Megaforce was made by director Hal Needham. Needham was a former stuntman and stunt coordinator, having reportedly broken 45 bones in his pursuit of a payslip. Needham graduated to director with films such as Smokey and the Bandit (1977), The Cannonball Run (1981), the first two sequels to each of these and Hooper (1978), before vanishing not long after making this and the equally atrocious Stoker Ace (1983) and the BMX bicycle film Rad (1986). Most of these were made starring Hal Needhams former roommate Burt Reynolds and all centre around, as might be expected of someone of Needhams background, the staging of stunts. While Smokey and the Bandit was amiable in a moronic kind of way, The Cannonball Run moronic but audience-pleasing, and Hooper even halfway decent, Hal Needham bottomed up in a big way with Megaforce, which never even managed to regain back half of its $14 million budget at the box-office.
Megaforce is like a Gerry Anderson production Thunderbirds (1964-6) with Reaganite politics, if you like. It delights in models, technical double-talk and particularly pyrotechnics, more of them than a year of Guy Fawkes nights. Like a Gerry Anderson show, the film is focused more on big hi-tech vehicles, disasters and the technological minutiae of rescue, than it is on people. There are endless sequences of motorcycles and dune buggies running about the desert firing laser beams, moving in unison, doing slow-motion stunt jumps over other vehicles ... and yet more explosions it is not even a minute into the film before things start blowing up. Some of the action sequences are so inanely juvenile hordes of motor-bikes stunt-jumping over Persis Khambatta or shooting down balloons or unintentionally ridiculous a climactic moment of tension where Barry Bostwick races to catch a departing aircraft carrier on his rocket-launched motorbike that loses all credibility through some incredibly shoddy blue screen work that the only way that Megaforce can be taken as is a laugh-riot.
Barry Bostwick seems badly miscast. It was impossible viewing Megaforce at the time to shake associations of Barry Bostwick as Brad in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and buy him as an action hero. (Indeed, the combination of Bostwicks Rocky Horror associations and the skintight spandex outfits and scarves the Megaforce team wear has given more than one reviewer to speculate about possible gay subtexts to the film). Placed up against Bostwick is former Miss India Persis Khambatta who was briefly claimed as the next greatest sensation when she appeared as the bald navigator in Star Trek The Motion Picture (1979). Her performance here gives indication that the emotionless android she played in Star Trek may not have been entirely acting. Subsequently and one is sure entirely due to career choices like Megaforce Khambattas career vanished, she quit Hollywood only a few years later unemployed and died in 1998. The thumb kissing romance between she and Barry Bostwick is nauseating. Edward Mulhare is present as British stuffed shirt comic relief a couple of years later Mulhare would go onto play in an equally inane boys toy super-vehicle fantasy, the tv series Knight Rider (1982-6). Michael Beck provides some agonizing attempts at comedy relief with an excruciatingly over-the-top Texan accent. The only one who seems to be having any fun in the picture is B movie veteran Henry Silva who camps it up as broadly as possible.
In promotional interviews, Hal Needham seemed under the sincere conviction that he was bringing about a return of the long-absent hero to the silver screen. [One wonders if Needham somehow managed to miss hits of the last few years like Star Wars (1977) and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)]. However, what he produced was a fantasy of US politics. This was only a couple of years after the Iranian Hostage Crisis and it is easy to read that into the film Megaforce is really a desire for kickass cowboy response to world politics, all relayed on about the level of Action Man/G.I. Joe toys. As with Knight Rider, the politics are never discussed above the level of the unquestioning boy scout heroism that the characters embody. It is all G-rated action, no bad words, nobody gets hurt in all the mass explosions, not even Barry Bostwicks blow-dried hair manages to get mussed up in the midst of the action. But nobody brought it. There is a line in the film from Henry Silva to Barry Bostwick: Back in the seventies you could be an idealist, now its just too damned expensive. It is one that the films failure to even recoup its own budget at the box-office rendered prophetically ironic.