TonytheBlind1’s review published on Letterboxd:
In my "This month in Film History March 1972" list, this was the first film I decided to watch. It was released on the 10th of March and is the directorial debut for Douglas Trumbull, Known previously for special effects work in film, one of the biggest being 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The film is set in the far future, a group of ships that are labeled as American Airlines hilariously, that hold huge domes with forests in them. Apparently the future doesn't bode so well for Earth and the planets flora is either non existent or dying. The plan appears to be to grow things in these domes and then when suitable,, bring them back to Earth. They don't get into specifics on the planets demise aside from there being some sort of disease that kills the plants. Freeman Lowell, played by Bruce Dern, is a hippie like Botanist that cares for the forest and is dedicated to their survival, while 3 other crew members on board the ship aren't as happy with their duties. When the orders come in for the crew to destroy all of the domes and head back to Earth, Freeman doesn't follow the orders so freely and sets in place events to hijack the ship with it's 1 remaining dome and ride off into space on his own. Well not completely alone, he is accompanied by 3 robotic drones that perform duties around the ship that he programs to follow his orders and become his friends essentially, naming them Huey, Duey and Louie.
The story as a whole is actually rather slow and I gotta say, I wasn't loving it for the first 30 minutes or so. For starters, the music in the film is sung by some singer named Joan Baez, who I don't know of, but I've definitely heard her annoying voice before. It is dripping with the environmental hippie movement as well making Lowell a hero for the cause. I'm not against the idea of environmentalism, but I hate heavy handedness themes that attempt to make the viewer feel guilty. I've read on other reviews that this is usually the point of contention with the films lovers and haters, neither of which I am. I didn't feel strongly either way, it was a decent film that picked up it's value in entertainment in the latter half in my opinion.
I would have to say though that for 1972, the special effects were probably at or near the highest level of what was possible. It's not perfect, but I was thinking constantly of how this was really great for it's time. You can tell they are models for sure, but the scope of the ships is well displayed. I thought it was hilarious though that 4 crew members were able to run a ship as massive as it was., and the 3 drones as well were quite cool. The looked brutal as robots, but I liked the character they brought to the film.
Performance wise, Dern was good as he usually is, considering he is the only actor on screen for majority of the film. His presence is always been something I love about his acting, the way he commands the attention of the viewer. The rest of the cast, as small as it is was pretty non valuable IMO. The drones were more interesting than the 3 other humans.
I guess in the end I would say I liked the film, but I can't come near to saying I loved it. It's sluggish pace and long stretches of pretty boring scenes makes me wish there were more cast members or at least some sort of action. I would tell people to check it out though if not for any other reason but to see what a great sci-fi film was in the early 70's, and for Dern and the drones.