An astronaut returns from space after triggering a nuclear war… Sounds like a great premise for a movie, right? It is a great premise, unfortunately it loses a little in the execution. I’m talking about Michael Shackleton‘s only feature film as a director, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Survivor (1987) is what killed his career. Survivor has a pretty small cast, and the major characters consist of Chip Mayer (One of the replacement Duke boys from Dukes of Hazzard) playing the title role of “Survivor” and Richard Moll who’s probably best known as the bailiff Bull Shannon from “Night Court”. Richard Moll also has the distinction of being in this movie called “Survivor” and a movie “The Survivor” from 1998 which has no relation to this movie – two bad decisions in one career…
As mentioned before, Survivor is a about an astronaut who is sent to space to deploy the “star wars” missle defense system, which was supposed to defend the US from a foreign nuclear threat. Unfortunately for this guy, the Russians take this as a threat, and they shoot down the defense satellite and launch a nuclear attack which destroys the ozone layer and knocks the earth off of it’s axis. The survivor, along with his post apocalyptic bleached blonde mullet (he strangely resembles Solid Snake from the Metal Gear videogame series) saves a woman from slavery, who nurses him back to health, and then gets kidnapped by the psychopathic Kragg played by Richard Moll. This leads to the survivor making his way into “Paradise” where water and food is plentiful.
The movie starts off really well, as all the sets and the narration that runs through the movie help show the isolation and solitary conditions that the characters are put into. It also moves really well for the first half of the movie, but then it starts to slow down and falls apart quickly. There’s a drawn out unlikely sex scene that pops up about a third of the way through the movie, and shortly thereafter is when the slowdown happens. The wheels really start to fall off when the movie enters the whole paradise phase.
While the story is believable, a few things pop up that really start to make the whole thing look really laughable. Early on the main character gets stabbed, and he suffers through this gaping wound for the rest of the movie, but he has no problems running, fighting off several dudes, etc. despite this wound. Also, he carries around this bolt action rifle with the barrel sawed off for the entire movie, and he ads a stock and scope to it, and it’s suddenly a sniper rifle. One last thing is that the survivor just doesn’t fit this “astronaut” role, he’d be better suited as being a former commando or something, but then he would have probably been destroyed during the whole nuclear war angle. A silver foil jumpsuit doesn’t make you an astronaut, and believe me, I know (don’t ask.) How many movies from the 80’s featured people shooting guns from the hip accurately? I need to find out. To hell with aiming a gun, just hold it on your side and you can shoot people from 300 yards with pintpoint accuracy!
Again, while it starts off with a lot of potential, in the end it leaves you wishing it had gone another direction. Maybe I got a bad edit, but it there were actual scenes that didn’t match up but I doubt any additional scenes would have helped this one. Unless you dig cheesy 80’s romantic ballads and totally inconclusive endings, I’d advise to avoid this movie unless you feel like wasting and hour and a half of your life.