I have to agree with Sir Phobos on the fact that good sci-fi is hard to come by these days. Sure we have the most awesome FX money can buy, but more often than not, plot and character usually get chucked to the curb in favor of eye candy. That's where Lucas lost me with the prequel trilogy.....it sure looked pretty......but I didn't give a shit about any of those wooden characters. Just like a young lover of rock and roll music inevitably discovers the Beatles, film lovers have the luxury to go back and uncover some truly great genre treasures. Let me share one with you that's got everything good about sci-fi story telling.....and a whole lot more. My friends.....I happily present to you.......1978's Capricorn One. It's the story of three astronauts....Colonel Brubaker (James Brolin) Lieutenent Peter Willis (Sam Waterson) and Commander John Walker (O.J. Simpson) as they try to make history on NASA's first manned mission to Mars. But for these heroes, the dangers won't come from the vacuum of space....oh no....instead they will be tasked with trying to survive scorching deserts, poisonous snakes, black helicopters, and a conspiracy that could lead all the way to the White House. Can you say "Houston...we have a problem?"
It was discovered a little too late that a defect in the life support system would have killed the space travelers on the way to Mars, but now what is NASA supposed to do? A restart means failure.....and failure means that Uncle Sam is less likely to continue pumping dollars into the space program. They decide to do the only logical thing.......fake it. This keeps a historic dream alive in the public eye as well as keeping their wallets fat with funding. The plan is brilliant....send an empty spacecraft to the red planet.....tuck the astronauts away for a few months.....and broadcast the landmark moment of the first man on Mars from a fake studio set. There's only a couple of things that they didn't plan ahead for. What if our heroes aren't so excited to go along with the ruse? Also, what happens when the empty spacecraft is destroyed during re-entry to earth's atmosphere? Will the astronauts let themselves be sacraficed for the sake of the conspiracy? Hell no! The three of them make a jail break and the chase is on. With the bad guys in hot pursuit, only a nosy reporter (Elliott Gould) dangerously close to the truth can help expose the man behind the curtain and save the pilots' lives.
This movie is a rollercoaster ride that will have you behind the wheel of an out of control car....trying to survive the blistering sun of the desert....and hanging on to the wing of a cropduster during one of the films best sequences. Check out the great cast that includes names like Hal Holbrook, Karen Black, and even Telly Fucking Savalas......awesome! It's a little strange to watch O.J. pre-murder rap and all, but he doesn't really have a lot of screen time so don't let it distract you from this great popcorn flick.
Capricorn One doesn't rely on fancy effects. It has science, but it's the fiction the villains try to create that dazzles you. It's just a great piece of entertainment that you will appreciate for the action, characters, and great music from the Jerry Goldsmith orchestra. Still readily available on DVD for your viewing pleasure......jump on board and blast off!