Retro Review: Zone Troopers (1985)

Zone Troopers is the second film by writer/director Danny Bilson, who is best known for his Disney film, The Rocketeer. Bilson also worked as a comic book writer (The Flash and Red Menace) and as a video game writer for EA and THQ. The reason I preface this is because knowing Bilson’s style will help you enjoy the movie more. Going into it with the idea of watching an over the top comic book version of aliens, armed forces, Nazis, etc. will certainly be more enjoyable then going in expecting a more serious movie.

Zone Troopers is a B-movie through and through, and it embraces all that encompasses. In the thick of World War II an alien ship crashes between US forces and a Nazi encampment. The Americans find the ship first but the pilot is dead. The co-pilot is alive though and has already called for hep. When the help arrives (the Zone Troopers) the line between ally and foe are blurred. See what I mean? Sounds like B-movie gold, doesn’t it?

The whole thing is tongue and cheek, simply written, and seems like the fever dream of a 12 year old boy. In fact, the first thing I thought of after seeing it was that it all seems like it was written by a kid who thought it would be cool if an alien ship crashed in World War II. This doesn’t stop with the plot….oh no. The script could have easily been written by the same kid. While this may seem like a negative, it also helps the film appeal to a very wide audience. The film has a huge cult following, so much so that MGM bought the rights to it some 20 years after its release just to have digital distribution ownership. The campy writing and visuals lend to a great deal of nostalgia in the same way that Godzilla movies hold their charm.

All in all Zone Troopers falls into the so-bad-it’s-good category, and unashamedly so. It wears its B-movie badge with pride and there’s something to be said about that. Whether you are seeing it for the first time or the fifteenth, Zone Troopers is a fun trip back to a time when you never knew what you might find at the movie rental store. Who knows, you might just find a VHS case with an alien on the front that says “I Want You!” It was a simpler time then, a time that I miss a great deal. My kids won’t know the joy of hitting the video rental store and scouring through the covers (it’s not like you could look reviews up on the internet…what internet, haha) until you found one that jumped out at you. That’s part of why I do these reviews…to keep the spirit alive, even if getting stuck in Netflix movie selection limbo has replaced a trip to Blockbuster.

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