Friday, February 16, 2018

Worth Mentioning - War Toys Blitzkrieg the Terrorkorps

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

A chapter in the Puppet Master franchise reaches its end.


The eleventh installment in Full Moon's Puppet Master franchise (and the twelfth counting the SciFi-produced crossover Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys), Puppet Master: Axis Termination is the final chapter in the World War II-era trilogy that began with 2010's Puppet Master: Axis of Evil and continued with Puppet Master X: Axis Rising in 2012.

There was quite a wait between the second and third Axis films, and there were indications that the wait was so long because producer/director (and Full Moon founder) Charles Band wanted the Axis trilogy to go out with a bang.

Full Moon even ran an Indiegogo fundraising campaign in an effort to make Axis Termination as good and impressive as possible. Nearly $100,000 was raised, with the intention being that those extra dollars would go toward improving the puppetry work and adding in more practical effects.

The hope was that Axis Termination would be more like original Puppet Master and the sequels that followed in the early '90s. However, when the movie opens with people getting gunned down and the bullet hits feature some of the worst CGI blood you could hope to see, you quickly realize you're not in 1991 anymore.

The bad blood isn't the only shocking thing about this scene - two of the three people killed in the 90 second pre-title sequence are Danny Coogan and his girlfriend Beth, characters we followed through Axis of Evil and Axis Rising. Axis Rising actors Kip Canyon and Jean Louise O'Sullivan even reprise the roles of Danny and Beth for this quick cameo. I hope you weren't too attached to them, because they're removed from the story before Axis Termination even gets going so the film can shift focus to an American soldier named Brooks, played by Paul Logan.

Brooks would rather fighting the war, but he suffers from combat fatigue, so he's stuck in Los Angeles and becomes the skeptic in a special team that's put together to study the heroic puppets Blade, Tunneler, Pinhead, Leech Woman, Jester, and Six Shooter, and to combat a group of Nazis who are based in L.A. and are delving into magic themselves.

There are shades of the original Puppet Master here - that film's characters included psychics and empaths, and on this team with Brooks are Dr. Ivan Ivanov (George Appleby), who can sense emotions and is the latest iteration of a character who has previously appeared in the Full Moon films Decadent Evil, Decadent Evil 2, Evil Bong, and Ravenwolf Towers; Georgina Vale (Alynxia America), a witch who specializes in sexual magic; and Ivanov's daughter Elisa (Tania Fox), who sees the future in her dreams. The Nazi group is headed up by the sadistic Sturmbahnfurher Krabke (Kevin Scott Allen), who uses the magic of the old gods, and the telepathic Gerde Ernst (Tonya Kay). They have as their captive the psychic Antoinette Longpre (Daniele Romer), and under the control of Ernst are the evil puppets introduced in Axis Rising - female puppet Bombshell, who has guns in her breasts; Nazi werewolf Weremacht; and the tank Blitzkrieg.

Also among the villains is a young woman named Oberheller Friede Steitze (Lilou Vos), who doesn't have any special abilities but likes to wear syringes on the fingers of her right hand. Blade ends up copying her style later in the film, replacing his hook hand with a syringe.

Years ago, Full Moon unveiled a syringe-handed Blade called Reanimation Blade, saying that this version of the puppet would be appearing in an upcoming Puppet Master web series. For a while, it looked like Axis Termination was happening instead of a web series... but then Full Moon released the film on their streaming service in three chapters, turning the feature into a web series and making good on their promise.

The heroes and villains tussle over ancient secrets contained in the Scroll of Osiris and Krabke eventually kidnaps Elisa, setting up a climactic good guys vs. Nazis, good puppets vs. bad puppets battle... But once things were wrapping up, I was left feeling like I hadn't seen much happen. Sure, plenty of characters get killed along the way, but I didn't get much out of the story. The characters do a lot of talking about stuff that doesn't really mean a lot.

If you thought the Puppet Master series might be harkening back to the old days with this one, temper your expectations: aside from the amount of bloodshed and some extra doses of weirdness, this is pretty much on the same level as the other Axis movies.

But after all the hype, how are the special effects? Those are pretty good for the most part. There is some improved puppetry, and practical blood spray overcomes that CGI stuff in the end. There's a moment of stop-motion animation that's actually digital trickery - it's a shot from Puppet Master II, it just plays against a different background.

At times the puppets were also brought to life through forced perspective photography, with people in costume playing the puppets. That's weird to see, I don't really want the Puppet Master movies to go down the "man in suit" route.

With a running time just under 75 minutes, almost 6 of those minutes being taken up by the end credits and opening title sequence, Axis Termination doesn't demand a great deal of time, although it feels longer than it is. I wouldn't recommend the movie to anyone who hasn't already seen some Puppet Master movies - this shouldn't be a viewer's introduction to the franchise. If you have seen some entries in the series, particularly some later ones, then you know what you'd be getting into and you already know whether or not you want to see this one.

The selling point for Axis Termination is the blood and the offbeat characters. Beyond that, it's underwhelming. The Axis trilogy doesn't go out in a blaze of glory, but it's... fine.

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