OCTOBER 26 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : TEK WAR - THE ORIGINAL MOVIE
Appellate Judge Mac McEntire is almost as suave as Shatner.
"Well, the kids have to learn about Tekwar sooner or later."
—Principal Seymour Skinner
Apparently not content with one major sci-fi franchise with his name in lights, actor William Shatner (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier) wrote a bunch of novels in the early '90s—the Tekwar series. With the Shat's celebrity name attached, the books were adopted into a series of made-for-TV movies, a weekly syndicated series, and a video game or two.
Now, more than 10 years after Tekwar hit the airwaves, it cyber-speeds onto DVD in this three-disc set. Is it Shatner good, or does it get a Shat-nay?
Facts of the Case
It's the future. "Tek" is a highly addictive virtual reality hookup sold illegally on the streets. With just a headset and a few small discs, addicts can make all their fantasies come true, and fry their brains in the process.
Jake Cardigan (Greg Evigan, My Two Dads) is a former cop recruited as an agent to clear the streets of tek, under the guidance of billionaire Walter Bascom (Shatner). Aiding Jake in his fight are his partner Sid (Eugene Clark, Land of the Dead), fellow agent "Sam" Houston (Maria del Mar, Jekyll + Hyde), and nerdgirl hacker Nika (Natalie Radford, Agent Red).
First off all, a warning for obsessive Tekwar fans: Although the box is marked "the complete series," that's not entirely accurate. Tekwar began as four made-for-TV movies, Tekwar, Teklords, Teklab and Tekjustice. These were successful enough to spawn a weekly syndicated series, which lasted 18 episodes. These DVDs, though, contain only the 18 episodes, and not the four movies that preceded them.
As you might expect, this series is loaded with cheesiness. There's a lot of big hair and "what were they thinking" fashion, as well as sets that try a little too hard to be futuristic with an abundance of glass and neon. The matte shots of the super-futuristic cityscapes with gleaming silver skyscrapers don't quite match the filmed-in-Toronto actual exteriors.
Even cheesier, though, is the number of cop show clichés run rampant in the series. Expect a lot of tough guy cop dialogue like "Let's roll," and "I got a hunch," and "I've got your back," and "That's my job," and so on. And just wait until you see the wild overacting done by the many villain-of-the-week actors. And then there's the synthesizer score, which constantly assaults viewers with how bombastic it is. Every plot point is punctuated with an electronic "zhah-zhah-ZHAHHH!!!" followed by the pounding drums going "dum-dum-dum-dum-DUM-DUM-DUM-DUM!!!" A little subtlety in the music could have gone a long way.
As Cardigan (I'm feeling a little tired right now, so why don't you kids go ahead and make up your own sweater jokes), Evigan throws himself into the role and plays it with a lot of energy, whether he's punching out drug lords or rattling off cyber-jargon at a quick pace. Eugene Clark and Maria del Mar don't quite keep up with him, but they fill their sidekick roles nicely. Shatner is obviously having fun playing a Donald Trump type. The Bascom character, we're told, always has an ulterior motive and is always one or two steps ahead of everyone else, and this plays perfectly into Shatner's tongue-in-cheek essence of cool.
The cheese factor is high, but the series nonetheless did a pretty good job of predicting where the future would go. Stuff like online shopping and online auctions are depicted as futuristic on this show. In one episode, Sid shows off a small white gadget with a screen on it, and he calls it a "pod." These days, everyone on the subway has one of those. Also, characters are able to enter a virtual world where they can mess with computers and interact with programs. What's this virtual world called? Why, "the matrix," of course.
The video quality is surprisingly good, considering the low-budget nature of most syndicated TV series. Images are razor sharp, and colors are bright and vivid. This set comes with the show's original 2.0 stereo track and a brand new, beefed up 5.1 surround track. The latter is quite good, especially during action scenes involved gunfights and explosions. There are no extras. Shatner couldn't have done a commentary or an interview, not to mention other members of the cast/crew?
Fun fact: One of the writers on this series is named James Khan. All together now:
The Rebuttal Witnesses
So did Shatner really write the Tekwar novels, or were they ghostwritten? I've always suspected the latter, but I can find no evidence to support this. Does anyone know?
Sci-fi fans and Shatner groupies will find much to enjoy in Tekwar. Casual viewers, however, might not get as much from this.
William Shatner is found not guilty for supplying the perfect combination of cheesiness and cool that he does so well. For releasing the series without the four made-for-TV movies, the DVD producers must take a mandatory course about the definition of the word "complete." Court is adjourned.
OCTOBER 26 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : TEK WAR - THE ORIGINAL MOVIE
Its been over a decade since readers got a peek at William Shatnerâ€™s Tek War in comic book form, and now Bluewater Productions has resurrected the series into something that is both new and familiar.
TEKWAR1A.jpgWhen I first read about Tek War being reintroduced, it kept popping up from the back of my mind that I had read the series at some point in the past, and that this was either going to be an updated telling of that series, or a sequel to the original.Â After reading the first issue, I can say it is more of a reboot than anything else.
The world of Tek War finds a new kind of highly addictive and illegal drug wrecking a lot of people, and former police detective Jake Cardigan is no exception.Â Locked up in suspended animation for four years, Cardigan gets an early parole from the penal system.Â It is hinted that his release has connections to a very Shatner-esque looking Mr. Bascom, who hires Cardigan to search for a missing robotics doctor.
The plot is similar to the 1992 TekWorld series, but it is so much better.Â I happened to flip through the previous series, and the dialogue and character development smack of the problem with the comics being released during the time period.Â Fortunately, the Tek War Chronicles doesnâ€™t suffer from those stumbles, and reintroduces the character in a way that seems to be more fitting for the times.
I particularly like how Shatner and Scott Davis update the universe to reflect many of the current thoughts on the direction technology is moving toward.Â Things like space elevators, touch screens, and even a different approach to flying cars sits much better with me today than the grossly off-target view of yesteryear.
Tek War Chronicles also features a very different Jake Cardigan who spends a lot of time reflecting on the events that landed him in prison, and what looks to be an ongoing addiction with Tek and tracking down the whereabouts of his wife.Â The character seems more fully developed here, but never having read the TekWar novels, I canâ€™t say if this series if reflective of the original source, but I like it nonetheless.Â There are a few moments in the issue that seem to have slipped past the editor, and I had to flip through the issue a couple of times to see if I was mistaken, or if the first reference to Kittridge was actually missing from the issue.Â It’s an odd moment when it happens, and brings the issue down slightly, but overall, the story moves along with few road bumps.
The art is nice as well, sometimes looking a lot like something one might find in a manga series, and other times looking like something lifted from an animated frame of a movie.Â Erich Owen does a terrific job of making Los Angeles look like a dirty rotten sink hole, yet still dropping in recognized landmarks so readers know this is not some totally made up location.Â The hook of this first issue is great, and it will certainly drive desire to read the next several issues.
Those looking for a noir future cyber story have a lot of options ranging from Philip K. Dick to Neal Stephenson and William Gibson, but if you are looking for that genre in comic book form, The Tek War Chronicles is a great option, earning 4 out of 5 Stars.
OCTOBER 26 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : TEK WAR - THE ORIGINAL MOVIE
William Shatner is celebrating his 80th birthday today. He’s a notoriously “bad” actor, but I’d point to many of the original Star Trek episodes to disprove that horseshit. The role in which Shatner is truly lacking is that of a director. This should come as no suprise, as he’s most well known for directing Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.
TekWar began as a series of novels written by Shatner (and ghost co-writer Ron Goulart). I remember reading about two chapters of the first one about ten or twelve years ago, and probably putting it down to read a Star Wars novel instead. TekWar was later adapted into a comic book series and a series of television movies (and later a series). This is the first of those films.
You know you’re in for a pile of bullshit ’90s sci-fi when the opening credits look like the 3D pipes screensaver on Windows 98. Stupid “futuristic” stuff abounds, like prisoners being cryogenically frozen rather than being traditionally locked in a cell (kinda defeats the whole “think about what you’ve done” thing, huh?) or shrink wrapped cars (seriously, why?) or people with half a pair of eyeglasses.
TekWar takes place in some vague future-world where virtual reality “tek” is the equivalent of drugs. Junkies strap on a Virtual Boy and go deep into their wildest fantasies.
Jake Cardigan (who looks like a poor man’s Ray Liotta) is an ex-undercover cop who was accused of killing a bunch of fellow police officers after they discovered he had become addicted to tek. He’s been in “the freezer” (what everyone in this movie calls prison) for four years, and the film begins as he’s being released. There’s an asshole robot cop who pretty much tells Jake that he’ll have his eyes on him.
When Jake gets home, he discovers that his wife left him for her boss while he was in prison and took their son with him. Devastated, he goes downtown in whatever city this nonsense takes place in and finds some old tek junkie friends from his old undercover cop days. These motherfuckers look like the most cliched ’90s sci-fi punk “hackers” you could possibly imagine. I was waiting for Matthew Lillard to show up. Anyway, these scummy characters help Jake contact his son, who is an ungrateful bitch who doesn’t believe that Jake was innocent. Even more devastated, Jake buys some new tek and goes home and takes it, which sends him into a wild sex fantasy with his ex-wife.
This is interrupted by his old partner, Sid, who gets pissed and scolds Jake about turning into a tek addict. Jake agrees to give it up and Sid gets him a job at the new private security firm he works at now. The head of this security firm is hilariously named Bascom, and even more hilariously played by William Shatner. Bascom agrees to help Jake clear his name in exchange for helping out with some cases.
Bascom sends Jake and Sid to protect some old lady, who is almost immediately killed by an exploding android. Sid gets caught in the explosion and is hospitalized. Jake’s old police captain comes by the hospital to be an asshole, along with that prick android cop from the beginning of the film.
In the meantime, Bascom sends Jake to find Beth Kittridge, who he claims has information that can clear Jake’s name. Jake goes first to talk to Sonny Hokori, the big tek lord in the city. Von Flores, who plays Hokori, gives a ridiculously over-the-top performance, cackling through an entire chase scene.
After some more convoluted plotting, Jake finds Beth, or so he thinks! It’s actually an android copy of Beth, who agrees to help him find the real deal. Jake gets a favor from an old handlebar moustachioed reporter friend, who sets up a meeting the leader of some rebel force that’s trying to slow the advancement of technology in the TekWar universe. When he arrives at the meeting, he is instead attacked by a robot hockey player.
After Jake defeats robo-Gretzky, he meets with the real rebel leader, Warbride (hahahaha), who is apparently an ex-girlfriend of his. She reveals that the real Beth had died, so BethBot tells Jake that she has the information that will clear his name, but it can only be unlocked by using some sort of tek. These memories prove that Jake didn’t kill his fellow cops, but it doesn’t make clear who did.
Jake and BethBot return to Bascom to report their progress and Sid gets out of the hospital. Jake’s ex-wife comes to visit him, just to tell him that he can’t see their son. BethBot comes over and confesses her love to Jake, a proclamation that comes out of nowhere. Then Jake’s son shows up, presumably to make amends with him, only for BethBot to grab him and explode.
Jake gets over the death of his son pretty quickly and, with Sid, sneaks into Hokori’s compound, takes some crystal that has the info with the true identity of the man who killed Jake’s fellow officers, and quickly dispatches of Hokori, handing him over to the police. The asshole android from the beginning of the film continues to be a dick and tries to arrest Jake. Jake sneaks away to get the information off of the crystal.
Jake runs into the REAL Beth, who apparently didn’t really die. The asshole android gets down there just before he gets the info from the crystal. Beth recognizes the android as the real culprit in Jake’s case, thus rendering the information on the crystal useless. Jake electrocutes the android, who reveals right before he dies that Hokori wasn’t the one to program him to kill the police officers. This is the cliffhanger that’s supposed to get me excited about the next TekWar movie, TekLords.
Nice fucking try. TekWar is convoluted nonsense. It seems to rely on the viewer having read Shatner’s (likely) terrible novels, introducing characters and concepts without adequately explaining who or what they are. For a film with a screenplay so expository, I barely understood half the shit that happened in this movie. The first film in a science fiction or fantasy franchise has to do a decent amount of world building in order to get the viewer acquainted with the new setting. TekWar just drops us into the middle of it and makes us catch up. The acting’s pretty terrible across the board (including Shatner, despite my earlier statement) and the movie looks like an episode of VR Troopers. Fuck this shit. I’m gonna watch The Wrath of Khan to remind myself that Shatner is the king.