The time is the 1941 and World War II is raging. One American scientist, Professor Jack Cranston, has created a device that provides nearly unlimited power. Still, he is reluctant to apply his work for the military until he learns of a toxin the Nazis have devised that turns normal humans into “cybernetic killing machines”. To counter this threat, the professor fashions a robot around his power source. Fast forward to present day and the professor’s grandson, a born loser named Jim, discovers his recently deceased grandfather’s disassembled masterpiece in various boxes left in storage. Looking for a way to pay back his loan shark, Jim puts the robot, Valkyrie, back together. It’s good timing too, as the Nazi toxin has been rediscovered and an ever-growing army of demonic-looking cyborgs are threatening to infect the whole city.
There’s a lot that works here. To begin with there’s Valkyrie, the cutest robot you ever did see. Totally clueless unless he’s crunching Nazi cyborgs, but that only adds to his charm. His design and overall look is impressive. In addition, for a group of guys with no money, some of the special effects and editing tricks weren’t half bad. There’s also a lot of humor. Leaning heavily towards the campy side, it will not disappoint many science fiction fans. Most importantly, the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously. That makes up for a lot of shortcomings.
Unfortunately, “Project: Valkyrie” does have a number of shortcomings. The production values were spot on in places, severely lacking in others. For example, the extensive makeup required to create the demonic Nazis seemed to improve as the film went on. In the first half of the film the Nazis didn’t look much better than Wal-Mart Halloween masks, but by the end of the movie it began to look more like The Lord of Darkness from Ridley Scott’s “Legend”. Perhaps the makeup people got better as they got more practice, or maybe they just didn’t have enough time in the earlier scenes.
At times, “Valkyrie” crosses the line that separates an homage from a rip off. Unless your film is a straight spoof like “Big Trouble” was of “Double Indemnity”, or is one of the various fan films (like the ones of “Star Wars” that seem to be their own genre these days), never ever reenact an entire famous scene from a well-known film. Anyone remember the part in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” when Harrison Ford trades fists with a large Nazi while dodging in and out of an airplane’s propellers? Yep, they did that scene, only sans the plane. Shame on you guys. You proved earlier you could amuse the crowd on your own, you don’t have to resort to this kind of thing.
Ultimately, this movie’s greatest failing lies in its pacing. I know that the filmmakers decided they’d made enough short films and really wanted to embark on a feature, but they could easily have cut out 20 minutes or more of fluff. I like a music montage as much as anyone, but I’ve never come across this many that run this long and that serve no apparent point other than increasing the total running time. Additionally, too many scenes dragged on way past the point of their use. There’s humor in some of them, but the filmmakers need to concentrate more on getting in and out quickly.
Still, this is a promising beginning. With some tightening up on their next work, these guys might really have something.