HG WELLS’ THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME (BLU RAY) (1979)
Category : BLU RAY REVIEWS
Directed by George McCowan
Review by David Carter
Released by Blue Underground
Running Time: 98 minutes
Rating: Rated PG
Color format: Color
Audio/Subtitles: 5.1 DTS-HD English, English Mono/English, French and Spanish Subtitles
Region Code: 1, NTSC
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
16:9 Enhanced: Yes
Special Features: Interview with Star, Interview with Composer, TV spot, Still & pressbook gallery
Trailer Online: Yes
The speculative fiction subgenre of sci-fi is dedicated to giving readers a glimpse of the future. More specifically, these stories are the authors’ own predictions for the fate of the real world in which we live, and many of these tales are more grounded in reality that the more fantastic side of the genre. These narrative Nostradamus-es’ visions of the future often miss the mark wildly, while others come eerily close to what actually takes place. Such is the case of HG Wells’ and his 1933 novel “The Shape of Things to Come,” which accurately predicted that a Second World War would be started when Nazi Germany invades Poland. Wells’ vision sees the Poles holding their own against Germany and, being wrong about that, the rest of his future doesn’t play out the same way as ours – resulting in a one-world government by 1978 that is either a utopia or a dystopia depending on your personal political views.
In the real world, STAR WARS was released in 1977 and that film had a much bigger influence on modern society than Wells’ prophecies. Therefore when producer Harry Alan Towers adapted Wells’ book for the screen in 1978, he leaned far more heavily on Lucas’ current hit than Wells’ forty-year-old book. The resulting HG WELLS’ THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME bears only a passing resemblance to the author’s vision, but will definitely remind viewers of seventies’ sci-fi like BUCK ROGERS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, and SPACE: 1999.
Taking place during the aftermath of the Robot Wars, SHAPE begins on the moon colony where most humans have relocated after the decimation of Earth. Extensive radiation has left humans dependent on a drug called Radicc-Q2, which is only found on the remote planet of Delta-3. Scientists Kim Smedley and Jason Caball are monitoring the arrival of the latest ship from Delta-3 when they are forced to evacuate the colony after its robot pilot sets a crash course for an inhabited area. Communications with Delta-3 reveal that this was no accident but rather the first salvo in a coup attempt by that planet’s “robot master” Omus (played with scenery-chewing glee by a be-caped Jack Palance). Omus controls the galaxy’s supply of Radicc-Q2 and thus demands to be declared emperor. To stop Omus, Kim, Jason, Jason’s father, and a malfunctioning robot named Sparks take an experimental spaceship to the far reaches of the galaxy to confront the maniacal would-be emperor.
SHAPE is often unfairly compared to its bigger budgeted and more esteemed inspiration, STAR WARS. While producer Towers was certainly attempting to cash-in on that film’s success, it is clear after the first few minutes that SHAPE is aimed more at children in a Saturday matinee than an attempt at a blockbuster. This is a kid’s film, and adults viewing it need to set their expectations appropriately. Characters and plot lines are broad and simplistic, with Palance’s Omus being the only character of any real substance. His performance alone is worth the price of admission, and his trash-cans-with-legs robot army is good for more than a few laughs.
Blue Underground provides two interviews on their Blu Ray release: one with star Nicholas Campbell and one with composer Paul Hoffert. HG WELLS’ THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME may bear little resemblance to the source material – and no resemblance to the actual future in which we live – but it is still a nostalgic good time. It’s lighthearted fun from start to finish, but viewers expecting to see STAR WARS will need to set their expectations to the right level before viewing.