Release Date: January 14, 2004
Genre: Science Fiction, Action & Adventure
Director: Christopher Kulikowski
Writers: Christopher Kulikowski (Story), Tom Reeve & Gianluca Curti (Screenplay)
Starring: Dolph Lundgren, Silvia De Santis, Joe Montana, Gary Daniels, Joey Sagal
WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW
Before his movie career, Dolph Lundgren was a world karate champion and received his Master’s in Chemical Engineering from the University of Sydney in Australia. Shortly after his graduation he moved to New York City to become an actor. He made his film debut in a brief role in the James Bond film, “A View to a Kill.” He reached immediate stardom playing the iconic Russian champion Ivan Drago in “Rocky IV”. Since then, Lundgren’s career has been up and down. You can still see him on the big screen in Sylvester Stallone’s “Expendable” movies, but other than that he’s appeared in more straight to video movies than another martial artist turned actor Steven Seagal. One of his films that went straight to video (with the exception of a theatrical release in South Korea) was the 2004 Sci-Fi Action film “Retrograde”.
In “Retrograde” Lundgren plays a military man from the year 2204. He is assigned with time traveling back to the year 2004 to intercept a research ship in Antarctica from obtaining a meter frozen in the ice which contains a biological agent that has wiped out the majority of mankind in his time. He soon finds out that the crew assigned to him has their own agenda for obtaining the meteor. The research vessel named the ‘Nathaniel Palmer’ witnesses something falling from the sky (Lundgren’s ship) and goes to investigate it. They come across not only Lundgren unconscious in the snow, but they see chunks of the dangerous meteor that has been dug out of the ice due to the crash. One of the researchers obtains a piece of the meteor for research and heads back to the ship. The ship begins to experience quakes which rock the boat due to the magnetization field of the spaceship and the researcher cuts his hand on the broken glass containing the meteor. The material in the meteor mixes in with his blood and he becomes the first victim of the pathogen which sets in motion what will become of the human race in their time. Lundgren with the help of the surviving crew are now faced with containing the infected and stopping the opposing crew.
Before I go in depth with the review, I’m going to give you another disclaimer: This is a really bad movie! There’s no question about it. Now you’re going to ask me, “If it’s a bad movie, why do you like it?” I like it for the fact that it is a bad movie and it’s a movie you can poke fun at with your friends. This is a movie that would be a great Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode. I learned about this movie through a podcast that talked about bad movies. After listening to the episode, I searched for a copy. Thanks to eBay, I purchase it for $3 (Free Shipping!). So without further ado, let’s get further analyze this film.
The film takes elements from John Carpenter’s Sci-Fi classic “The Thing”. It takes place in Antarctica, there is a crew there, there is something buried in the ice, the crew gets infected, etc. Even two of the characters are named after the surviving characters in “The Thing”. For example, one of the Geologists in the film is named Mackenzie. This is similar to MacReady, the hero of the iconic Sci-Fi flick played brilliantly by Kurt Russell. Another character in the film is named Keith. Keith David appeared in “The Thing” as Childs. Unlike the iconic film of the 80s, when a crew member gets infected you don’t get to see a massive special effect transformation. Instead, the infected start to seizure, jump up and destroy every inanimate object they come into contact with, their skin is pretty much the same color except for all the veins popping out and their eyes are the color of light blue contact lenses. All of this is due to the budget they had.
Speaking of the budget, this film was shot with a reported $2 million dollar budget. I’m sure the majority of that money went to Dolph Lundgren and his hair stylist (He has platinum blonde hair that shines bright in the dark frigid arctic). According to the Trivia (posted below), the film was shot in eighteen days, edited in about 2 weeks and mastered in one day (which I don’t see how that is possible) and it shows. Everything in the movie screams out cheap. The CGI scenes of the ship look straight out of a PC game. Other than that there’s no other special effects for a film that is supposed to be a Sci-Fi futuristic film. You would think they would have laser guns or aliens or have practical effects when a human is changing from being infected from the virus. Nope, none of that. The outfits they wear throughout the film is nothing more than motocross gear (see the Trivia). The sets are cheaply designed as you can see from the control panels on the ship which look like they tore off the front of a rotary phone. There are several scenes where you see an explosion of rock coming from Antarctica. You can easily tell that it is stock footage. You would think they would have some money in the budget to travel somewhere that is covered with snow that looks like Antarctica. I did enjoy the music. Allegedly the music was all done on a Casio Keyboard. The main theme that plays throughout the action sequences is a hum tuner and I think fits well within the concept of the movie.
With the exception of Lundgren the acting is laughably bad. The first scene in the movie is a shot of Los Angeles in the year 2204. It’s a fiery wasteland with bodies sprawled all over the streets. There is an opening narrator describing what has happened to the world in the most obvious script reading voice you could imagine. At one point in the narration it almost sounds like he ran out of breath. The next scene is a council meeting where they are briefing each other on the upcoming time traveling mission. All the characters speak in a deep voice and enunciate every syllable spoken out of their mouths. Same with the crew of the Nathaniel Palmer. There were so many bad accents I couldn’t figure out what nationality they were from. Every person on the ship was a trope from the concerned scientist to the greedy businessman who funded the expedition. I have to give the award for Best Worst Actor goes to Joey Sagal who plays Schrader. Schrader is a businessman who funds their mission and expects to obtain a profit from their discovery. Sagal gives an angry, agitated and annoyed deadpan delivery of every line. His acting reminds me of Christian Bale’s Batman.
Going back to Dolph Lundgren’s performance, I think he did the best he could with the material and the supporting cast he was given. From his body language and tone of his speaking I could tell that he was depressed. I’m sure he was asking himself, “How did I end up in this mess?” He maintains a sense of professionalism in this movie as an experienced actor would do. The supporting cast in this film could’ve taken a lesson from Lundgren about performing.
I believe this film encompasses the theme of “Guilty Pleasure Cinema Review”. It’s a movie that is bad, but you can have fun watching it. You have to go into this movie with very low expectations. If you go into it with high expectations you’re going to turn it off within the first ten minutes. If you have friends over and are extremely bored and have nothing to watch, pick up “Retrograde,” share a bowl of popcorn and prepare to laugh at its goofiness.
- Filmed in only eighteen days, edited in two and half weeks and mixed in one day.
- The futuristic suits the time travelers wear are actually Hein Gericke leather motorcycle pants and jackets. You can see the Hein Gericke logo on the back and on the neck line.
- Gary Daniels was initially cast in the role of the lead villain, but was downgraded at the request of Dolph Lundgren.