Colonel Steve Austin, astronaut and test pilot, is badly injured when he crashes while testing an experimental aircraft. A covert government agency (OSI) is willing to pay for special prosthetics to replace the eye, arm and both legs he lost in the crash. Highly advanced technology (Bionics) built into them will make him faster, stronger and better than normal. In return they want him to become a covert agent for the OSI. It will cost $6,000,000 to rebuild Steve Austin. Written by
Brian W Martz <B.Martz@Genie.com>
Stock footage from Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970) is used in this film. Notice just before Steve goes into get his bionics attached - the warm up of the computers is the scene where Colossus is activated. See more »
In the hospital scenes, the electrocardiograph is heard beeping Steve's heartbeat, but a flat line is displayed. See more »
[Steve whispers something in Spencer's ear]
Really? Oh, I haven't been called that since grammar school.
See more »
Even it didn't introduction one of the most iconic fictional characters of all time this would stand up as a great movie. However, since it does introduce Steve Austin (one of TV's best-ever characters and greatest superheroes), this raises it up to be something truly special. Watching it is something akin to a spiritual experience. Trying to write an impartial review is next to impossible, since I love every second of this thing with passion. But I'll have a go.
Tight pace. The opening minutes show two men in parallel: a pilot called Steve Austin who is about to test a new type of plane, and very serious government official who is proposing a new type of soldier/spy to a room of very stuffy and self-important people. As we move into the second quarter of the movie, Austin has been mutilated in a crash and is being kept alive by machines. His suffering is succinctly brought across in several short/ingenious scenes. The mid-section of the movie shows us the new Austin: rebuilt by science and trying to master his new limbs. By the time we enter the final quarter of the movie, Steve is fully in control of his new body parts and we see him start to use them: first to save a boy in a traffic accident, and then on his first mission.
Lee Majors. In one of the great marriages between character and actor, Majors takes the reins of Austin and makes him his own. Right from the first moment he saunters into shot Steve Austin is a likable hero: a very real, very human superhero. There are corny moments (like Steve addressing the entire flight crew by first name and seeming to know all about them) but Majors sells everything in the script. And adds to it. Two minutes into the movie, 50% of the guys watching will want to invite Austin for a few beers on the town and the other half will wish they were Austin. When the action gets dramatic (Austin trying to end his pathetic life, or - later - examining his own right arm) Majors is 100% committed to the role and he's make you feel everything Steve does.
Cleverness. The movie is clever, and subtle, in ways that the (wonderful) TV series never tried to be. The man who orders the rebuilding of Austin walks with a cane. He is also heartless and - because of this - is more of a robot than Austin will ever be. The storytelling is wonderfully subtle in other ways, too. As Austin is told of his accident, the camera cuts away and we see/hear the reaction of the heart monitor. The sound, I suppose, of a breaking heart. And, later in the story, as Austin is on the verge of giving that heart to the pretty young nurse that has fallen in love with him, the story takes another unexpected turn: Austin orders her off the case and she overhears. We expect that she will run away in tears. Instead, she confronts Austin and calmly states her case. She doesn't behave like a 'tv character', she behaves like a real woman. It's the character's best scene. Finally, the mission that Steve goes on is not quite what it appears to be. Clever scripting makes everything, and everyone, shades of grey and makes the entire story more enjoyable.
Casting. Darren McGavin almost steals the movie from Majors with a truly fascinating portrayal of the man who orders the rebuilding. Martin Balsam and Barbara Anderson round out the cast and each one gets scene after scene of quality material.
Continuity. The three movies that started the SMDM series are an oddity. None of them really fits in with the continuity of the series. (In a nice bit of symmetry, the three movies that ended the series are exactly the same: Part of the franchise, but not quite...) Cyborg has many elements that are exactly the same as the series. The character of Steve Austin is consistent, even if his rank/status within the Air Force is not the same. Rudy Wells, the doctor that saves Steve and makes him bionic is also exactly as you will find him in the television series. It's a different character, yes, but he has the same heart and intelligent. He has the same bond with Steve, too. But there are many elements that are not even close to the TV series. Instead of beloved Oscar Goldman, we get a hard-nosed bastard called Oliver Spencer calling the shots. This guy sees Steve as a weapon. Nothing more. In the episodes that followed, many scripts made it clear that there was a very strong bond/friendship between Steve and his so-called boss. Some episodes made them seem like partners working side-by-side, and most episodes made it clear that they loved one another as only best friends can. It's fascinating to see what direction the show could have taken. Fascinating, but not better. Then there is the lover. She disappears after this and is never mentioned again (though the series does introduce a similar character at one point). We can presume that Nurse Jean got over her infatuation and she and Steve called it quits. There are other things, too. Minor things, mostly, like the name of the OSI being something different. Things that mean, if you want to look at it this way, that the events of this story take place in a parallel universe.
I don't care.
It's a superb movie. It captured my imagination when I first saw it, as a child, and it still has a firm grip on my imagination (and my heart) all these years later.
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