Teens in the Universe (1975)
Hi all, Nate here again with the sequel to my last review, Moscow-Cassiopeia, because I know you were just dying to know how the story would end. I know, I know, but I dream. Released a couple years later in 1975, Teens in the Universe turned out to be a steaming pile of loshad' der'mo, barely worthy of my precious time and dwindling reserves of energy. It's movies like this that sap the life out of me.
Here we have the continuing adventures of our seven teenage Soviet cosmonauts on a journey of discovery to the far-off constellation of Cassiopeia in the atomic spaceship DAWN, to make contact with an alien species who sent us a radio distress call. Got all that? Why are they stupid horny teens and not adults with brains and abilities? Duh, because it will take 26 years to get there from Earth and by then they will be in their 40s and presumably smarter. That's just good science.
The DAWN cruises through space.
Let's quickly recap our main cast, first our four guys...
Starting with the mission commander, Komrade KaptainViktor (far left), boy genius and anal-retentive nerd. He designed the DAWN's engines and was rewarded with the Captain's chair. Sure, buddy. Komrade BestFriend (left center) is just that, the Captain's childhood friend and valet. In the first movie he did absolutely nothing of note, but he'll get some more lines this time around. Komrade DoucheBag (right center), who started as the Steve McQueen rebel outsider, ends up being pretty lame and conformist. Komrade KomicRelief (far right), who out of nowhere becomes the Action Hero of this second movie, go figure.
And now the three chicks...
We start with Komrade FatGirl (left), who gets very little screentime here, probably because she's fat. Komrade GlassesGirl (center), who was the absolute worst actress in the first movie, is still the absolute worst actress in this movie, and perhaps in all of cinema throughout all of human history. Komrade PigTailsGirl (right), who I really thought would do more, ends up doing even less for her paycheck.
When last we left our intrepid heroes, Komrade KomicRelief has just cocked up everything (again) and had hurled the DAWN past the lightspeed barrier for a short time. This means that their journey that was supposed to take 26 years is now down to just 2. This is significant because, once again, they were supposed to be adult 40somethings by the time they made First Contact, but now they're still just snotnosed brats. Thanks a fucking lot, Komrade KomicRelief, they should have ejected you out the garbage chute back when they first found you stowing away. I don't even know why the rest of the crew even talks to you anymore, you suck.
They are singing. Why are they singing?
Anyway, they've arrived at the planet to find a mystery. There's a huge orbital station nearby and the aliens manning it make contact with the DAWN and agree to meet up for tea and crumpets. The aliens are (of course) humanoids but with funky hair and weird clothes (of course). They also speak in a series of whistles and clicks, like dolphins, but are quick to learn our language (well, Russian at least) and so can communicate with us. For a second I thought we were going to have aliens that were either non-corporeal energy beings or (not making this up) bouncing white inflatable balls, but in the end they went the cheap Star Trek route and just put a wig on a middle-aged Moldavian guy with bad teeth.
The orbital station approaches. Nice model work.
The alien leader. Ok.
The humanoid aliens powwow with our ship's crew, whip out their note cards, and tell our heroes all about how their civilization was prosperous and happy for a thousand years. But then, 200 years ago, Skynet has activated and their helper robots gained malevolent sentience and took over the planet. The remnants of the live population have escaped to their orbital station. The station can't leave orbit, however, so they've been doomed to live out their lives there on their floating Ark.
Gather around the alien disco ball, everyone.
Meanwhile, the chubby chick, the best friend, and the stoner kid go planetside in a swoopy little shuttlecraft to investigate things up-close. The pouty Captain stays on board the DAWN, something that Kirk would never do without knowing 100% for sure that there were no alien space princesses to shag down there. To no one's surprise, the planet's surface looks exactly like a mudflat south of Moscow and the air is fresh and breathable. Of course it is, spacesuit helmets would really mess up their hair. I assume that this movie was popular in the Soviet Union mostly because the cute boys with their Beetles haircuts and less because of the hard sci-fi elements?
Love the shuttle design.
Class M planet, of course.
They make First Contact with the robots and are captured quickly and without a fight. Surely they must have expected and trained for hostile encounters with the aliens, right? No guns? No zero-g karate training? Actually, both movies are rife with examples where the crew is woefully unprepared for even the most basic emergencies and technical difficulties. You have to wonder if the majority of their brief training pre-lift-off was mostly political indoctrinations and lessons on the proper way to cook borscht. I get it was (supposed) to take 26 years to get there, but maybe they should have tossed in a few 30-year olds (or made it all 30somethings?), it's not like you can substitute tight-skinned youth for life experience and learned ability and expect similar results in a crunch. A crew of highly trained adults who were all 30 on lift-off would have been a well-honed team of 56-year old experts upon First Contact. I like those odds better.
KomicRelief has to graffiti everything.
The alien robots are not amused.
Our heroes and a local guy with no hair have to go to the planet and save the three that went in first, and also destroy the robots' juice packs and save their planet. Along the way we have, in no particular order, sleeping girls, awake girls, superglue that looks like mustard, Russian children fables, robots dressed as French maids, robots dressed like coke-fueled dancers at a EDM club in Prague, rolling clear plastic balls on tracks, humans wearing robot helmets and sneaking into a base to rescue people like in Star Wars, disco lights, neon lights, rhythmic flashing lights that drive me bonkers, exposition from aliens, exposition from humans, exposition from robots who really shouldn't know the things they know, and lots of white-painted rooms.
I'm as lost as you guys.
Robot Alien Queen? Is there such a thing?
Two of the girls, the geek and the one with the big cheeks, are taken away by the robots and stuck in the Happification Chamber, about to have all their feelings of love and empathy sucked out of them, thus turning them into my ex-wife. The guys race to save them, bluffing their way through the wafer-thin security to shut off the robots' main power source at the veeerrry last second, overloading a nuclear reactor in the next room to explosion with nary a peachfuzz beard hair singed in return.
Take their love away!
Which button is for a Progrom?
With that, the day is won, Mother Russia's own seed has defeated the alien robot enemy, Stalin smiles approvingly from his perch upon Satan's shoulder, and there is much celebration and hearty Communist back-slapping. The live alien people return to their planet and start to recolonize, the broken robots are swept away, and our humans wonder what's next. Are they going to go home now that their job is done? Are they going to stay here and become Gods Among the Savages? Are they hoping that their agents will book them for a (never to be) third sequel? So many decisions for our victorious teens to make.
Our silver-clad heroes.
That is a great matte.
Luckily, they don't have to make any hard decisions, because just then Russian Doctor Who shows up and whisks them back to Earth! If you recall from the last movie, Doctor Whoski is a dandy time-traveler who, for some as yet unexplained reason, has been manipulating events behind the scenes from the beginning. And no, I don't know what the holy fuck that was all about, but the Rooskies were well known for co-opting Western media trends.
I hear Rupert Gint wants to be the next Doctor?
So, all that dering-do and exploding robots sounds exiting, doesn't it? It's not. Trust me. In fact, this might be the most boring movie I've ever seen, certainly the most boring sci-fi film I've ever reviewed. I ended up opening a new window and playing a few games of Doom 2 while watching it in the corner, there was just so little to keep me hooked. Even with the chintzy sets and atrocious dialogue, this movie's main problem is too many cast members. I didn't realize it the first movie because most of it was exposition and set-up, but you really could have had as few as three people on the DAWN, two who went planetside and one guy who stayed above and had to save them, and you wouldn't have lost much. In fact, with fewer bodies stealing lines and facetime, you could have gotten to know a few core characters as actual people, which would have been nice.
Half of you could disappear.
How about an all-girl crew?
Oh, and because I made such a stink about it in the first review, we should talk about sex a bit. It's been ignored all movie (and the last as well), but at some point we could have really used some underage romance to spice things up. Too bad they wait until literally the last two minutes to give us a taste of what surely will be decades of lost-in-space sexual chemistry and jealous ragers. Komrade PigTailsGirl and Komrade DoucheBag get to snugglekiss a bit, we saw that coming (recall that they married in real life), and there's also some stirrings of teen love with Komrade KaptainViktor and Komrade FatGirl, but that's one-sided a bit. If the others manage to pair up and get bizzah, the closing credits come too quick to show it, for shame.
He's too busy for love.
So, to wrap it up, despite some unique moments, a couple of great '70s haircuts, and a few well-shot scenes, Teens in the Universe was an epic letdown in almost every way, especially since they did a fairly good job (in hindsight) of setting things up in the first movie. It really seems like they rushed the sequel to meet some deadline (with the Russians, perhaps a literal “get it done or you're dead line”). Either that or they filmed both parts at the same time and cut them up into two parts later? I don't know and I'm too tired to find out.
Bonus, check out their “computer read-outs”. Snicker.
Written in February 2017 by Nathan Decker.
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