a film titled Josh Kirby… Time Warrior: Chapter 1, Planet of the Dino-Knights then you really should reconsider your general sense of gauging expectations.
Instead the film falls somewhere about halfway between sci-fi action film and kids afternoon TV show. The mix works pretty well and even though the middle section is a little slow and dialogue heavy, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Josh Kirby Part 1 due to the absolute plethora of fun special FX and lighthearted fun contained here. Pretty much every major FX style of the past fifty years is on display at some point in the film: stop-motion, puppets, makeup FX, computer generated FX. There’s even some primitive film coloring/tinting, done here digitally I’m sure, but still reminiscent of landmark silent films like Thomas Edison’s Annabelle Serpentine Dance from 1895, the first film to use the technique.
Josh Kirby wasn’t always a time warrior though. When the film opens he’s just your average 9th grader, dealing with bullies and wondering how to get the school’s most popular girl (played by pre-fame Charisma Carpenter) to notice him. His greatest passion is riding his bike, using every trek to school as an opportunity to time trial against his personal best. You too will throw your hands into the air and yell, “YES!” when Josh races to the school’s front steps and sets a new Kirby record. But his bike-racing world is about to get flipped turned upside down when a mysterious device called The Nullifier (no relation to The Ultimate Nullifier) is broken into six pieces by Dr. Irwin 1138 in the 25th century and dispersed throughout time so that the evil Dr. Zoetrope can’t acquire the device and destroy the world with it. One of the pieces lands in Josh’s time and he soon finds himself in the Middle Ages and smack in the middle of a race through time! Unfortunately, at least in Part 1, said race is not on a bike.
Josh Kirby is something of an amalgamation of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Back to the Future, two much more well-known time traveling franchises. There’s so many direct similarities to Back to the Future that listing them all here would be ridiculous. One of the more glaring of these is the score by Richard Band. Most of the time it sounds like all the other Full Moon scores from this era: very synth-heavy, lighthearted and not very memorable. During the opening titles though, there are sections of the theme that straight up rip off sections of Alan Silvestri’s classic score and reuse them note for note. It’s so flagrantly done, just in your face and daring you not to notice. I’m somewhat impressed by the brazen nature of it, but there’s no getting around how wrong it is.
The film is directed by Ernest Farino, who has quite the impressive special effects filmography, working on such films as The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, The Abyss, The Thing, Galaxy of Terror and the two Sci-Fi Channel Dune Miniseries. This explains the focus on special FX in Josh Kirby, and their impressive implementation throughout the film. When one of the characters sword-fights a T-Rex (Yes, you read that right) the integration of the stop-motion and the live action footage is flawless. Insert shots of the T-Rex roaring are done with a puppet and look equally impressive, and I’m only aware it’s a puppet because of my obsession with practical FX and watching making-of documentaries.
Overall, Josh Kirby… Time Warrior: Chapter 1, Planet of the Dino-Knights lives up to its title, providing lots of warring through time and a fair amount of knights and dinos. The film ends right at the moment when it starts to really pick up and get exciting, perfectly cutting off and leaving you wanting for the second installment (of which a trailer is shown directly following the To Be Continued… notice). Full Moon somewhat obsessively uses the medieval era in many of their films from this era and I’m pretty tired of the setting. Despite this, the film managed to be entertaining and exciting and I look forward to finding out what happens in Part 2.
Couldn’t find a trailer, but you can watch the first ten minutes here.
Next week, I’m continuing with the second installment, Josh Kirby… Time Warrior: Chapter 2, The Human Pets!