The Van Dammage Papers 2: CYBORG is unwatchable

wpid-1376540925873.jpg[The following is the second in a series of writings about the filmography of Jean Claude Van Damme.]

I swear that I’m not a masochist. I have known people who claimed I was, for various reasons, but I maintain to this day that this is not the case. However, what I am about to admit to you will not help my argument.

I have seen Albert Pyun’s Cyborg at least six times (possibly seven). I am not exactly proud of this.

Perhaps being able to sit through Cyborg is the film-watching equivalent to the milk challenge (GUYS NIGHT!). Can you finish the movie without puking? Better yet, can you make it through the entire movie without wanting to commit suicide? Can you do it multiple times? I have, and yet I don’t know how! (okay, maybe at least one of those times I might have been drunk…)

Cyborg is unwatchably bad. Cyborg is not a movie that is so bad it’s good. I can’t decide if it’s a movie that should be preserved to show people how not to make movies, or if we should have every copy of it in existence placed in a missile and launched into the sun. If nothing else (and definitely taking his entire filmography into account), Albert Pyun should most definitely be sentenced to eternity in the Phantom Zone.

Cyborg was made over the course of mere weeks, cobbled together from half-finished costumes and sets for two other movies (an aborted sequel to Cannon’s Masters of the Universe adaptation and a proposed film based on Spider-Man, reportedly, and while I’m certain those movies would have ended up better than what we got in Cyborg, I doubt they’d be that much better) with a budget of about $12, because Cannon Films was about to implode, with a script that’s barely there. Van Damme himself stars in the film because, at this point in his career, he was still new and pretty cheap to cast as a lead. This movie has as much production value as a backyard wrestling video. And it shows. I have seen video tapes recorded by 8-year-olds that make more sense than Cyborg. I could probably strap my old Sony Handicam onto the back of my pug with duct tape, let him wander around aimlessly for about an hour and a half, and come back with a more coherent film.

So why do I keep going back to Cyborg? It is not out of a desire to inflict harm upon myself, by any means. No, I go back to this movie in the vain hope that I will somehow begin to make sense of what is occurring on screen. This is a movie that is so nonsensical that you manage to convince yourself that their must be some hidden meaning, some secret locked away in it that you can somehow uncover after another viewing. And if you’re like me, you’ll continue these fruitless endeavors until one day you realize you’ve wasted hours of your life not just watching Cyborg, but thinking about Cyborg.

The sad reality is that this is a movie where you will learn more from reading the Wikipedia synopsis for it than you ever will from actually watching the thing. If it weren’t for the wiki page on Cyborg, I’d probably still be wondering what the plot of the movie was, and to be honest, I’m still kind of unclear. I wouldn’t even have caught on to the whole “everybody is named for a guitar” thing if it weren’t for the Internet, partially because the dialogue is so sparse, and partially because half the people who talk in it barely speak coherent English. Did all the actors get root canals the day before shooting?

You know what I do know? Characters go places. There’s a lot of running.

A good friend of mine described it (if I remember correctly) as a series of fight scenes created by a kid smashing his collection of action figures into each other, just throwing more random, nameless bad dudes at a dazed Jean Claude Van Damme (please note that this movie is so awful, it really does appear like Van Damme is suffering through it with you; he feels your pain, and he’s as exhausted by all of it as you are).

I like the analogy, because it really does speak directly to the seeming randomness of the entire film.

However, for me, it’s more like a generic arcade fighter in the vein of Double Dragon, Final Fight, or Streets of Rage, where your characters just keep going and going and going, with endless generic dudes that kind of all look alike coming at you. You begin to wonder why you’re still playing it, long after it’s lost its novelty, until it just ends when you kill the final boss. But you know what? Even Bad Dudes is better than this.

And when it ends, it just ends. Who won? What did they win? I don’t really know! I have watched this movie six (possibly seven) times, and I still don’t fucking know for sure.

There are sex scenes that are so incredibly stilted and awkward, they could very well work as cutscenes in an 8-bit or even 16-bit video game (especially with the bizarre midi soundtrack going on in the background). You’re left wondering if anybody involved in the writing of the sex scenes, the directing of the sex scenes, or even the actors acting in the sex scenes have ever actually engaged in sexual intercourse in their entire lives. I wonder if this is what it was like the first time Kirk Cameron had sex.

A year from now, I’ll probably watch Cyborg again, hoping something will finally click for me, even though I know it won’t. And you know what? That’s still probably not going to stop me.

My only hope is to take my DVD of it and chuck it into the ocean. But then, some poor fool in another part of the world will find it and think, “Jean Claude Van Damme? I better watch this!” And the curse will live again.

I guess at least it has some hilariously bad wigs in it.

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