With “Machete Kills” becoming a flop, it’s too bad a real sequel called “Machete Kills Again…in Space” couldn’t be made. Had we lived in a world where money grows on trees, it would have been a fun exercise if you’ve seen the fake trailer for that space title at the end of the first “Machete” film. More than anything, it was a nod to a different era of film when going into space was far beyond the current state of “Gravity” and intended to be nothing but tongue firmly in cheek.
During the 1950s and 1960s, there were more cheesy films done about space than there was later after NASA took real astronauts there. Those earlier films were done without much awe simply because space was still a mystery and an overly exotic concept with human beings. Even the very first movie made about space (Georges Melies’s “A Trip to the Moon”) had the encounters on the lunar surface right up there with the cartoonish encounters seen in theaters 50 years later.
It didn’t necessarily mean all of the 1950s were part of that space stigma. 1950’s “Destination Moon” was one of the first serious movies that tried to show real science behind traveling in space and going to our mystique-filled moon. Only three years after that, Abbott and Costello changed everything by starring in one of their lesser efforts “Abbott and Costello Go to Mars.” They arguably set the stigmatic pattern of taking characters you wouldn’t expect and throwing them in a space setting.
Ironically, Abbott and Costello’s characters never actually went to Mars and instead went to Venus where they encounter, yes, a female alien. Afterward, just about every movie about space took it at this level, despite a few attempts to be serious. We all know about “Forbidden Planet” being an early precursor to the more social-themed sci-fi movies of the 1970s. Also, 1964’s “Robinson Crusoe on Mars” presented a hybrid of hokum with a serious theme about being stuck on Mars all by your lonesome.
“Barbarella” was the ultimate model of what the “Machete” trailer in space was trying to capture. The former was also the last space movie made in a deliberately campy way once the reality of space was presented to TV viewers in the late 1960s. Even if you consider “Star Wars” to have a backbone of campiness, its epic vision took campy space movies away forever other than parody.
What would happen if someone did a campy space movie today? Would it fly now that there’s much more awe and wonder about space where a deliberately bad alien costume gets an automatic rejection? As early “Dr. Who” episodes proved, though, it’s the writing that sells it all rather than the special effects. A “Machete” in space movie would be an interesting test to see if the campy space movie could still have an audience as a mere movie party experience.
With movie prices so expensive, however, the chance of creating a campy movie party genre has more challenges. We expect much more meaning in space movies now. That doesn’t mean it can’t subdivide into different categories for certain demographics.
If it can, perhaps we’ll eventually have a chance to see that Machete movie in space. Nevertheless, it needs modern logic by telling everybody exactly how Machete manages to get up there without a product placement for Richard Branson’s private spaceship.