There’s something that is strangely alluring when it comes to B-Movies. The amount of love that goes into them, whilst still looking very obviously cheap and tacky, creates a sense of warped nostalgia for the halcyon days of schlock horror and action films of the 80’s. Of course, nowadays, as we mine our past for films and genres to bring back, there has been something of a resurgence in the B-Movie pastiche, and Neil Stryker and the Tyrant of Time fits that niche perfectly.
Set sometime in the distant future, Neil Stryker is the World’s Greatest Secret Agent. All appears to be going well for him, until his former mentor, The Mad Scientist, escapes from prison. In order to stop him, Stryker must travel through time and stop his nemesis before he can take over the world.
As you can see above, the plot is fairly basic, boilerplate stuff, which makes it harder to understand why it’s so convoluted and yet basic at the same time. There are several attempts at jokes throughout the film, yet most of them fall flat at the punchline, or at most, elicit a brief chuckle. That’s to say nothing of the rapid changes in genre, where you’ll find yourself in an action sequence before transitioning to a musical number (of which there is only one, begging the question, why put it in there in the first place?) Some of these shifts are rather well done, and would stand up within the realms of another film, but the lack of consistency makes one feel that ideas were thrown at the script and no one could agree on what the original story was.
The lack of story continues into the characterisation as well. Most characters have little or no backstory, and are boiled down to stereotypes in order to attract even a hint of emotional attachment from the audience, however, this fails when several of the stereotypes are rather offensive in present day terms. Part of the problem appears to come from a fairly limited talent pool, with several of the cast playing multiple roles. It’s not uncommon, but when the protagonist and antagonist are played by the same actor, you start to wonder whether somehow they could have tried to find some more people to get involved.
There’s even less to be said about the female characters in the movie. That is to say, there are technically none. The majority of women within the film can be broken down into one of three categories (though sometimes, they’ll double up);
- Damsel in Distress
- Sex Appeal
- Background Character with No Real Purpose Except to possibly Die
It’s here that you start to wonder how much of this is an intentional homage to the B-Movies of yore by the writers and how much it was either never addressed or noticed during the script revisions and filming.
There is no avoiding the fact that this film is cringeworthy. However, there are certain aspects which are very well put together. Despite their cheap appearance, the CGI and green screen looks very impressive, even for a film obviously shot on a shoestring budget. It is a true testament to the processing power of computers compared to CGI’s first appearance in 1973’s Westworld. Another wonderfully created section is what one can only assume is a tribute to Labyrinth, which sees the protagonist and his companions travel through a swamp, only to get waylaid by goblins, all of which could have come straight from Jim Henson’s Creature Workshop. It is the scenes like this which prevent the film from descending into completely unwatchable territory.
When it all comes down to it, Neil Stryker and the Tyrant of Time would be best forgotten about. However, there are inklings of a cult film brewing within the mix, and with a set up for a sequel laid so blatantly at the end, one can hope that the story, characters and world can be salvaged in some way or other.
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