Twitter Plot Summary: After World War 3 takes place and the world is annihilated, three astronauts in space return to Earth.
Five Point Summary:
1. Def-Con 4 isn’t actually that high up the spectrum. Just saying.
2. They should’ve stayed up in space, it would’ve been much more entertaining.
3. When the main villain is this awful, you know the film’s going to struggle.
4. Jeff Pustil hasn’t aged a day in 30 years, apparently.
5. I still think they’re going to die from nuclear fallout either way.
There’s a certain expectation going into a post apocalyptic movie – death, destruction, and a return to a feudal system of days gone by. Def-Con 4 achieves this, however it also feels like there is a lot missing amidst the pulp sci-fi plotting. Overall it feels hastily directed and cobbled together without going back and shooting pickups or getting establishing shots to break up the rapid pace of the editing. In some cases quick edits can be a good thing, but here it acts as a detriment.
Directed by Paul Donovan, one of the Supreme Beans responsible for the Lexx TV series, Def-Con 4 is as low budget as post apocalypse gets. Everything looks grim and dingy, which is a plus point, but it also looks very cheap which does not help matters. The story follows a trio of astronauts sat inside a space station which holds an arsenal of nuclear weapons that are to be released should a third world war break out. It inevitably does, and the planet is annihilated. After their satellite returns to Earth, bringing an armed and ticking nuclear bomb with them, a number of setbacks take place and they have to escape from the blast radius before the bomb goes off in 60 hours.
It’s a fun concept, but it fails in its execution and lacks a certain something that would elevate it to being an essential B-movie. Perhaps its the lack of logic to the story, the fact that so much is crammed in that it loses sight of what it should really be doing. On that note, the editing is far too fast paced, as if there wasn’t enough coverage shot so the story made sense. Instead it seems to jump from one scene to another seemingly without any purpose. Much time is spent with the astronauts in space, then before you know it they’re on their way back to Earth to a landscape that has very quickly devolved into insanity, a Middle Ages world mixed with WW2-era weaponry.
Character motivations are a little on the peculiar side. This extends out from our astronaut trio to the central villain, Gideon Hayes (played by Kevin King), who is a power crazed teenage warlord with delusions of grandeur. With that in mind, you might understand why his plans are so poor, and why he’s not a particularly effective villain. Still, Jeff Pustil gets to play amusingly evil as Gideon’s right hand man, and is clearly the best thing about the film.
What it really needs is what made Lexx such a fun show – elements of darkness mixed with a blackly comic edge. If not the dark sexiness that Lexx provided, then at least make it funny or deliberately bad. The opening sequence is actually quite impressive, it’s only when they get down to Earth that it all starts to unravel. Still, seeing a number of Lexx cast members a good 10 years before that show started airing is at least one good reason to try out Def-Con 4. That, and to see exactly what a Canadian’s idea of a post-apocalyptic wasteland would look like. It certainly ain’t pretty.