It’s less than a week from the premiere of the eleventh season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, so if you’re like me you’re pretty excited to see what happens. Thankfully, Kickstarter backers past a certain level got to see an advance screening of the pilot episode over the weekend, and since I was unable to wait another week to watch it, I caved and booted it up. I’ll try to keep a ton of major spoilers out of this review, since this is technically a pre-screening, but be warned – there will be a few in here. You may have a number of questions now – Did Joel an co. recapture the Magic? Is Jonah a good host? Are the bots more than a shadow of their former selves? are the riffs pretty good? are there celebrity cameos? If you’d like me to answer yes to all the above – you’re in luck!
On the host front, you couldn’t find a better fit than Jonah Ray as Jonah Heston. I’ve been a fan of his for a number of years largely due to his many podcast adventures on the Nerdist Podcast alongside Chris Hardwick and Matt Mira. While real life Jonah be be sort of curmudgeonly and grumpy, Jonah Heston is very cheerful and peppy – much like both of his predecessors. Considering that the entire point of the show is a group of mad scientists basically trying to drive a guy crazy, having the host be happy makes it that much more fun. The bots are also back in full force, with all of the voice actors doing a great job. The one jarring difference is that Gypsy, the sole female member of the Satellite of Love now has an actual female voice, rather than a husky voice provided by a guy for comic relief.
We do see a bit of the circumstances that lead to Jonah being on board the Satellite of Love (which is now tethered to a moon-base on the dark side of the moon), but they don’t dwell on it. there is no mention as to how any of the bots came back, or what happened to Mike Nelson, the previous host. Honestly, this is a show that doesn’t need to be bogged down with exposition, so I wouldn’t care too much if we never find out – keep in mind “Just repeat to yourself “It’s just a show, I should really just relax”.
What we do know is that Jonah Heston is an employee of Gizmonics institute, and is in charge of delivering a cargo of asteroids harvested from deep space. Co-workers apparently talk him up to be one of, if not THE best at what he does, with his only downfall being a rebellious streak. He is minding his own business when a distress call rings through the airwaves. Our new “mads” headed up by Kinga Forester (daughter of Clayton Forester and Granddaughter of Pearl Forester) have concocted a plan to shanghai a good Samaritan, just like himself, and force him to be the new test subject for a new iteration of the Mystery Science Theater experiments.
The first experiment – a bad monster flick called Reptilicus.
Repticilus is a 1961 “kaiju” movie in the same mold as Godzilla made by Danish filmmakers that really had no business trying to make such a film. In many ways, its like a lot of the early Hammer science fiction and Monster films, notably Quatermass and X: The Unknown, in that the main characters are scientists and they are fighting a monster that they do not understand. These films from nearly a decade prior had great acting for this sort of film, and cutting edge special effects – this one – Not so much. Honestly the entire films down down around the shoddy special effects and film quality of the monster itself – a creature that has been realized as a bad puppet with perhaps a single string making it’s head writhe around.
These scenes are notably inferior to other scenes to where it almost looks like an entirely different movie has been spliced in. One of the funnier riffs involves this disparity where someone exclaims that “it’s raining tar” due to the large amount of film imperfections on that given scene. Reptilicus becomes unintentionally hilarious when he starts eating people, an effect realized through a terrible mat overlay as far as I could tell, and his acidic green slime attacks. Sometimes less is more with films like this – a lesson learned from 1954’s Gojira (Godzilla) in spades. that film barely shows the titular monster so you’re never left to face the fact that he’s a dude in a suit – Reptilicus however overstays his welcome.
I am left VERY happy with this new season so far. I think my only quibbles with this new version of MST3K is that some of the riffs are slightly too rapid fire – some scenes go from riff to riff without any real time to breathe. The good news is that the writing is pretty solid, so one never really gets too tired of the jokes. Also, this first episode is also pretty sparse on interaction between the SOL crew and the “Mads” – we see some some good interactions at the beginning, involving an invention exchange, and some pretty solid banter, but they disappear soon after.
I’m really looking forward to more MST3K, it really feels weird having new episodes considering I think I was in high school when it was still on in the past. Much like the revival of Doctor Who, there are some changes – some that won’t please everyone, but this is in every way classic MST3K. Welcome back, hope you stay a while!
Disappointed you shared the movie title being riffed in your blog title. Joel & co have been asking if possible for those who pre-viewed to keep details quiet, including movie titles. Of course I can easily choose to not click on your article, but sticking what (for the next few days anyway) constitutes a spoiler in something I scroll by on my feed of followed sites takes away that choice.
While it was not my intention to upset anyone, I don’t believe I did anything that pretty much every other commentor has done this week – there is a poster for the film, and scenes from the film prominently placed within the trailer released weeks ago (which is also where my images came from). It’s understandable that not everyone has seen the trailer, nor does everyone know what scenes from the film look like, but it’s not like this was secret information such as character names or cameos that are purposefully absent from my review.
That said, I will remove the name from the title despite how I feel about this.
Well, all that’s fair enough I suppose. I’m not familiar with the film, but even if I was I’d still have preferred watching the first episode (haven’t had the opportunity to take advantage of my Kickstarter reward because I’m overseas and away from good enough internet) without knowing which film was in that actual episode, after all these months of build up. I think once the episode is released publicly then sure, no one can be blamed for spoiling something so basic. But I guess because it’s currently still in the hands of backers I didn’t expect it to be something I’d have to watch out for. Maybe every other commentator has done that this week as well, but I guess none of them were sites that I was following.
Still, having said all that, I understand nothing was done with any sort of negative intent, and I’m sorry if I made a bigger deal out of it than was necessary.
No worries at all, I appreciate you taking the time to let me know since I never intend to upset anyone on here. Now the question is whether I can keep up with so many new episodes next week 😛
This was a long time ago but I had it in my mind to say sorry for my initial reaction to your post. Once I actually got to watching the shows I realized that the episodes were in fact named after the movies being riffed, so the “surprise” element that I’d been hoping for wasn’t even really a thing. Anyway, hope you enjoyed the show (and the second revival season)–I certainly did–and again, I apologize for my initial reaction.