If there ever was a movie of which it could be said, "If you've seen one, you've seen them all," Moontrap is it. In the first twenty seconds after the main titles, we get references to the opening music from 2001, the opening shot from Star Wars, and the opening narration from Star Trek. It's just too bad that our hero Colonel Jason "Einstein" Grant (Walter Koenig) never saw Alien, because if he had he would have known that guys in space suits shouldn't mess with the organic-looking pods they find in derelict spacecraft.
Jason and his co-pilot Ray "The Penetrator" Danner are a couple of over-the-hill jet jocks flying the space shuttle "Camelot" on a satellite repair mission when they discover an alien spaceship. Somehow ground stations didn't notice a quarter-mile long object heading for Earth. It's "not like anything I've ever seen before," Jason says, proving that his grasp of cliché hasn't faltered. He goes over to investigate, and picks up a reddish-brown pod and a desiccated human corpse.
That pod contains a robot killing machine. After a bit of messing around on earth, it's decided that men will go back to the moon, and Danner and Grant are the men. Once on the moon, our boys go out searching. They find a pre-historic moonbase, apparently built by humans 14,000 years ago. "Guns on the moon," says Jason in tones of anguish, as he pulls a couple of machine pistols out of the Lunar Rover. Guns yes, cameras no. For explorers, our heroes aren't doing much record keeping.
The moonbase is littered with human skeletons, miraculously still articulated, and one beautiful young lady in suspended animation. It seems that the men on the moon 14,000 years ago had problems with killer robots too. One might hope that the old time moon men would have sent one of their roughest, toughest, most on-the-bounce troopers on a desperate mission into the future ... but they didn't. This isn't Ripley. Instead, Mera (Leigh Lombardi) has three missions: to be menaced, to scream, and to take off her shirt.
The killer robots are called Kalium, Mera says. Our heroes survive an attack by one, blowing it to pieces with their guns, which apparently don't have any recoil. But on their return to the Lunar Excursion Module, they discover that the Kalium have stolen it.
There's another firefight in which the guns still don't have recoil, and a touching death scene containing yet more examples of classic dialog: "Take it easy, partner! I'll get you home!"
With things in disarray, "Einstein" Grant knows what to do: he pops open a moon-tent and screws the girl. Fortunately the two get their spacesuits back on in time to have one more recoilless firefight with another robot.
Mera and Jason get captured and taken aboard an alien spacecraft heading to Earth. Providentially our heroes escape, and discover that the Kalium, one of which had been trying to remove Mera's sweatshirt with a saw, had luckily removed the spacesuits with such care that the suits still work. Off Grant goes (after yet another burst of recoilless gunfire) in search of the central control of the ship. He finds it, and discovers that the LEM has been incorporated into the ship. "It's the lander," Grant says, for the benefit of the members of the audience who have their eyes closed, "the last piece of gear needed to complete the ship #151; and they waited 14,000 years for us to bring it." Good thing for the Kalium that NASA used that particular design for the lander, or the wait might have been for nothing.
Grant sets the Self Destruct on the LEM and makes his getaway. He fires a burst from his weapon, and this time it has recoil. The new-found recoil blows him and Mera right out of a conveniently located opening in the hull and onto the space shuttle "Intrepid," which happily is nearby. The Law of Incredible Coincidences has triumphed.
But there's still time for one more cliché before the final credits roll: one of the Kalium has made it to earth, opening up the possibility of a sequel, or maybe even a TV series. The final voiceover at the end of the credits makes the desire for a sequel even clearer.
Aside from alluding to every SF movie made in the last thirty-odd years, from War of the Worlds to Aliens by way of Saturn 3, what do we have? A goodly number of unnecessary scenes, together with mindboggling coincidences. The heroine is utterly wasted. An expert in fighting the Kalium, she should have been central to the resolution, rather than coming along for the ride. Not planting necessary information (e.g. the self destruct), and failure to use planted items later on (e.g. Grant's ex-wife and kid), puts this movie into the second or third rank.
The effects and sets are very nice. Walter Koenig has screen presence, especially without a ridiculous accent, though SF action/adventure may not be his best milieu. Moontrap seems to be unsure of what it wanted to bepilot episode or stand-alone theatrical filmand wound up in the direct-to-video market. A pity, that, since the film has many nice touches.