Manticore (Review)


Robert Beltran as Sgt. Tony Baxter
Heather Donahue as Kinks
Chase Masterson as Ashley Pierce
Michail Elenov as Fathi
Edmund Druilhet as Sergeant Cohen
Jonas Talkington as Mouth
Jeff Fahey as Major Spence Kramer
Richard Gnolfo as John Busey
Jeff M. Lewis as Ortiz

You can like the Iraq War, you can hate the Iraq War, but one thing we can all agree on: thank goodness giant man-eating manticores aren’t eating our troops! Sci-Fi Channel, America’s Pulse, once again goes where only few men dare, in bringing us the answers to the tough questions. Manticores running wild, former Star Trek cast members scattered like looted museum pieces, Manticore is the ultimate answer to the question not even the most brave of souls had the strength, the testicular fortitude to dare ask. The WMDs are real, and they think humans are delicious! Saddam Hussein only wished he had their power, and only USS Voyager first officer Chakotay can stop them………or can he? He’s got some help, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s very own Leeta is there as well. We also can’t forget Jonas Talkington and Michael Guy Davis, who seem to be in every Sci-Fi Channel movie ever made. They also seems to die in all of them, so maybe they can help by getting the Manticore stuffed for dinner. The search for WMDs begins….

It’s the Iraq War. No, not that one, the second one, the one that’s currently a problem in someone’s side. The movie begins right after the fall, when Iraqis are looting museums and everything else not nailed down (Like ammo dumps.) In the confusion, two Iraqi cousins break into a museum warehouse, looking for a specific item. If you think it’s manticore related, you earn a GOLD STAR! They uncrate a medallion with a manticore head emblazoned on it. They are to bring it to a crazy Sheik, who needs it for crazy mad dreams of craziness, manticore-related craziness.

First things first, a squad of US Army has caught themselves some looters, including our two previously seen manticore-medallion pocketing pair. This squad is lead by Robert Beltran, who everyone knows as Chakotay, the tattoo-faced, Maquis-allied first officer of the USS Voyager. He’s sans tattoo here, but he’s got stripes on his sleeve, as the Sarge of the squad, Tony Baxter. His men are a motley crew of uninteresting people. One of them has his own tattoo, taking up a good portion of his neck (I was under the impression you couldn’t have tattoos that could be seen while in uniform….but I could be wrong) and he’s using that popular deck of cards to look for some of Iraq’s most wanted. After successfully locating the face on the card that gives the rules for Gin Rummy, the team can’t seem to find anyone else. Most of the men are just uninteresting and uninterested in learning any local customs or language, (except the uninteresting translator) barring the Sarge Chakotay and his right hand girl, Heather Donahue. Chakotay has orders to arrest all looters, but the local population is getting restless, and as they haven’t seemed to have carried off any major artifacts, he distributes MREs to suffice their hunger and stop the looting for food money. The rock-throwers instigated by insurgents start marching toward them, and a firefight breaks out as the Army group backs off to keep from getting trapped in. The whole action is caught on tape by Global News Network (GNN) reporter Ashley Pierce – aka Chase Masterson – aka Leeta the Dabo Girl and Rom’s wife from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

The action shots were stylized by the director to give a distinct feel…namely, he does a slow-motion/zoom in combination. The Insurgents’ brilliant strategy of running out from cover into open spaces results in them getting gunned down in droves. Chakotay shows that he’s the hero by saving a child caught in the cross-fire. Back at base camp, the CO Spence chews Chakotay out for letting the looters go free: “If you wanted to save the world, why didn’t you join the Red Cross?”

The cousins are driving in the desert (as opposed to the non-desert places in Iraq!) where their car breaks down. They head on foot and meet their contact, the crazy Sheik whose name is impossible to hear correctly. It’s either Fumari, Sumari, or Sufari, which is the most likely. Sheik Sufari is channeling Mola Ram, and rants about his quest to breath life to the ancient legendary twin manticores, who were weapons used by his ancestors, the rulers of ancient Babylon. He betrays the cousins by paying them naught, and instantly begins to use the medallion in the ceremony to bring two statues of manticores alive. Sufari makes one mistake, he doesn’t kill the cousins ahead of time. One of them freaks out during the ceremony, smashing one of the manticores before it is brought to life. However, the other makes it alive and well, and sets to work killing everything that moves, starting with the smashing cousin. The slaughter continues upon all of the Sheik’s followers, and cousin #2 grabs at the Sheik, but is quickly halved. The Sheik is protected by his medallion, but the halved cousin manages to knock it off as a door closes on him, rendering the sheik as vulnerable as the rest, but he manages to escape death at this time.

Reporter Leeta hears about a possible WMD sighting at the town of Al-Kumar. Is that town next to Al-Harold and Al-White Castle? Plus, are WMD sightings like Elvis sightings at this point? “I think I dun there saw him at the Punch ‘N’ Munch buying a burrito and a Swank!” Anyway, her and her cameraman head off to check it out. The cameraman’s acting is on par with background bullet-riddled walls, and his delivery is of the same quality, as he recites a speech about “winning the hearts and minds.” At Al-Kumar, Leeta is set up reporting, when the manticore runs by in the background. Soon everyone in the village is getting killed, and our intrepid reporter and cameraman must hide for their very lives.

Chakotay’s men (and women) are playing football during this excitement, and some of them manage to procure a WARLOCK device. WARLOCKs send out jamming signals that help disrupt remote controlled explosives. There is no reason to specially introduce this device unless it’s related to the ending of the movie, now is there? Orders come down for them to go find Leeta, and the movie jumps to Saving Private Ryan territory, luckily in just this small plot point only. Out on the road, the WARLOCK interferes with the radio. Plot point? Leaving people isolated so they can be killed off? But of course! Some time later, the group of Army soldiers run across the car the cousins abandoned earlier in the movie, except now it is occupied by terrified Iraqis who are shooting at anything that moves. They are quickly gunned down, but their car has large claw marks on it, and their are dead Iraqis all around who have been torn to pieces. As the group is out looking around, we switch to Manticore-vision for a bit, as the manticore attacks soldier Mowitt…who was not seen before and will not be seen again, seeing as he’s dead. The guy with him shoots at the manticore, but no one else gets a good look at it.

The team continues on, and next up they find the cave where all the action happened earlier. The tattooed army man is named Sully, and he finds the manticore medallion among the dead bodies, secretly keeping it for himself. They look at the walls seeing pictographs of winged lions eating people. The CO tells Chakotay there is no evac despite the chance of them all being eaten, and seconds after getting back on the road, a UED explodes. UED being the roadside bombs the WARLOCK was supposed to stop (but didn’t) and seconds after their Armored Personnel Carrier is damaged to inoperable mode, they see a sandstorm coming. Not just any sandstorm, the MOAS- Mother Of All Sandstorms. The team must run to town and ride it out. Luckily, the closest town is Al-Kumar…

Entering town, they are greeted by the sight of chickens picking at bloodstains on the ground. That’s just what I need to see to feel at home. Bodies are everywhere, causing at least one soldier to revisit his lunch. As all of these movies rip-off Aliens at some point, this movie does it by having a random kid run by in the dead city that scares the crap out of the soldiers. The team splits up to search for him. Two soldiers are off in a bar where one goes to take the longest pee ever, and ignores his buddies repeted cries of “I’m being eaten by a manticore here!” On his defense, the guy was joking around a lot, but he was peeing for almost five minutes. I’ve never peed that long, even combined all the times throughout the day on my peeingest day, ever in my life. He must have a bladder the size of an Olympic swimming pool. Instead of a girl named Newt, they find a weird male Iraqi child, and all he can seem to say is “USA! USA!”-so he must be a watcher of FoxNews. IraqiNewt brings them to where Leeta and her camera crew are hiding, along with a few extra civilians who just vanish later in the film, and another guy, crazy Sheik Sufari! Leeta jumps character to make her reporter more annoying, foreshadowing her eventual demise. She states: “I’ve been through two teenagers, three wars, and four divorces!” and follows by complaining, complaining, complaining. Chakotay has finally gotten retrieval, and the group heads to a clearing to get into the rescue chopper.

Hey, this movie is only halfway over, they can’t be rescued yet! So we must pull another page from Aliens, now it’s the scene where the alien is onboard the evac vessel and it blows up, almost killing them. So, in a scene completely not ripping it off by any means, the manticore gets onboard the helicopter, causing it to crash and pieces to go flying everywhere, almost killing everyone, and actually succeeding in killing one soldier named Busey as he’s sliced in half by blades, becoming Busey A and Busey B. Army of One, huh? I’m with Busey, we should split!

I’m Sorry, that was uncalled for.

The manticore rises from the wreckage of the destroyed copter like a phoenix from it’s own ashes, except soldier Tom starts shooting at him. (Tom who? I don’t remember this guy!) Tom just makes the instantly-healing manticore angry, who grabs Tom and carries him away. Everyone starts to panic, until Chakotay restores orders with his patented Chakotay voice. Back in the town, they see the monster on the tape Leeta made earlier, and finally begin to realize their enemy. Leeta’s reporter has jumped from Lois Lane to Lois Pain-in-the-butt as she gets incredibly bitchy. Crazy Sheik Sufari explains about the legend of the manticore, that an ancient king had his sorcerer make the ultimate weapon–two manticores, aka the sacred twins–who would kill all of the enemies of Babylon. By now, everyone thinks it’s some sort of genetic experiment.

Everyone is locked in a building, but the manticore just smashes through the walls. Soldier Hortiz, who is black and has bushy eyebrows, gets a tail spike through the chest, and the rest of the group scatters. Sully has the medallion out, the manticore sees it and leaves him be. Crazy Sheik Sufari also sees it, and trades Sully a knife in the gut for it. We also get a story about African Lion Hunters from the cameraman guy in the middle of all this, as people regroup. Chakotay gets an airstrike called in, which is pulled of by a Stealth Bomber, which was just waiting on the runway to take off and bomb something. The manticore returns, and Chakotay gets nailed by spines thrown by the manticore and looks like he’s killed, but he’s not. He does manage to find Sully’s body, and sees that he was killed not by manticore but by man.

The manticore grabs the cameraman, and Leeta shoots at the manticore, instead hitting and killing the cameraman (OOPS!!) and ticking off Mr. Manticore. The manticore jumps on Leeta, and spits acid all over her face, which dissolves her head as the manticore eats the rest of her. Chakotay lures the manticore into a building, but is himself trapped inside with it, as the airstrike rains down death from above upon his head. The End!

Yeah, right! The manticore is not dead, and Chakotay is not dead. Excellent bomb work! All of the civilians from earlier have vanished, so only Heather Donahue, Chakotay, USA-boy, and crazy Sheik Sufari. Chakotay beats how the manticores were stopped out of crazy Sheik Sufari, who tells that they were stopped when they looked at each other, turning each other to stone. But there is only one now…

Hey, remember that WARLOCK? It’s like a big reflecting mirror! Chakotay tries it, and it begins to work, until crazy Sheik Sufari starts beating Chakotay around. Heather Donahue fires a rocket launcher in his direction, gravely wounding him and destroying the manticore medallion. The Sheik is now a snack.

Chakotay and Heather Donahue hide under the APC, then get an idea, to use a video camera one of the other, earlier, deader soldiers was using. The TV screen on the camera is enough to start the manticore turning to stone again, but the battery begins to run out. Chakotay is about to bite it again, but Heather Donahue pulls a Matrix and leaps through the air with a sledge hammer, smashing the manticore into a million manticore bits. The day is saved, Chakotay makes it out alive, and they give the USA-kid the video camera, thus winning the hearts and minds of the only remaining living person in this region of Iraq.

Manticore, more like manti-bore! Ha! Ha! Wait, I promised no more of those…

It was nice seeing Robert Beltran doing a leading role, as he was one of the few good parts of Voyager. Chase Masterson is always a lovely sight. It is neat seeing a movie making use of the modern conflict, that isn’t some sort of controversial tv series or based on the rescue of some girl in an abandoned hospital (there was at least two of those.)

Manticores are from that area (and India) and thus got absorbed into the Greek myths. This manticore didn’t have a scorpion tail, and it’s face wasn’t human, so it’s either old school or they just didn’t care (probably excused as artistic license.) As far as Sci-Fi Channel crap goes, this is one step below Frankenfish; but it’s way above Raptor Island, the absolute bottom of the barrel. The genre stars give it an added something the rest of the film doesn’t live up to, even though it was only a small boost. Regardless, Manticore has the geek star power it needs to stay around for a bit, and the longer we’re in Iraq, the longer it will be relevant as well. The destruction of the manticores will have to be improved on for the sequel, maybe they can set it in Afghanistan or whatever country we invade next. Wherever that is, Chakotay will lead, and I shall follow, but only because the pun opportunities presented.

Rated 4/10 (The Eye, the Medallion, The Queen, the blood-thirsty chickens)

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