I Love You, But You’re Hopeless – Megaforce (1982) Blu-ray

The action-adventure fantasy Megaforce is a legendarily terrible movie that any fan of 1980s cheese ought to find very easy to fall in love with. The film is a very specific product of the early ’80s, a moment when the manufactured patriotism and military-industrial expansion of the Reagan era collided with a pop culture explosion of big hair, headbands, and spandex Jazzercise outfits. The script is awful, the production values are worse, and nobody seems to give much of a shit about anything they’re doing, but all of that somehow makes it kind of awesome.

A movie this corny is ripe for the Rifftrax or How Did This Get Made? treatment, and in fact both have already lampooned it. For my part, I’d like to believe that even a bad movie like this can be enjoyed unironically, on its own terms. I don’t need to make fun of Megaforce; the movie already does a fair job of making fun of itself. The film has its tongue in its cheek from the first frame and was never meant to be taken seriously.

Does that mean it’s secretly good? Well… no, I certainly wouldn’t go that far.

You can believe I'm comin' on, like a mega force!
Year of Release: 1982
Director: Hal Needham
Watched On: Blu-ray
Also Available On: DVD
Various VOD rental and purchase platforms

Megaforce was released in 1982, the same year Hasbro’s hugely popular G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero toy line hit retail. Both products tapped into a similar aspect of the cultural zeitgeist. My first awareness of the movie was not from a trailer or TV commercial, but from ads published in Marvel’s G.I. Joe tie-in comic book. Megaforce even had its own toy line, if much smaller in scale or success. Mattel released a set of Hot Wheels cars based on the film. I owned most of them as a kid, not because I was a fan of the movie (I wouldn’t actually watch it until many years later), but simply because I thought they were cool-looking military vehicles that played well with my other Hot Wheels and Matchbox toys.

In a lot of respects, Megaforce feels like the live-action G.I. Joe movie Hasbro denied us in the 1980s. The plot concerns “a phantom army of super elite fighting men” comprised of “the finest soldiers that the free world can provide.” Operating in total secrecy outside the awareness of the public or media, this highly-trained special missions force utilizes cutting-edge technology to battle tyranny wherever it develops across the globe. That sounds pretty damn similar to the premise of G.I. Joe, doesn’t it? Both fictional armies are comprised of colorful personalities who wear outlandish costumes and don’t exactly follow the established protocols or decorum you’d expect from a professional military operation.

More to the point, both properties were targeted at a young audience. Megaforce was explicitly designed as a war movie for kids in the same way G.I. Joe introduced many children to the concept of war, not as a hellish struggle with life-or-death stakes, but as a fun adventure filled with exciting stunts and hardly any risk of real injury or death.

Produced by Hong Kong studio Golden Harvest in an attempt to break into the American market, the movie was directed by Hal Needham, the former stuntman who’d transitioned to a career as a filmmaker. Much like his very successful Smokey and the Bandit and Cannonball Run franchises, Needham wanted Megaforce to have a light, breezy tone and a lot of goofy humor. Central to this was the casting of Barry Bostwick from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Bostwick was a comedic actor, not an action star, and Needham directed him to deliver his performance with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye in every scene.

Megaforce (1982) - Persis Khambatta

Make no mistake, Megaforce is dumb as hell. The script has hardly any plot at all. Heroic commander Ace Hunter and his team of noble vigilante soldiers are commissioned by representatives of an allegedly peaceful fictional nation (Edward Mulhare from Knight Rider and the gorgeous Persis Khambatta from Star Trek: The Motion Picture) to launch a surgical strike on a warmongering neighbor country’s power plant or military facility or something. Having done so as efficiently as promised, the Megaforce must then make a daring escape while being pursued by the opposing army. That’s really all there is to it. This thin sketch of a story feels like an outline never developed beyond the first draft.

From the hideous gold spandex costumes to the silly “high-tech” vehicles (mostly dirtbikes and dune buggies outfitted with chintzy-looking armor) to the laughably awful blue-screen special effects, the cheese factor is enormously high throughout the movie. I don’t think that’s unintentional. Arriving at their mission, the entire Megaforce team, comprised of what looks like hundreds of vehicles, are offloaded dozens at a time from just two C-130 transport planes. During the battle, the bad guys are incapable of ever hitting a target while the good guys of course never miss. The end credits even make a point of replaying some of the dopiest scenes, as a sign of Needham leaning in and embracing the idiocy he’d created.

Holding Megaforce back from true camp classic status, unfortunately, is its dreadfully turgid pacing. The movie really only has a couple of action scenes, between which are long talky stretches that feel endless. The characters are morons and the jokey, pun-heavy dialogue is inane. A romance subplot is a pointless time-filler.

Even the vehicular action – Needham’s specialty – is disappointingly dull. The battle scenes are confusingly choreographed and highly repetitive. The director attempts to make up for his lack of inventiveness with a large volume of buggies and dirtbikes driving around in circles and firing a conveniently never-ending supply of rockets. The stunts are of about the same quality you’d see on TV shows like The Dukes of Hazzard, The Fall Guy, or Knight Rider at the time. (The A-Team was less than a year away as well.) Nothing about Megaforce felt worth the price of a movie theater ticket.

An official G.I. Joe cartoon would premiere in daily after-school TV syndication in 1983, striking a much better balance of far-fetched military escapism and goofball humor. Megaforce doesn’t hold up nearly as well, but that’s not to say the film is without its own pleasures. In a picture like this, the stupidity and cheesiness are assets, and Megaforce has them in spades. I had a blast watching and laughing along with it, and have no regrets about doing so.

Megaforce (1982) - Action!

The Blu-ray

Megaforce was released on DVD in the United States in 2012. I’m pretty sure I spotted the title streaming free-with-ads on Tubi not too long ago, but it doesn’t appear to be available at the moment I’m writing this. Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV both offer it with paid streaming rental or purchase options. The Amazon listing says it’s only available in standard-definition video there; Apple TV doesn’t provide specs and I’m not paying to find out.

The copy under review here is a Blu-ray from Spain, which I found offered by a seller on Amazon for a modest price that I considered not unreasonable for a guilty pleasure title like this. The case art makes no mention of a distributor. DVDProfiler claims the disc was released by a label called Resen Research Entertainment in 2018. Some cursory Google research suggests that the company’s products may be of dubious legality, but I wasn’t aware of that when I purchased.

The Blu-ray disc is region-free. All on-screen menus are in Spanish but should be easy enough for anyone to navigate. The disc defaults to playback with a Spanish dub soundtrack. Switching to the original English audio automatically triggers Spanish subtitles that thankfully can be disabled from the Blu-ray player’s remote.

Megaforce (1982) - Barry Bostwick on his flying rocket cycle

I went into this viewing with low expectations for video and audio quality, and sure enough, both are exceedingly mediocre. Although high-definition, the picture is clearly sourced from an old master, likely something struck for cable syndication in the early days of HD. Transferred at a full-screen 16:9 aspect ratio (marginally opened up from the original 1.85:1), the image is reasonably sharp, but obvious Digital Noise Reduction smooths over textures. It also seems overly bright in general. Colors are vibrant but frequently bleed and suffer posterization artifacts. Whether that’s the fault of the original master or low bit-rate encoding on the disc, I can’t say for certain. The reasons are academic in any case. The movie needs a remaster.

While the soundtrack is technically encoded in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 format, the surround channels are dead silent throughout. In effect, the track is locked to a 3.1 (or, even more likely, 3.0) configuration. Only the front three speakers have any audio, and even then, the majority is center focused. It sounds like a mono mix with a small amount of bleed to the sides.

I put some thought into jury-rigging a solution for this. No upmix setting in my A/V receiver makes any difference. When connected by HDMI, switching my Blu-ray player from Bitstream to PCM output has no effect either. However, in theory, if I were to run an optical or digital coaxial cable from the player over to my receiver, and set the player for PCM output, the track would have to be output as 2.0 channels due to the bandwidth limitations of S/PDIF transmission. That should then allow the receiver apply the Dolby Surround Upmixer (or DTS Neural:X) to draw surround activity out of it.

I considered going to this effort, but ultimately decided that it would be too much work and not worth my time for one errant disc. I’ll leave it for someone else to experiment with.

As it stands, the audio is very narrow and limited. Bass is boomy and doesn’t extend very deeply. Explosions, tank cannon fire, and so forth hit with a dull thump. Dialogue is clear, but the battle scenes sound muddy with a confusing mass of noise all coming from one direction.

The only supplement on the disc is an awful-quality theatrical trailer. You can find the same spot on YouTube in better looking condition.

Megaforce (1982) Spanish import Blu-ray

After buying this disc, I later discovered that Megaforce was also released on Blu-ray in Germany by a label called Cargo Records and in Australia by Umbrella Entertainment. The German release comes in MediaBook packaging with the choice of a couple different artwork versions, while the Australian disc has a fair number of extras. Do either of them look or sound better than this Spanish copy? Umbrella is a legit label, so I’d hope so, but I can’t confirm that for myself. Guilty pleasure or not, I may have already hit my limit for how much I want to invest in a movie this cheesy.

2 thoughts on “I Love You, But You’re Hopeless – Megaforce (1982) Blu-ray

  1. I picked up one of the German media books from Orbit DVD. It’s pretty cool but the transfer looked like a dvd upscale. Not unwatchable though.


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