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Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe
Tonight's Feature Presentation


Starring: Jesse Ventura, Sven-Ole Thorsen, Marjorie Bransfield, Marilyn Lightstone, Moses Znaimer

Written and Directed By: Damian Lee

The Short Version

Top-to-bottom formula flick made on a video budget, and it shows.

Imagine something like The Terminator, only cheaper and more ridiculous.

Sven-Ole Thorsen is all but incomprehensible, and seems to have maybe six facial muscles.

Amazingly, it’s possible to find sympathetic characters here, despite the odds against it.

Consider me the Minority Report: I actually like this movie and consider it a “feel good” flick.

The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


Light, cheap, processed to a vaguely fluffy consistency, and you know it should be full of holes.  This stuff cannot be good for you.  And yet it’s tasty enough to spread on a cracker and munch on anyway.

Pairs Well With...


Cheap, weak, light Northwoods beer.  Logic dictates that it should suck… and yet, it’s actually kinda good.

“Members of our force were taught to avoid VD.”

You may want to put on a hockey mask or something before you read the plot synopsis for Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe.  This is to protect you in the likely event that you experience the uncontrollable urge to do an atomic facepalm.

Abraxas (Jesse Ventura: pro wrestler, Governor of Minnesota, conspiracy theorist) is a Finder: an intergalactic bounty hunter/policeman dedicated to protecting the innocent.  He’s also over 11,000 years old.  Secundus (Sven-Ole Thorsen: champion bodybuilder who also has the misfortune of being named after an entire class of joke) is his ex-partner, now turned renegade.  On the lam from prison, Secundus has escaped to a planet called Earth (“nice name”), where he knows that if he can successfully impregnate a native female, the offspring is likely to be a Komator: a being capable of computing the Anti-Life Equation, which Secundus could then steal from the child’s mind to enter the Anti-Life Universe and gain unlimited power.  Abraxas must follow Secundus to Earth and stop him before it’s too late.

Admit it: you zeroed right in on that middle part, didn’t you?  The part that makes you immediately think that this sounds like the plot of a sci-fi framed porn movie.  Yeah; me, too.  Here’s your first hint: don’t hold your breath on that.

Indeed, the above synopsis – a good approximation of what’s used on all of the marketing blurbs I’ve ever seen for this flick – is valid for exactly fourteen minutes.  Once that time is up, the entire plot suggested by that blurb is over and resolved.

Keep this in mind as we go.  Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe operates within three frames (note that I’m talking three stylistic frames, here; not to be confused with the standard three act storytelling common to most movies, which while also applicable to this movie does not occur within the boundaries I’m concerned with here) defined by approximate runtime.  The first frame goes through about the first fourteen minutes.  The second frame goes through about thirty minutes.  The third frame carries you the rest of the way to eighty-plus.

The blurb, as noted, covers Frame One.

As we begin, we see Abraxas lying on a table undergoing what looks to be some painful electroshock therapy.  Through a voiceover – the first of many – we find out that he’s undergoing enhancements that essentially make him strong, bulletproof, and all-but-immortal.  We learn of his history with Secundus and his assignment to Earth, and then we’re off to the races, so to speak.

Cut to Earth, and a lovely winter forest scene.  This time, Secundus delivers the voiceover while we watch him being chased by Abraxas to the tune of pre-packaged synth-a-lot music that sounds suspiciously like the programmed beats you’ll already find on a store-bought Korg.

“Abraxas cannot possibly understand my motives.  He believes in right and wrong.  The only thing that matters is power.  The power to no longer be a victim of fate.”

If you thought Schwarzenegger’s accent was fun, Sven-Ole’s will give you fits.

Anyway, under the glow of lots of red and blue lighting, the two exchange salvos with laser guns that make really loud screeching noises and cause surprisingly decent explosions when they hit something.  When the two get close enough for a fist fight, Secundus punches Abraxas into a ravine, and makes at least a momentary getaway.

A moment later, he finds a couple parked at what’s obviously the local secluded lovers’ spot.  The guy wants to make a move, but the girl, Sonia (Marjorie Bransfield, whom it’s worth noting had just started out as spouse number two for Jim Belushi at the time), doesn’t seem all that interested.  The party’s broken up when Secundus tosses the guy out of the car.  Then, after asking Sonia is she is “a birthing member of the human species,” Secundus steals the car, and Sonia.

By this point, Abraxas is up and running again.  His Answer Box (voice of Marilyn Lightstone, Heavy Metal) – call it a computer and general purpose electronic device permanently implanted into his wrist – loudly informs him that “Secundus is in possession of a fertile birthing member of the species!”

Cut back to Secundus, who now has Sonia out of the car.  “I really do need your body,” he says.  This sounds ominous, especially since Sven-Ole looks like he’s recently retired from bear wrestling, but what happens next is probably not what you’re expecting.  With everyone still fully clothed in winter gear, he simply holds his hand just above Sonia’s lower abdomen, at which point his hand glows blue and his own Answer Box says “DNA inversion complete.  Reproduction commence.”

Apparently, alien sex is really boring.

Abraxas shows up at this point, and Secundus essentially says to go ahead and arrest him now; he’s done what he came for.  “The Komator will be able to compelte the Anti-Life Equation!”  Sonia takes the opportunity to run as Abraxas’ bosses beam Secundus off to prison, “Star Trek” style.

Sonia doesn’t get far; in just a few seconds she’s hunched under a tree.  Abaraxas’ Answer Box helpfully informs us that this is because the birth will take place in less than two minutes.  Since the child is the galactic equivalent to Damien from The Omen, Abraxas is expected to kill Sonia before she can give birth, for the good of the universe.  Abraxas refuses, and walks away.

Sonia gives birth, tastefully off camera, but still apparently wearing her pants.

There you have it; whole blurb covered.  We’re at fourteen minutes.

So far, Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe is pretty standard Bad Movie Night material.  It’s cheesy on just about every level, loaded with voice overs (never a good sign), and it’s got that whole synth thing going that generally only John Carpenter is allowed to get away with because he writes it himself and is actually pretty good at it.

There are a couple of transitional scenes before we get to Frame Two which I think are worthy of a moment’s discussion.  In a movie where one accepts 11,000 year old alien bounty hunters coming to Earth to fight each other and pregnancies that last of all two minutes before resulting in a healthy, in-pants birth, it’s amazing what can come across as jarring.  For me, it’s these next few moments.  Sonia goes home with her baby.  Now, despite the fact that she has been living at this home with her parents all of her life, and certainly was there the day before and obviously not pregnant, her parents are furious with her and treat her like she’s some kind of whore, especially when she says she can’t name the father.  They immediately kick her out of the house and disown her.  The anachronism of acting this way at all seems ridiculous enough to modern eyes that have the good fortune of not living in a Bible Belt Hypocrisy, but even more jarring is that disconnect for the fact the she wasn’t pregnant the day before.  How could her parents miss that?  Anyway, there’s another scene where the guy at the County records department gives her shit for being a single mother, too, and then we flash forward five years.  Here we get the brief cameo from Jim Belushi (see why that was important now?) as the school Principal, who wants to kick Sonia’s kid, Tommy (Francis Mitchell), who is mute (no word on whether or not he plays a mean pinball), out of school because he’s being bullied.  When Sonia asks why he doesn’t punish the bullies instead, the Principal seems perplexed, then says agrees to try it.  Sadly, I find this less an anachronism than it is a show that some things never change.

Jarring Intermission over; on to Frame Two!

Frame Two is where Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe becomes a cheap takeoff of The Terminator.  Secundus escapes from prison, and is on his way back to Earth to retrieve the child – the Komator (I think that’s what he’s called, anyway; the word is incomprehensible, especially out of Thorsen’s mouth, and no one seems to agree on it) – and get from his brain the Anti-Life Equation.  Once again, Abraxas must follow him there.  This time, though, there’s a problem: the warp tunnel that both Secundus and Abraxas use to get to Earth has a malfunction!  They lose all of their weapons, and can only travel through with their Answer Boxes because those are implanted directly into their bodies!  Wow, I think I’ve heard this before somewhere…

And of course, also because of the malfunction, no reinforcements.

Frame Two, by the way, sees a switch in our soundtrack from pre-pack synth to light, sax-dominated jazz.  Trust me; you’ll notice.

Needing to recharge his Answer Box so he can use it to find the Komator, Secundus, who once again ended up in the woods, runs into a clearing where a family with a truck and an RV have set up camp.  This is a picture worth painting.  As mentioned before, Sven-Ole Thorsen looks like he just retired from wrestling bears, and is roughly the same size as one.  The man in this camp is a scrawny dude who looks like he might have about a third the mass of Sven-Ole.  Seeing the newcomer, he asks, “Can I help you?”  Secundus ignores him, hops into the truck, and tries to use his Answer Box to start it.  Since his answer box is out of juice, this doesn’t work.  He then gets out, and turns menacingly to the man.

Secundus: “Give me your keys.”

Scrawny Man: “I’m not going to give you my keys!  What’s your driving record?  I’ve got quality insurance!  It doesn’t cover high risk drivers!”

A giant dude is making threatening moves on you and wants to steal your car, and you ask his driving record?  My jaw’s on the couch.  The scene continues.

Scrawny Man, continuing to back up: “I’m willing to overlook this if you are.  I could sue you, you know!  Personal harassment!  I’m a lawyer!  I can litigate!”

Secundus: “Give me the keys.”

Scrawny Man tosses them in the fire.  Secundus grabs him menacingly, and points to the fire.  “Get the keys.”

Scrawny Man’s kid is smarter than his Dad. He gets a stick, pokes it into the fire, and uses it to hook the keyring, which reads ARE WE HAVING FUN YET?

Yes.  Yes we are.  My jaw may be on the couch, but I am laughing my ass off.

This is the hallmark of Frame Two.  It’s just as cheesy as Frame One, but it’s also ridiculously funny.

Moments later, the family is tearing off in their RV when Abraxas jumps in front of them and says, “Stop!  Stop!  Could you please provide me with ground transportation?”

This shouldn’t be funny, but especially in contrast with what we’ve just seen, it is.

In fact, it’s a demonstration of one of the key things that actually makes Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe a better movie than it ever has a right to be.

Are you sitting down?

It’s Jesse Ventura’s acting.

Thirty minutes; end of Frame Two.

Let’s pause for a moment before I blow your mind.  (Or did that happen two sentences up?)

There can be no question that Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe is cheese, and relatively cheap cheese, at that.  The actual sci-fi oriented effects involve dim rooms lit by primary colors, nonsensical explanations, and the occasional flashlight beam we’re supposed to believe is a tunnel opening up to Earth.  The dialogue is laughable in the literal sense; in the first thirty minutes alone, I must have paused the disc at least ten times and gone back just to hear a line over again.  Sven-Ole Thorsen’s voice never changes and is all but incomprehensible when he speaks English.  He also appears to have a total of six facial muscles.  Once the first fourteen minutes tosses the story we thought we were watching out the window and replaces it with a redux of The Terminator, the plot is straight up predictable formula save-the-innocents action, and the action is actually rather light.  Surely, this is nothing but Bad Movie Night material.

If we only had the first thirty minutes to go on, I’d agree with you.

But then something happens; something that action scripts try to go for all the time even though they generally shouldn’t bother because it never works, and something that really isn’t supposed to happen when it gets down to the video level cheese at which writer/director Damian Lee operates.

Somewhere in those first thirty minutes, I started to give a shit about the characters.  I started to feel good about them.  Perhaps even… warm and fuzzy.

A lot of it is certainly Marjorie Bransfield, who generates sympathy in a way that Linda Hamilton never could.  She makes Sonia sweet without being smarmy, and plays her as a genuinely nice person without making her clueless.  Even an inexplicably odd outburst in the Third Frame wherein she sees Abraxas for the first time in five years and essentially bellows “Did you ever think about ME?” can’t ruin the effect.  And speaking of Abraxas, Jesse Ventura actually does a little stretch here.  Those used to the flashy wrestling persona or the badass killing machine types he played in Predator and The Running Man are in for a surprise.  Abraxas may be tough, but he’s also something of an innocent, and Ventura plays him that way.  11,000 years old and he’s never kissed a girl.  The guy’s a quiet-spoken Care Bear with muscles.  I know the description is probably making a lot of people squirm, but somehow, in this movie, Jesse Ventura makes that work.

So when Frame Three – the rest of the movie – plays out as formula protect-the-innocent fare, light on the action, but with lots of time to get to know the characters, it ends up working.  The characters work well enough that it doesn’t get boring just because the explosions slowed down.  Voiceovers suck, but for some reason, I didn’t care here.  Hell, even the kid doesn’t get annoying, and kids always ruin these movies.  (I suspect this one works because he’s mute, much like someone once noted that Holly Hunter would never get an Oscar until she took a role where she didn’t talk, and then came The Piano.)  This isn’t to say that there aren’t a lot of things that go wrong here – there is no point to either a strip club scene or a shower scene if there isn’t going to be at least a topless shot – or that it still isn’t operating at a leave of pure cheese – “My box has VD. Trust me.” – but somehow, while all this is going on, Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe is also working on the level of a real, honest-to-goodness feel-good movie.

Cue the switch from sax jazz to a pop tune with lyrics as we get to the climax, slow mo fight scene with miscellaneous unrelated explosions… good.  Worst explosion effect of the entire movie for last… all right!  That’s a wrap!

Should you stay for the credits, feel free to scratch your head at the special “thank you” from the producers to the Coca-Cola Company, considering that Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe very blatantly puts Pepsi on display as far as the eye can see with nary a Coke to be found.

And don’t try to make sense of all the Anti-Life stuff.  Especially not the part about the Test, wherein the Answer Box says that a person doesn’t know the Equation but then is told to run the Test for it anyway, even though it knows the person doesn’t know it and the Test makes people’s heads blow up.

Nevertheless, I had fun with Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe.  Not only did I enjoy it as jaw-on-the-floor, you-have-got-to-be-kidding cheese, but I also finished it off with a smile as one of the very rare occasions I’ve wanted to describe a movie as “feel good.” 

I know that even amongst dedicated B movie critics, I am in the definite minority about Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe.  There is a whole lot of a hatred out there for this flick, and to be fair, I can understand why.  I have written over two and a half thousand reviews at this point (yes, that many); I know what the common math is.  “Damian Lee’s name anywhere in the credits” is supposed to equal “crap.”  I get this.  And usually, that’s true.  (Agent Red, anyone?)  However, the rules of math also say that even the worst player will eventually get a base hit.  The whole can end up being much greater than the sum of its parts.  Intangibles count.  No movie is a foregone conclusion; that’s why we actually sit down and watch them, hopefully with an open mind.

For me, Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe is the movie that tells me that I haven’t become so jaded that I’ve lost my perspective. I know it’s cheap.  I know it’s predictable.  I know that it’s got a ton of things wrong with it.  I also know that it starts off being funny and ends up being, of all things, kind of a feel-good flick.  I like to think that even the world of B movies still has room for a few of those.

One can hope, anyway.

Bottom Line, Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe may be flawed in a lot of ways, but it’s still funny from the start, and feels good at the end.  Way to go, Governor, and enjoy your rare base hit, Mr. Lee.

(By the way, if you’re wondering why I also seem to be in the minority about reporting the publication date for the movie, it’s because I actually stayed for the credits.  The Internet – hosting Wikipedia since 1492 – says 1990, but the rolling credits very clearly say “MCMXCI,” and I do know how to read Roman numerals.  So I’m going with what came out of the horse’s mouth, so to speak.)

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, September, 2011

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