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Film / Turbo Kid

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"This is the future. This is the year 1997..."
Fredrick's opening narration

Turbo Kid is a 2015 Canadian/New Zealand film starring Munro Chambers and Michael Ironside that's best described as Mad Max meets BMX Bandits.

It's After the End (in 1997), and nuclear winter has left the land as barren and cold as Canada. Water is a scarce commodity, people scavenge just to survive, and BMX bikes are the chosen method of transportation. In this world lives a nameless, comic-book-loving yet streetwise youth and a hard-boiled "cowboy" named Fredrick the Arm Wrestler...

It's based on a short film by the name of "T is for Turbo", one of the potential entries for the "T" segment of The ABCs of Death (watch the segment here). Suffice to say that The Movie has a much more positive take on its story.

A Prequel Comic Book series, Turbo Kid: Apples Lost Adventure began 2021.

Outerminds developed a retro-pixel Metroidvania Turbo Kid game for 2022.

A sequel is in preparation, starting just after the events of the first movie.

The film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot:
    • In the case of Zeus who dynamically went on to slaughter or enthrall as many innocent/evil humans as he could since the end times. And all because the guy he was built after told him "you're only a robot".
    • Invoked literally by Apple when the Kid says he thought all robots were evil:
      "Depends on the model."
  • An Aesop: The film may seem like a shallow exploitation parody, but the story is based around the idea that in times of need and desperation people can draw a sense of hope and positive lessons from an idea of the past while rejecting its horrors and mistakes, as shown by Turbo Kid taking on the long-forgotten fallen hero Turbo Rider's persona.
  • Abandoned Area: The setting of the movie, being post-apocalyptic and all. Zeus' fortress for example is an abandoned swimming-pool.
  • Abnormal Ammo: The Dragon has an Arm Cannon that launches circular saws like Frisbees.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Turbo Kid in The Movie, as opposed to the original short. Also heavily implied as the backstory with the real Turbo Rider. The comics are established to have been marketed as propaganda pieces during the devastating earth-shattering war, so it's left unsure as to whether Turbo Rider was the hero he's portrayed as.
  • Affectionate Parody: Of Mad Max and retro video games, with some Superhero Tropes thrown in.
  • Almost Kiss: Before they finally do in the end, the Kid and Apple almost kiss twice before being interrupted, the first time when Apple gets captured, the second when she pukes on him.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Zeus' henchmen will continue to attack the heroes head-on no matter what, even after the Kid starts blowing them up one by one.
  • Awesome Aussie: Fredrick the arm-wrestler.
  • Bait-and-Switch: When the Kid realizes that Apple is a robot, she starts walking toward him and reaching out for him with a crazed expression. Then she "tags" him and runs away laughing.
  • Bathos: Villainous wasteland warriors all riding around in sweet BMX bikes sized for adolescents.
  • Big Bad: Zeus, the local overlord who kidnaps people for the water in their bodies.
  • Big Damn Heroes: In the climax, Apple rescues the Kid by bicycling into Zeus's girlfriend and impaling her on a unicorn hobby horse.
  • Big "NO!": The Kid when Zeus shoots Apple. The first time.
  • Bloody Hilarious: A lot of the humor involves cartoonishly bloody violence.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Apple is dead (for good this time) and the Kid is alone once more. However, during the final battle the Kid discovered a fresh, clean water source that will save countless lives and hopefully allow some semblance of civilization to evolve again. The Kid is also journeying across the Wasteland to where Apple came from, so maybe he'll find new robot friends.
  • Call-Back: "Then let's make it memorable!"
  • Chekhov's Gun: The small tin of View-Master reels the Kid's parents gave him before their demise in the flashback ended up saving his life.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Apple is childlike and displays unnervingly Dissonant Serenity in spite of living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. It's revealed that this is because she's a robot designed to be friends with humans.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Zeus attaches the merchant's intestines to a bicycle wheel to torture him, but the man gives up the Kid's location so fast that Zeus is disappointed that he didn't get a chance to use his torture contraption, so he tortures the man anyway.
  • Crapsack World: After the nuclear Robot War, the world is made barren to the point where the water is acidic. The last remnants of human- and robotkind spend their days scavenging for resources, and the only semblance of civilization is a fascistic Evil Overlord.
  • Cute and Psycho: Apple's overbearingly cheerful and friendly behavior initially creeps out the Kid. Only after several interactions does he finally settle down and start to appreciate how attractive she is.
  • Damsel out of Distress: The Kid keeps rescuing Apple, but Apple tends to rescue the Kid in turn.
  • Death is Cheap: Played straight three times with Apple, then subverted to add gravitas to the climactic Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Designated Girl Fight: The Kid is beaten up by Zeus's Dark Action Girl, but Apple returns just in time to kill her.
  • Didn't See That Coming: The reaction our hero had when Zeus was revealed to be mechanized; both cemented and played for laughs when Apple coined it before the Kid did.
  • Diegetic Switch: In the opening montage, when the Kid returns to his bunker and puts a cassette into his Walkman, the soundtrack switches to now come from the Walkman. It starts out louder than before until the Kid turns down the volume.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Apple is extremely chipper no matter what the circumstances. Even when captured, discussing her imminent demise, or ruthlessly braining mooks, she's smiling and giggling. Kid initially finds this very creepy.
  • Distressed Damsel: The Kid's motivation is first to rescue Apple from Zeus and then to repair her after she gets damaged.
  • The Dragon: Skeletron, Zeus' mute (and apparently deranged) henchman, who is always seen either leading Zeus' troops or working as his personal assistant.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Zeus is played by Michael Ironside, so evil sounds very deep.
  • Exploitation Film: The film's low budget and ridiculous gore resemble an exploitation film, or at least other recent parodies of exploitation films.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Zeus wears an eyepatch to show that he's the most powerful man around. And to hide his exposed robot eye.
  • Eye Scream: Several. One poor soul tripped and fell onto his own screwdriver, while Zeus lost his eye when the Kid's mother shot him with a crossbow.
  • The Faceless: Skeletron is never seen without his skull mask.
  • Faux Affably Evil: In most scenes Zeus acts less like a warlord and more like a polite small town police chief from a 50s sitcom-until he subjects the heroes to brutal torture and makes them fight brutal gladiator matches for his amusement. This is best demonstrated when he plays nice to the captured Frederick, even allowing him to light a cigarette, even though he has every intention of killing him once he's done with him.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The Kid asks Apple if she's able to shoot laser beams from her mouth. Guess what's Zeus' ultimate weapon.
    • One of the skulls mounted outside of Zeus' fortress has the remnants of a mechanical eye in one of the empty sockets.
    • Both instances of Robotic Reveal are foreshadowed:
      • When asked if she ever rests, Apple cheerily says, "No!" After playing tag, the Kid is left panting for breath. Apple squats beside him and imitates his panting, clearly not at all winded herself.
      • Apple states that some robots are evil, depending on the model. She also states that robots can eat, drink and breathe. These statements explain Zeus's bloodlust and ability to drink water. Also, when Zeus loses his eye, he reacts in anger rather than pain.
  • Genki Girl: Apple.
  • Gladiator Games: Zeus's "Pool Party" involves throwing a bunch of prisoners into an empty pool and forcing them to fight some gladiators to the death.
  • Gorn: The Ludicrous Gibs throughout the film are mostly played for laughs. However, when Big Bad Zeus needs information from Bagu, we are treated to a tremendously imaginative implement of torture.
    Zeus: case you haven’t noticed, your guts are literally attached to the wheels of this bicycle.
  • Groin Attack: part of Apple's attack strategy. It works, especially when the victim already had his throat and face cut in two.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Played straight for a Bittersweet Ending when Apple saves The Kid from the Turbo Mega Blaster explosion.
  • Hero's Journey: Played mostly straight, but with a surprising twist on the Mentor Occupational Hazard trope.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Said by Zeus.
    "I was designed by your kind, You made me what I am."
  • Human Resources: How Zeus manufactures fresh water: by pulping humans and extracting about 10 gallons worth.
  • Humans Are Flawed: Or at least more akin to cockroaches according to Zeus after the reveal.
  • It's Personal: Frederick wants revenge on Zeus for the murder of his brother, and the Kid wants the same thing for the murder of his parents.
  • It Sucks to Be the Chosen One: The original Turbo Rider either fails his mission of saving humanity or dies in the process of winning a Pyrrhic Victory.
  • Kukris Are Kool: The Kid wields a kukri into battle against Zeus's goons.
  • Lock-and-Load Montage: After finding Turbo Rider, The Kid gets to suit up via montage. Complete with weapon test and action pose.
  • Losing Your Head: Apple literally gets her head cut off at one point. The Kid duct tapes it to another robot body and she gets better.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: The violence is all cartoonishly bloody.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Zeus takes a crossbow bolt to the eye. Not only does this not kill him, he reacts with anger rather than pain. This foreshadows his robotic reveal.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: Zeus' henchmen, and Zeus himself while donning the Agamemnon death mask as he observes his gladiator matches.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Apple is a cute, fun-loving, overactive and very quirky girl who immediately takes interest in the Kid and encourages him to have fun with her. He is at first put off by her behavior, especially when she starts talking to a corpse and later breaks into his place. She is actually a robot created to make friends, which explains her personality.
  • Meaningful Background Event: While Frederick and one of his men are taking a piss, the rest of their crew is being slaughtered by Zeus' men in the background.
  • Meaningful Name: Zeus has.... kind of a god complex. And turns out to be able to shoot electricity, or something that looks like it.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: A surprisingly original take. The mentor figure of the story's Hero's Journey is at first assumed to be fictional, but is revealed to have been real, but deceased long before the story began. The protagonist learns from a very idealized version of what the mentor was actually like and makes it work.
  • No Bikes in the Apocalypse: Inverted to a point - everyone rides around on bicycles, even the bad guys' sinister henchmen when hunting the heroes.
  • No Name Given: The main character is only ever referred to as the Kid.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: In the climax, Frederick is seemingly fatally shot in the shoulder. He then shows up at the end, saying that it's gonna take more than this to get rid of him.
  • Parental Abandonment: The Kid lives alone in the wasteland after his parents were killed by Zeus and Skeletron.
  • Passing the Torch: The Kid takes up the mantle of his posthumous idol, or at least a fictionalized version of him — who's to say what the real Turbo Rider was actually like?.
  • Perpetual Smiler: Apple is extremely enthusiastic about everything, causing her to constantly smile and laugh even at the most inappropriate things. When trapped in Zeus' Gladiator Games, she just looks around smiling, tickled pink at the whole affair while the rest of the prisoners are shitting their pants. Later, when admitting that her draining power will soon cause her to die, she just smiles and laughs at the prospect, which perplexes the Kid.
  • Pocket Protector: In the climactic fight, the Kid is saved from Zeus' bullet by the metal box holding View-Master reels his mother gave him.
  • Posthumous Character: The real Turbo Rider.
  • Protagonist Title: Turbo Kid is our main character.
  • Real After All: Turbo Rider is at first presented as a fictional, Captain America-esque comic book protagonist whose image was co-opted as an army recruiting tool. Turns out in-universe he was a real super-soldier who died before or during the end of the war... meaning that the Kid has the chance to become his Spiritual Successor.
  • Ridiculously Human Robot: Apple and Zeus are both robots who hid among humans for a long time.
  • Robot War: The backstory of the film is that the world was ravaged by a nuclear war against robots.
  • Robotic Reveal: Apple and Zeus are both revealed to be robots after they sustain enough damage.
  • Romantic Rain: Well, it's a Rain of Blood, but Apple and the Kid share their first kiss under one, complete with an umbrella.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: After the rest of Zeus' army has been slaughtered by the heroes, the last man standing just drops his weapons and run away. The Kid is about to shoot him but then just waves him off.
  • Shout-Out: Many. —Not all limited to the 1980s.
    • The opening montage song "Thunder in Your Heart" is best known for its appearance in the film RAD
    • "A man with a good plan has already won half the battle"
    • The shape of the Turbo Glove is obviously based on the PowerGlove.
    • Apple’s tracking device is a modified slap bracelet.
    • The costume design and the way the Turbo Glove shoots is basically a red Mega Man. To add to that, Skeletron shoots buzzsaws like Metal Man from Mega Man 2.
    • The Kid's initial pose after donning the suit recalls the famous pose from TRON (recreated for the film's poster).
    • Arm wrestling as the post-apocalyptic sport of kings is a reference to 1987's Over the Top.
    • Fredrick (in addition to being a Mad Max Expy complete with Aussie accent) recalls Indiana Jones—especially when his hat is involved.
    • The fate of Fredrick's hand and its robotic replacement recalls The Empire Strikes Back.
    • "This is my GNOMESTICK!" is a nod to the famous line "This is my boomstick" from Army of Darkness.
    • The long-haired, hockey-mask-wearing Mook recalls Casey Jones. The air punching when the Kid first dons his uniform also resembles the martial arts moves the Turtles would make in the first movie.
    • Zeus' two main henchmen (Skeletron and the one with the gas mask) with their getups are reminiscent of Lord Humungus and one of the Three Storms respectively.
    • The water? "It's people." The Kid also has "Soleil vert" cereals in his room. Soleil vert was the French title for Soylent Green.
    • The Kid and Apple's stargazing scene is right out of The Lion King (1994) (complete with scientifically-accurate anecdote and similar shots).
    • Apple’s astronomy lesson uses the quantity “billions and billions,” a phrase often associated with Carl Sagan and the 1980 educational TV series Cosmos.
    • Apple's double-rowed heart meter is clearly inspired by The Legend of Zelda (complete with beeping when they're low).
    • The Reveal with Zeus is inspired by The Terminator. The year the film is set in is 1997, the date of a nuclear holocaust according to Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
    • Zeus meets his end in the same way as Jaws.
    • Zeus' execution methods are cribbed from Hotline Miami, as is The Kid's use of a thrown hammer as a weapon.
    • Apple's name is Apple and is a computer. Apple Computers may have been established in 1976, in the 1980s is when it really took off by introducing the Macintosh in 1984. Similarly, Highway 64 is most likely a reference to the Commodore 64.
    • Apples's three rules of self defense are "Strike first, strike hard, no mercy." These are the tenets of Cobra Kai in The Karate Kid.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Some of the most idealistic gritty ultraviolent exploitation you'll ever see, especially given the dystopic post-apocalyptic setting. Granted, the idealism is implied to be based on a lie, but it's a motivating lie and what matters is its meaning. Also a notable contrast with the original "T is For Turbo" short, whose tongue-in-cheek nihilism and fatalism took it in a... somewhat opposite direction.
  • Spiritual Successor: A source of subtle meta-commentary. While the film has some aspects of a parody, it also sets itself up as a new, fresh version of classic 1980s fantasy and science fiction films with a Hero's Journey plot. In the movie's story itself, the Kid revives the idea of the original Turbo Rider, who died in the movie's fictional version of The '80s, and becomes Turbo Kid.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Apple is initially teased as a creepy stalker who might have murdered her previous crush.
  • The Smurfette Principle: The only female characters are Apple and Zeus' henchwoman.
  • Stars Are Souls: The Kid's mother would regal him with tales about how people would become stars in the sky, that when the end times came the sky lit up with'em looking over the world they left behind.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: He's a human, she's a robot. In a post-apocalypse precipitated by a massive Robot War.
  • The Starscream: Zeus established himself as a big bad when he betrayed and murdered his former master.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Apple simply appears in the swing right beside the Kid without when they first meet without him noticing her approach even though the area surrounding them is barren plains.
  • Suit Up of Destiny: The Kid dramatically suits up in Turbo Rider's outfit. In the process of triumphantly lowering the helmet onto his head, he realizes that it's all rotten and gross, so he triumphantly lowers his old helmet into his head instead. Luckily, he'd already painted it to look like Turbo Rider's helmet, so it fits the rest of the outfit.
  • Super-Soldier: Turbo Rider.
  • The Voiceless: Skeletron may be Zeus' most prevalent henchman, but he doesn't say a single line in the movie.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: during the final fight scene, complete with an "Eye of the Tiger" sound-alike.
  • Title Drop: Applie admits that our protagonist might not be Turbo Rider, but he makes a good "Turbo Kid."
  • Tuck and Cover: Apple does this to the Kid when the Kid blows up Zeus, costing her life.
  • Training Montage: This quintessential 80s trope is surprisingly averted with Apple & the Kid.
    Apple: Strike first, strike hard, show no mercy. That's it!
  • Troubled Backstory Flash Back: The Kid wasn’t always alone, as we learn through progressive dream sequences throughout the movie. The final flashback reveals that, for him, It's Personal: Zeus and Skeletron killed his parents.
  • A Twinkle in the Sky: Playing on the Stars Are Souls trope, at the end of the movie a star suddenly glimmers in the night over the riding Turbo Kid.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Apple and The Kid’s second Almost Kiss is interrupted when Apple vomits back up the beans she had just pretended to eat.
  • Walking the Earth: The Kid decides to explore the Wasteland at the end in an apparent effort to find where Apple came from.
  • Zeerust: The narrator announces that it's the futuristic year 1997. The post-apocalyptic wasteland is filled with 1980s style and references. Basically this trope is the movie's reason for existing.