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Film / Moontrap

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"We don't take shit from a Machine."

1989 SF movie starring Walter Koenig "of Star Trek" (as stated on the movie's posters) and Bruce Campbell.

While on a Space Shuttle mission, Colonel Jason Grant (Koenig) and Ray Tanner (Campbell) find an unidentified spacecraft in Earth orbit and investigate. It contains a strange alien artifact that they bring back to Earth, which quickly assembles a killer robot out of spare parts lying around and goes berserk, killing at least one lab tech before they can break it apart.

Did we mention that they somehow know this artifact comes from the moon, 14,000 years ago?

Col. Grant digs up the last unfired Saturn V launch vehicle and throws together an impromptu lunar mission. However, the aliens who built the artifact quickly capture him and trap him in a jail cell with a hot alien space babe. He eventually outsmarts the aliens, blows up their spaceship, and saves the day. For now.

A sequel was made in 2017 called Moontrap: Target Earth.

This film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Actor Allusion: Grant is introduced giving a mock narration about space being the final frontier.
  • Air Vent Infiltration: Grant destroys the first Kaalium robot by crawling through the air shaft above it to fire a shotgun at close range.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Grant tries speaking to the woman he finds on the Moonbase and realises how foolish it is, though they quickly learn to speak each others names, and the name of the "Kaalium" attacking them. At the end of the movie Mera has been on Earth long enough to grasp English, though she still finds it confusing.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: One of the theories as to what the Kaalium are is robots that turned on the ones that built them.
  • Alien Invasion: On seeing the Kaalium spaceship is packed with pods, Grant realises he's looking at an invasion force.
  • Ancient Astronauts: The desiccated corpse that Grant retrieves from the derelict spacecraft is carbon dated at 14,000 years old, and analysis shows that it is human.
    Haskell: Dr. Barnes, do you really want me to report to the President that you believe we have some kind of ancient astronaut here?
  • Artificial Gravity: But not in the centre of the spaceship for some reason, even though it's not using Centrifugal Gravity.
  • Body Horror: After Ray Tanner is killed, the Kaalium salvage his body and build a SkeleBot 9000 out of him. Grant gets a nasty shock on seeing his friend, face locked in a smiling rictus, staring through the window at him.
  • Boldly Coming: What else would a protégé of Captain Kirk do with a young and hot space babe?
    Chuck Sonnenburg: (In a JFK impression) We choose to bone on the Moon! Not because we are easy, but because we are hard!
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Noting the templelike interior of the Moon base, Grant and Tanner start speculating about what it's for—starting with religious ceremonies and ending with human sacrifice (given the skeletons they keep finding).
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: NASA has a Saturn V rocket that's easily restored to take us back to the Moon via Stock Footage.
  • Brick Joke: When the elevator stops, someone makes a joke about government contractors. The same joke happens again for the Where's the Kaboom?
  • Cool Car: The Moon buggy! As long as it has power, that is.
  • Chekhov's Gun: When the Lunar Module is stolen, mention is made of a 'surprise package' that's on board which reads as still operational. It's a Self-Destruct Mechanism that's used to blow up the alien spacecraft.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: At the start of the movie the protagonists tell each other their embarrassing Air Force call signs: Jason 'Einstein' Grant and Ray 'The Penetrator' Tanner. Neither hesitate to use them against each other later.
  • Elevator Conference: When the Kaalium pod first activates it briefly shuts down the power. As Grant, Tanner and the NASA officials are stuck in the elevator with Haskell, they use the chance to badger him into changing his mind about what he's going to recommend to the President.
  • The End... Or Is It?: At the end of the movie Mera says that she's glad it's over. Grant agrees and gives her a hug while staring over her shoulder at the Moon. We then see an intact Kaalium pod buried among the wreckage...not on the Moon, but in a junkyard on Earth!
  • Fanservice: We get a topless stripper and later a topless space babe.
  • It's All My Fault: When Tanner dies, Grant starts blaming him for dying and then ends up blaming himself, even telling Mera that he woke her up only to get her killed. She responds by having sex with him. Later we discover that Mera has her own Survivor Guilt issues.
  • Just Think of the Potential!: Grant raises this with Haskall and (unlike most science heroes) doesn't hesitate to raise the military potential...and how unfortunate it would be if the Soviets got hold of this alien technology.
  • Gender-Inverted Trope: Instead of a Screaming Woman we have Grant screaming in (understandable) terror at the sight of his friend's head on a robot body. Mera, who is presumably all too familiar with this sight from her previous encounter with the Kaalium, just picks up Grant's gun and blasts it.
  • Give Me a Sword: Justified when Mera throws Tanner his gun after it's knocked from his hand, because he's more familiar with it. Later when Grant is caught off guard by the sudden appearance of Robot-Tanner she just uses the gun herself.
  • Human Popsicle: They find a woman in the Space Base in some kind of stasis pod. At the end of the movie, Mera reveals that her companions left her there to warn humanity about the Kaalium, even though she would have preferred to have died with them.
  • Improvised Microgravity Maneuvering: Grant and Mera are waiting to die on the Kaalium spaceship after activating the bomb. Then Grant fires at a Kaalium pod that's activated and the recoil of his gun blasts him in the opposite direction, giving him a "Eureka!" Moment on how they can reach the nearby space shuttle.
  • Incredibly Obvious Bomb: Mera seems to have no trouble understanding the purpose of the 'surprise package' once it's armed by Grant.
  • Killer Robot: After everyone leaves the room, the alien pod that Grant brought back to Earth opens and starts building itself one out of lab equipment and body parts. More robots turn up on the Moon in various configurations from ranging from a spiderbot to Humongous Mecha.
  • Let Me Get This Straight...: Grant's reaction when Haskall claims the corpse and alien pod he brought back to Earth is just a hoax to get NASA more funding.
  • Loose Lips: Grant has to drive to a strip bar where his drunk friend is saying too much about what they found.
  • Lightning Gun: Used by the Kaalium. Fortunately lightning can't shoot straight (except when shooting down the Command Module). Generally the Killer Robots are more effective when they use blunt force.
  • Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: Grant and Mera are brought on board the spacecraft and clamped to a wall in a room with their spacesuits neatly packed away in a storage unit for use when they escape.
  • Long Game: On seeing the Lunar Module incorporated into the Kaalium spaceship, Grant realises they've been waiting thousands of years for humanity to advance enough to bring them the final components to repair their spacecraft so they can launch their invasion.
  • Organ Theft: Grant and Mera find themselves chained to a bulkhead in a room where body parts of Mera's former crewmates are preserved in stasis. A robot with a circular cutting appendage then enters the room...
    Grant: Oh Christ, that's what we are. Spare parts.
  • The Only One: After pitching the idea of going back to the Moon, Grant and Tanner argue that since they already know the secret as to why, it makes sense for them to be the chosen astronauts. The President's advisor grumbles about it but they get their way.
  • Our Weapons Will Be Boxy in the Future: The weapons used on the Moon appear to be Uzis in a boxy casing. Averted with the weapons used by the NASA security team on Earth, so these are clearly meant to be weapons custom-made for firing in a vacuum.
    Grant: Christ...guns on the Moon.
  • Pre-Climax Climax: Grant and Mera are stranded on the Moon after the Command Module is shot down and the Lunar Lander stolen. With his colleagues dead and the Moon buggy out of power, Grant can think of nothing else to do but set up a vacuum tent and have Sex for Solace with Mera, whom it's implied found her own lover's skeleton outside the stasis pod he sealed her in. The robots are nice enough to wait till they've finished and gotten dressed in their spacesuits again before attacking.
  • Ragnarök Proofing: Tanner points out that Mera's spacesuit might not work given that it's thousands of years old, but Grant notes she doesn't seem concerned. Presumably it was preserved using the same stasis technology that preserved her.
  • Schmuck Bait: Grant and Tanner find a base on the Moon which starts flashing a beacon light at them. They note the presence of skeletons and broken Kaalium pods outside, but have to go in anyway as it's what they're there to find. However it's not a trap—there's a hot space babe inside that they were meant to make First Contact with.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Space Is Noisy: Swings back and forth; when Tanner and Grant are on the moon, their footsteps don't make noise, neither does the moon buggy or falling over, but the alien probe-bot things seem to make a few noises, as did Tanner clapping (but that might just be the music). The guns sometimes make noise, and sometimes they don't.
  • Starship Luxurious: As Grant notes, the alien derelict is...big. Very big.
  • Tempting Fate: Grant opens the movie complaining about how routine space travel is now. Later when things get exciting, they lampshade any such Tempting Fate comments. In the final credits, Grant calls up NASA and is assured that any debris from the exploding Kaalium spaceship burnt up in the atmosphere. As we've already seen, as least one pod made it intact to the surface.
  • Touch of the Monster: Lampshaded when Grant's son is shown reading a comic book with this trope on the cover. Later played straight when Grant and Mera are picked up and carried off by a couple of giant Kaalium robots.
  • We Come in Peace — Shoot to Kill: The NASA security team is about to blast the Unnecessarily Creepy Robot when Dr. Barnes rushes forward, arguing that this is their chance to make First Contact with a non-human intelligence.
    Dr. Barnes: We mean you no harm. We want to establish contact. Do you understand? Please...give us a sign! (robot zaps him in the arm) GET THE SON-OF-A-BITCH!
    Security team leader: Let him have it!
    (Dr. Barnes realises he's in the line-of-fire and hits the deck as everyone opens up)
  • Worm Sign: Whenever the robots are burrowing under the lunar soil.