EVE OF DESTRUCTION (1991): The Terminator Goes Girl Power

The double-barreled success of The Terminator and Robocop at the box office created a short-lived vogue for “robot/cyborg on a rampage” movies.  Most of those films were disposable as you would expect trend-chasing films to be but there was one film to emerge from this pack that works in its own shamelessly commercial way: Eve Of Destruction.  It’s undeniably derivative of its inspirations but it adds in a few novel touches that make it a diverting programmer.

The plot of Eve Of Destruction is comic book fodder raised to the R-rating level: Dr. Eve Simmons (Renee Soutendijk) is the head of a top-secret government project that is trying to create human-like robots to be used in combat situations.  Her biggest success is Eve VIII, a perfect replica of herself right down to the use of its creator’s own memories.

However, things go awry with Eve VIII during a field test in San Francisco when she gets shot by a bank robber.  The robot becomes independent and begins retracing the steps of Simmons’ life, attempting to right some past wrongs in an explosive fashion.  Not only is her creation unbalanced and prone to violence, it also has some dangerous secrets that could endanger the whole country.  Thus, Simmons is forced to team up with Colonel Jim McQuade (Gregory Hines), a hardass military vet whose anti-terrorist skills are put to the test by the good doctor’s robotic doppelganger.

Eve Of Destruction is the kind of high-tech potboiler that is fun as long as you can look past the concept’s visible seams.  The premise is full of conceptual potholes that could have been avoided, the biggest being that scientists would create an apocalyptically dangerous robot with no failsafe shutdown options.  That said, the storyline that director Duncan Gibbins concocted with Yale Udoff works on a pulpy level because it moves briskly and is packed with action.  Though it never explores the concept in depth, it is interesting to note that the film could be considered a riff on Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, with Eve the robot acting out the subconscious desires and angers of Eve the doctor.

It helps that Gibbins knows that action and outlandish color are the big draws of his concept – and his direction ensures that Eve Of Destruction is built around highlighting those qualities.  The action mixes bombastic shootouts with some fun robot-splatter effects, particularly a scene where some men attempting to pick up Eve goes horribly wrong and a tense finale set on the tracks of a subway with a rapidly approaching train.  The b-movie fun looks and sound surprisingly classy thanks to slick lensing from vet cinematographer Alan Hume and a lush, percussive score from Phillippe Sarde.

Eve Of Destruction also benefits from unique casting: Soutendijk is best known to American viewers for her roles in a couple of key Paul Verhoeven films and she has fun with her dual role, bringing gravity to the doctor’s side of things while suitably camping it up as the robot.  Hines is an unusual choice for a blustery tough-guy role but he gives a convincing sarcasm that a typical action hero type wouldn’t have been able to bring to it.  Sci-fi fans will also be amused to see fan favorite Kevin McCarthy pop up in a brief role.

All in all, Eve Of Destruction is essentially a b-movie with A-movie resources – but that doesn’t make this Terminator-goes-girl-power riff any less fun.  In fact, it feels like a fun indulgence, the kind of midlevel popcorn movie that genre fans rarely get to see in theaters anymore today.  If you’re nostalgic for the days when rampaging robots ruled the box office with R-rated verve, Eve Of Destruction offers a female-friendly way to relive it.

Blu-Ray Notes: Scream Factory brought this title to blu-ray in the U.S. in a solid little “catalog title”-style release.  The high-def transfer retains the appropriate celluloid look for the film while offering a nice boost in color and detail levels.  The soundtrack sticks to the original 2.0 stereo mix, presented in a lossless form, and it does well with the percussive musical score and frequent blasts of gunfire.  It’s light on extras (just a trailer) but it’s a worthy upgrade for fans.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.