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Film / Condorman

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"Have you seen this report on this Condorman? On this man Wilkins? He is an amateur, do you hear? He is not an agent of the CIA! He is a writer of comic books!"
Krokov, Chewing the Scenery as usual.

A 1981 Disney live-action spoof of the classic Spy Fiction genre, Condorman follows the exploits of the hapless Woodrow "Woody" Wilkins (Michael Crawford), a comic book writer who is determined to bring his titular superhero to fame by refusing to write anything that he can't actually do in real life. To that end, he sets out to perfect a set of wings that he can fly around town with.

When his friend, Harry, a CIA desk jockey, needs a civilian to handle a sensitive courier mission in Istanbul, he talks Woody into the job. Despite being ridiculously out of place, he manages to both succeed and save a Russian agent from capture at the hands of her enemies.

When that same spy, Natalia (Barbara Carrera), passes word to the CIA that she wishes to defect, but only to their top secret agent, Condorman, puzzlement ensues until Harry realizes that Woody used that as his "code name". They reluctantly ask Woody to escort Natalia, but in return he insists that they help him bring his comic book creations to life. Thus begins a merry romp around Europe as Woody and Natalia are pursued by agents of the KGB determined to get her back at any cost, complete with car chases, boat chases, cable car chases, improbable disguises, Stuff Blowing Up, and a daring rooftop escape scene.

Loosely based on a short-story, "The Game of X", by Robert Sheckley. No relation to the Japanese superhero show with an identically-named hero, Seigi No Symbol Condorman.

This movie contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Animated Credits Opening: A cutesy animated Condorman zooms across the screen (and crashes frequently), with the titles following in his wake.
  • Arab Oil Sheikh: The heroes infiltrate Krokov's party at an estate in Monaco by pretending to be oil-rich Arabs.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Woody goes from writing Condorman to being Condorman.
  • Cardboard Prison: The jail that Woody and Natalia get taken to after their capture by police holds them for about as long as it takes Harry to get there with a Wig, Dress, Accent.
  • Chained Heat: Harry springs Woody and Natalia from jail, but they remain handcuffed together for quite a while because he can't find the key.
  • Chase Scene: Most of the action scenes turn into chases of some sort. The most memorable ones are the Condorman racecar chase early in the film and the Condorman speedboat chase in the climax.
  • Cloak and Dagger: Harry protests to Woody that the CIA doesn't operate like he's read in spy novels, but Woody is a firm believer in bad disguises, super tech toys, dramatic chases, and so forth. Because of his involvement, they end up doing exactly those things.
  • Closing Credits: A rare aversion for an '80s film. It's the only modern-day PG-rated Disney movie to not have any closing credits.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: Of course it had one, from Whitman Comics (aka Gold Key Comics), two issues adapting the movie (with Russ as an African-American), and a third follow-up issue, depicting Woody and Natalia's adventures after the film.
  • Comic Books Are Real: Woody poo-poohs Batman and Superman because they're blatantly unrealistic, insisting instead that Condorman should not do anything that can't be done in Real Life; in believing this, he actually makes it happen.
  • Conspicuous Trenchcoat: Woody dresses up in a trenchcoat, hat, and sunglasses for the first mission where he meets Natalia. It's as comically ineffective as it sounds, but also causes the mooks who are after her to take him less seriously than they might otherwise have.
  • Cool Boat: The Condorman speedboat used in the final chase scene is inexplicably equipped with a laser cannon. The KGB speedboat flotilla, for its part, comes with what appear to be mortars.
  • Cool Car: The Condorman racecar used in the first chase scene is equipped with a variety of gadgets including a rear-mounted flamethrower, rockets, and a shield that doubles as a ramp, and can transform into a hydrofoil. The Russian spies all counter with black Porsches.
  • Dangerous Backswing: When confronted by a bunch of thugs, our erstwhile hero grabs his briefcase and swings it back so he can launch it forward at the thug in front in him, only to clobber a thug sneaking up behind him in the face.
  • Defector from Commie Land: Natalia's motivations for defecting are not spelled out completely, but she seems to deeply resent Krokov's abusive behavior towards her. She's more than happy to go to America and watch baseball games, though.
  • Easy Come, Easy Go: Harry steals an embassy car in Monaco to make it to Woody's anticipated landing spot. He's having so much fun that he forgets to set the parking brake, and as it rolls off a boat ramp and into the sea, Harry sadly observes, "Easy come, easy go."
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: In the car chase scene, every bad guy vehicle except The Dragon's blows up spectacularly. And again in the boat chase scene, although the latter is a bit more understandable as they are carrying mortar rockets and get shot with a laser cannon.
  • Fanfare: Condorman has a distinctive choral salute every time said hero puts in an appearance.
  • Fire-Breathing Diner: The triple Istanbul Express causes Woody to breathe fire. He later weaponizes this against a Mook.
  • The Fool: Woody starts as an ordinary guy who's in way over his head and can't seem to take anything seriously (except his comic book work). It takes nearly getting killed and apparently losing Natalia for good before he realizes that he's putting people in unnecessary danger with his antics.
  • Game of Chicken: During the car chase, two of the KGB pursuers attempt a front-rear pincer maneuver against Woody, with one taking a shortcut to get ahead of him and cut him off. Woody, however, has a secret weapon: a front-facing shield that doubles as a ramp, causing the enemy vehicle to vault over his car and hit the car behind him. Kaboom.
  • Gargle Blaster: Woody's ill-advised order of a triple Istanbul Express arrives on fire and causes him to breathe fire when consumed.
    Waiter: "One Istanbul Express."
    Woody: "Yes, a double."
    Waiter: "A double? Nobody orders the double, sir!"
    Woody: "Okay. Make it a triple."
  • High-Heel–Face Turn: It's not hard to see where Woody's encounter with the female spy Natalia is going, especially when all the other cast members are male.
  • I Just Want to Be Badass: Woody's motivation throughout the first half of the story is to prove to the world that he can be Condorman — or rather, that Condorman can be real. This despite being a comic book writer with absolutely no experience in combat or espionage. Later, Natalia's capture forces him to get serious about the mission and put her safety over his own dreams, which ironically causes him to fully embrace the Condorman persona.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Krokov's KGB goons can't hit the gliding Condorman suit from thirty feet away. Given that Natalia is riding on the back, this is a good thing for both Woody and them.
    • Averted when Morovich is able to shoot down Woody and Harry from their jet-propelled zip line over the Alps using a sniper rifle; he doesn't aim for either of them, but aims for the skinny pole that they're hanging on to, and hits a perfect bullseye.
  • Matching Bad Guy Vehicles: The KGB drive matching black Porsches and are capable of quickly driving in formation. The same is true of their speedboats later in the film.
  • Non-Action Guy:
    • Lacking any badass credentials, Woody manages to become a credible action hero through sheer chutzpah.
    • Harry is a desk jockey, not a field agent. He doesn't do any actual fighting, though he does a creditable job of stealing a car to aid Woody in his escape... until he lets it sink, that is.
  • Not Quite Flight: The Condorman suit glides, and not all that badly after the bugs have been worked out. Its first test flight doesn't go so well, though, with a collapsed wing dumping Woody into the Seine (a stunt that almost killed Michael Crawford).
  • Psycho for Hire: Morovich, Krokov's Dragon. It becomes apparent in his fits of murderous rage upon losing Woody and Natalia, and comes to a head when he attempts to ram the Condorman speedboat, despite Krokov trying to get him to stop.
  • Ramming Always Works: Morovich attempts this at the climax, after both his and Woody's weapons are disabled. It is subverted by the arrival of a helicopter to lift Woody and crew out of harms' way. Morovich proceeds to fall victim to a self-inflicted Wronski Feint.
  • Reflecting Laser: The Condorman speedboat has a laser cannon whose shots bounce off of choppy water.
  • Refusal of the Call: When Harry asks Woody to do him a favor by taking the courier mission in Istanbul, Woody loudly declares that, "I am not a spy!" It takes Harry playing on his desire to show off his Condorman persona to get him to finally go along with the idea.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: At the end of the climactic boat chase, Krokov tries to stop Morovich from ramming the heroes' boat in a kamikaze run. Once he realizes that Morovich isn't going to stop for any reason, Krokov jumps overboard to save his own skin, leaving Morovich to his fate.
  • Shown Their Work: The comic book art actually looks like comic books in the 1970s.
  • Show Within a Show: Woody's comics, which he insists the CIA bring to life for him as a condition of agreeing to rescue Natalia, and which Krokov uses to figure out his tricks. There's a heartwarming moment in an Italian villa when the local children, who are all fans, greet Natalia as "Laser Lady", a character that Woody based on her.
  • Sidekick: Harry tools merrily around after Woody, rescuing him from messes and playing driver, with a bit of Only Sane Man thrown in to boot.
  • Silver Eye: Morovich has a silver false eye, which he sometimes conceals with an Eyepatch of Power.
  • Slow Laser: Woody pilots a speedboat equipped with a laser cannon that uses the typical "slow" variant. It also bounces off of choppy water.
  • Something Only They Would Say: "If you bring the dip, I'll bring the Dostoyevsky," used by Natalia to indicate that her apparent change of heart is not what it seems.
  • Spy Fiction: Woody believes wholeheartedly in James Bond style spy dramas, despite Harry's protests that the CIA doesn't do that sort of thing. Result: truly wacky bathtub gin, served in martini glasses.
  • Stock Scream: The Goofy holler is used in the opening credits.
  • Stuff Blowing Up:
    • Quite a few cars and speedboats spectacularly sacrifice themselves for the chase scenes.
    • Woody and Harry's plan to spring Natalia from Krokov's estate in Monaco involves the detonation of a number of explosive charges around the premises.
  • Time for Plan B: Russ snarks to Harry that they don't even have a "Plan A", never mind a "Plan B". When Harry breaks Woody and Natalia out of jail, he name-drops the trope:
    Woody: Hey, ugly American. Remember Plan B? This is it.
  • Typecasting: Michael Crawford as a well-meaning but accident-prone guy?
  • Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys?: Played with — Krokov is at a loss to figure out why "Condorman" is running around with all those crazy gadgets (and foiling his plans to boot) until he gets his hands on Woody's comic books, leading to the page quote.
  • Wig, Dress, Accent: The Arab Oil Sheikh disguises, and Harry's "police inspector" disguise.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Woody, at first. What's interesting is that, due to his presence, everyone else starts behaving like it's the kind of Cloak and Dagger story that Woody thinks it is.
  • Wronski Feint: At the end of the speedboat chase, Woody's boat is damaged and out of gas. Morovich, whose weapons are also disabled, elects to ram him in a final attempt to finish the hero off. Unfortunately for Morovich, the speedboat is airlifted away just in time, causing him to crash spectacularly into the rocks.