Planet Earth is a devastated wasteland, and what's left of humanity has colonized the Moon in domed cities. Humanity's continued survival depends on an anti-radiation drug only available on planet Delta Three, which has been taken over by Omus, a brilliant but mad mechanic who places no value on human life. Omus wants to come to the Moon to rule and intends to attack it by ramming robot-controlled spaceships into the domes. Dr. John Caball, his son Jason, Jason's friend, Kim, and a robot named Sparks embark on Caball's space battlecruiser on an unauthorized mission to Delta Three to stop Omus.
I have seen 'The Shape of Things to Come' and it's square...I mean, like, really square. This 1979 Canadian release was obviously an attempt to capitalize on the then-sci-fi craze at the cinema, but comes off as something you and your high school friends might have filmed over the summer as an extra-credit project.
I won't waste too much time trying to explain the plot of this movie to you, but basically the film is set "the tomorrow after tomorrow" (seriously, that's in the opening crawl) when mankind has all but depleted Earth's resources and has set up a colony on the moon. Since it's the moon in the late 1970s, naturally Space 1999's Barry Morse is still hanging around. Here, he plays Dr. John Caball, and the name is really the only relation this movie has to H.G. Wells' original novel or to the classic 1936 film Things to Come.
As the movie opens, the moon is under attack by the evil self-proclaimed Emperor Omus (Jack Palance, who I can only hope got a nice check for being in this schlock), who has sent a ship with suicide robot pilots to crash into the moon's domed habitat. How do we know the ship is coming? Because the movie shows the same shot of the ship slowly going across screen again and again (and again!). Apparently, Omus is on a planet that grows a drug that is pivotal to humankind's survival. So when Omus threatens to cut off the supply of the drug unless he's named King of the Moon (or something along those lines), Dr. Caball – against his superior's orders – steals a spaceship along with his son, Jason (Nicholas Campbell); the daughter of Caball's superior, Kim (Eddie Benton, aka Anne-Marie Martin); and a repaired robot from the suicide attack, who Kim has named "Sparks" (oh, how cute!). Their plan is to meet Omus on his own turf and stop him and his evil robot army.
I've probably just made the movie sound a lot more exciting than it is. It's not, trust me. According to IMDB.com, the budget of this film was about $3 million in Canadian dollars back in 1979, which I guess works about to about $2 million and some change. How and where all that money got spent is a mystery, as it's certainly not up on the screen (by comparison, the pilot to 1978's Battlestar Galactica cost about $3 million in U.S. dollars, and this movie doesn't come anywhere close to the quality of that production, even though you might swear they liberated some of their sets and costumes). To show you how lame this film is, the bridge of the ship that Dr. Caball steals looks just like an office with a computer desk and a square viewing screen. It looks more like a room in an office building (which it probably was) than a spaceship.
While the guys at MST3K or, more currently, RiffTrax, would probably have a field day with this film, I certainly don't recommend you try the same. The biggest problem with this clunker is that everyone seems to know they're in a bad movie, yet no one takes the opportunity to ham things up for the camera or, at the very least, just have a little fun with it (although Palance does let loose a bit in his final scene). If this is 'The Shape of Things to Come', I'm good right here, thank you very much.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Shape of Things to Come' comes in a standard-shaped Blu-ray keepcase, which houses the 25GB disc with zero inserts. The flip side of the keepcase's slick (seen from inside the box) contains a chapter listing for the movie on the inside left. There are no front-loaded trailers on the Blu-ray, whose main menu showcases the box cover artwork on the left side of the screen, a montage of footage from the movie on the right side of the screen, and menu selections horizontally across the bottom forth of the screen.
The Blu-ray in this release is region-free.
'The Shape of Things to Come' was shot on 35mm film. According to IMDB.com, the movie was released at the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, but its image on this release is slightly pillar-boxed on the right and left sides, giving it a 1.66:1 aspect ratio.
Man oh man, the picture quality here is pretty bad. Which is not to say the transfer has technical issues...in fact, I was hard-pressed to find any aliasing, banding, or over-sharpening of the image. The problem is how soft, colorless, and often out of focus the movie is. The movie often times looks like it was filmed through a haze, and results in an image that not only isn't any better that DVD quality, I'm not sure it's all that much better than VHS (okay, it's better than that, but it doesn't seem that way at first).
The back of the box cover says that the movie has been remastered from the original camera negative, so the lack of quality here must come from the source material or the original print was in pretty bad shape. That said, Blue Undergound has done a nice job of making sure most instances of dirt, debris, and other issues have been removed from the print, and film grain – while present – is never obtrusive.
Still, regardless of whether the issues are with the transfer itself or the original print, 'The Shape of Things to Come' is a soft-looking, non-detailed release that is hard to get excited about. It's one of the poorest quality images I've seen on Blu-ray in a long time.
This release comes with two audio options: a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track and a 1.0 Mono DTS-HD Master Audio track. The 5.1 track here fares much better in terms of quality than the disappointing video...but not much. Despite being a lossless track, it's pretty lifeless, with flat-sounding dialogue, music, and effects all around. The track tries to separate some of the soundtrack to the rear speakers, but it's more than obvious that this was a mono release and intended to be heard that way (Blue Underground might have served us better with upgrading to 2.0 Stereo instead of 5.1). That said, the mono track isn't a whole lot better, but does feel slightly more 'natural', so I recommend switching over to that one if you're not a fan of the 5.1 (actually, I don't recommend switching to anything, since I'm not recommending the torture of sitting through this film...but you get the gist).
The audio is fairly flat, with little in terms of dynamic range and zero directionality, but it's also free of any popping, hissing, and dropouts, so at least there's that.
Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish, and French.
'The Shape of Things to Come' was obviously a cheap, slap-it-together effort to capitalize on the success of 'Star Wars' and the popularity of other sci-fi movies in the late 1970s. But its cheap sets, poor acting, and horrible F/X doesn't do it any favors. Nor does its awful story. This isn't one of those films that's "so bad, it's good". It's just bad. Real bad. Skip it.