Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: Slipstream (1989)

For decades, I’ve either stared at the box cover of this movie or looked at it while going through streaming movies to watch. I mean, it checks so many boxes, as it’s set in a post-apocalyptic future, has bounty hunters in it and stars Mark Hamill and Bill Paxton. Yet I’ve never watched it. And again, that’s why I love doing these Mill Creek months, because it’s allowed me to finally discover so many movies that I’ve previously skipped.

I don’t know if Slipstream is one of the successes of these experiments, but hey, at least I finally watched it.

It certainly has a great pedigree. It has a score by Elmer Bernstein, was directed by Steven Lisberger, who made Tron, and waproduced by Gary Kurtz, who did the same role on The Dark CrystalReturn to Oz and oh yeah, Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. Before Jedi, Lucas and Kurtz had a falling out over the creative direction of the franchise.

That’s probably why this film has so many great actors in it. Beyond Hamill and Paxton, there are minor roles for Robbie Coltrane, Ben Kingsley and F. Murray Abraham.

The film instantly tries to create a mythology of a world where the Harmonic Convergence — oh man, remember that and all the other pre-millennial apocalyptic insanity? — has caused drastic climate change in the form of the Slipstream, a strong series of winds that have encircled the globe. Humanity is mostly destroyed, but those left behind have learned to harness the Slipstream or at the very least respect it. 

Bounty hunters Will Tasker (Hammill) and Belitski (Kitty Aldridge) are hunting Byron (Bob Peck, Jurassic Park), a man is seemingly unable to be hurt and who keeps quoting the poetry of John Gillespie Magee, Jr. and Lord Byron, who can also heal blind children (so there’s that).

As for Paxton, he plays Matt Owens, who angers the bounty hunters and then steals Byron, taking him to Hell’s Kitchen. It turns out that Byron is an android that dreams of a place beyond the Slipstream where more of his people reside. 

Kurtz hoped that Slipstream would be a major success and start another science fiction franchise, so it’s pretty glossy and filled with all manner of characters who could have been spun off into future stories. But nope, it all ended here. It never received a theatrical release in the U.S. and was hampered by Kurtz’s divorce — man, the guy was having no luck in 1989 — which led to him having to use all of his Star Wars money to finance this. 

Maybe people weren’t ready for a movie obsessed with aviation, free will and artificial intelligence, I guess. It’s not necessarily bad, but it doesn’t feel like a franchise starter that failed (see Krull for a good example of that). There’s some kind of good movie in here, but it never really takes off. And after that aviation-based pun, I’m out of here.

You can watch this on Tubi.

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