Timerider. Boy does this film bring back memories. And not the good kind.
Before I continue, let me just point out something that I was either too young to know last time I saw this film, or just didn’t realize. The producer, writer and composer for this film is none other than ex-Monkee, Michael Nesmith. How weird is that? The director would go on to direct Harry and the Hendersons as well the 1994 remake of Angels in the Outfield, which were pretty descent films, plus some other non-notable films. Let’s just say he got a lot better after Timerider!
This film capitalizes on the popularity of motocross in the early 1980’s. The first 10 minutes of the film are montages of Lyle Swann riding his bike thru the desert, POV shots of the motorcycle riding thru the desert, helicopter shots of the motorcycle riding thru the desert. Well, you get the idea.
Swann (played by pre-Remo Williams, pre-Tremors Fred Ward) accidentally rides thru a marked off grid where a science team is testing project timerider. Swann gets zapped back to 1877 but since he’s in the desert, he really has no idea that anything is different. In fact, when he finally is rescued by the head scientist (who takes a helicopter back in time with him) and the scientist mentions they need to get back to their own time, that may be the first time Swann really realizes he’s not in 1982. Not when Claire mentions the recent Civil War, nor the attitudes and clothing of the people give this schmo any idea that he’s not in the 80’s. I guess, well, it’s Mexico, so it’s allowed to be really out-of-touch with the modern world, right? <sigh>
As a kid, this film seemed fun and epic. As an adult however, it seems very small, with little to no characterization. Swann must try to find his way home, all the time believing he’s just out of radio range of his team mates in the Baja 1000 race. He must avoid the bad outlaws, led by Peter Coyote (fresh off of ET – The Extraterrestrial), and featuring perennial cowboy sidekick Tracey Walter, and Richard Masur (fresh of his work on John Carpenter’s The Thing re-make) who want to steal his “machine”. Swann of course makes out (and more!) with Claire Cygne, but as a twist, she’s the one that instigates the affair–at the point of a gun! How liberated for an (eighteen)-seventies woman!
This film does some interesting things. Such as not having Swann realize he’s time traveled, so there’s never any weird scenes of him showing off his tech–oh wait, yeah he does that! Well, he does tell Claire about his cool necklace, that his great-grandmother handed down the family line. It’s supposed to bring him luck. That is, until Claire steals it as Lyle returns to the future, thus ensuring it will be given to him again. And yes, he totally impregnated his great-grandma! Way to go stud! [And bonus points to the creators for giving Claire a last name, Cygne, that mean ‘swan’ in French!]
For any budding screenwriters out there, this film leaves a great opening for a sequel, as we never actually see the helicopter return with the scientist and Lyle to 1982. It just sort of freeze-frames, and we assume that all is well. Also, the helicopter knocks his motorcycle off a cliff (just prior to turning Peter Coyote into a pair of bloody boots from the tail rotor), and it crashed into the ravine below. What would the ramifications be of 1982 motocross technology be in a late 1870’s world? The possibilities are endless…even in this paradoxical time stream!