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Film / Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone

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Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone is a 1983 science fiction film directed by Lamont Johnson and starring Molly Ringwald, Peter Strauss, Michael Ironside, and Ernie Hudson. It tells the story of Wolff, a down-on-his-luck intergalactic bounty hunter. When he gets word that a trio of survivors from a destroyed ship have crashed on the planet Terra XI and a hefty reward is being offered for their rescue, he leaps at the opportunity, hoping to clear his debts. Unfortunately, "hostile" doesn't begin to describe the locals of Terra XI, many of whom have become savage mutants as the result of a plague. The planet is also in the literal iron grip of the tyrant Overdog who rules the wastes from his fortress in the planet's titular "forbidden zone." Along the way, Wolff must also contend with interference from a former military comrade (Hudson) and a meddling scavenger girl (Ringwald) who each want a cut of the reward for themselves.

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This film provides examples of the following:

  • Action Girl: Zig-zagged with Nikki. She's usually The Load at best or a Distressed Damsel at worst. But she becomes a competent badass when it comes time to navigate Overdog's maze.
  • Amazon Brigade: Wolffe and Nikki encounter a hostile all-female tribe whose super model good looks are improbable for a planet otherwise peopled by horrific mutants. Justified, given that they capture healthy men from off-world and use them for breeding stock, implying that they send them out with a bang.
  • And Starring: Michael Ironside as Overdog.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The Ramrod looks intimidating, but its chassis clearly can't handle the kind of impacts that its massive plow attachment delivers, and it winds up incapacitated after nearly any collision.
  • Bald of Awesome: Washington
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  • Bald of Evil: Overdog, even having a large section of his scalp peeled away to reveal the metal cranium underneath.
  • Black Best Friend: Washington, to Wolff. Although their relationship has been strained for a while by the time they reunite on Terra XI.
  • Body Horror: Wolff causes Chalmer's remains to self-destruct by slowly melting. The fact that the victim is an android doesn't make it less gruesome.
  • The Caligula: Overdog. Dialogue indicates that he walked away from his responsibilities as a doctor to become a tinpot dictator, and he now spends his time drooling lasciviously over female captives and presiding over sadistic "games" that consist of wasting peoples' lives in a lethal obstacle course. Even when the aforementioned female captives are rescued, rather than organize any kind of pursuit, he instead settles for petty vengeance by throwing the lone captive his guards were able to seize into the obstacle course.
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  • Chekhov's Gun: The weird, glowing tube that leads to Overdog's inner sanctum. It's part of a machine that allows Overdog to prolong his life by draining vitality from his captives.
  • Cool Car: Wolff's Scrambler and Washington's Ramrod.
  • Cool Train: One of the most impressive scenes in the film depicts a battle between the Scavs and Overdog's Zoners aboard what is literally a gigantic armored pirate ship that runs on train tracks.
  • Creepy Child: One of the encounters the heroes face is with a mob of silent, zombie-like mutant children who stare down on them in silence for quite a long while before finally attacking them with Molotov cocktails.
  • Dark Lord on Life Support: Overdog is more machine than man to such an extent that he makes Darth Vader look like the picture of health. He can't even move on his own and is permanently wired into a crane that transports him around his lair.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: The amazons have Wolff and Nikki at their mercy until a dragonlike aquatic predator shows up, causing the amazons to scatter, but leaving Wolff and Nikki to fend for themselves against the monster.
  • Distressed Damsel: Nikki during the climax; the three unfortunate cruise ship survivors for the entire film.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Chemist.
  • Evil Genius: Chemist, again.
  • Future Slang: The inhabitants of the savage, isolated world of Terra XI have developed their own jargon and Nikki is here to make sure the audience hears every word of it at least twice.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: Wolff barely seems to care about the death of Chalmers. Although this may be because he views her as a piece of hardware rather than a friend. Not that that makes it better.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: A briefly-visible copy of R.U.R. foreshadows the true nature of Chalmers.
  • I Lied: Overdog invokes it by name when Nikki points out that he had agreed to let her go.
  • Large Ham: "Subtle" and "Overdog" are not words that can ever be said in the same sentence.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: An uncommon technological example. Overdog is hard-wired into his own fortress, its machinery keeping him alive. When Wolff electrocutes him, it overloads the equipment he's connected to, eventually causing the entire building to explode.
  • Motor Mouth: If you only know Molly Ringwald from her shy girl-next-door- roles, then you might be surprised by how loud, grating, and talkative she can be as Nikki.
  • Never Trust a Title: Wolff is indeed a space hunter and he has many adventures over the course of the film. But only the final one - the confrontation with Overdog - takes place in the region of Terra XI designated as the Forbidden Zone.
  • Out with a Bang: The Amazons' plan for Wolff. And he seems to be amenable to the proposition until they threaten to harm Nikki.
  • Papa Wolf: Wolff is outwardly motivated only by money, but once Nikki is in danger he vehemently rejects any notion of abandoning her to get away and claim the reward.
  • Pig Man: The mutants that attack Nikki and Wolff in the tower look and sound like obese humanoid pigs; with the added weird and dangerous traits of hatching out of slimy, hanging cocoons and being able to bend steel with their bare hands.
  • Playing Possum: Wolff does this so well that even Washington - who has seen him use this trick before and knows how good he is at it - falls for it. Ironically, Wolff falls for it himself when it's done to him by Overdog.
  • Post-Apunkalyptic Armor: Overdog's mooks favor it.
  • Ridiculously Human Robot: Chalmers. Only a brief verbal malfunction and a blink-or-you'll-miss-it copy of R.U.R. foreshadow the truth.
  • Scavenger World: Terra XI was devastated by a horrific plague years before the events of the film, rendering it this. Those survivors not loyal to Overdog even refer to themselves as "Scavs."
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Wolff, Nikki, Washington, and the Scavs all resent the idea of needing help from one another and/or sharing the reward money. But they all have each other's backs in the end.
  • Those Two Guys: The motorcycle-riding Scav brothers that Wolff and company keep encountering throughout the film.
  • Villain Ball: Overdog gets his claws on it twice during the climax.
    • It's completely understandably that he wants to immediately torment Nikki for her friends freeing all his slaves. But had he just waited and first gone in pursuit, or at least checked to make sure the intruders weren't still hiding somewhere in the fortress, waiting to cause further damage, he would have saved himself a lot of headaches.
    • He probably could have killed Wolff with one snip of his giant metal pincers. Instead he decides to crush him slowly while gloating. This gives Wolff the opportunity to fry Overdog with a downed electrical cable.
  • Wacky Wayside Tribe: The subtitle Adventures in the Forbidden Zone actually means "Series of Encounters With These."
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