Puppet Master – Axis of Evil (2010)
I’m not a carpenter. I would never claim to be one, or presume to tell one how they should do their job. But there’s a problem. During the opening scene to Puppet Master: Axis of Evil, we learn that the young boy constructing wooden chairs is Danny (Levi Fiehler), and that his uncle needs said chairs completed before a reception scheduled for the next day. Again, I’m no expert on either woodworking or marriage planning, but isn’t this a little last minute? Sure, I can see picking up extra napkins the day before, choosing which flavor of Kool Aid to serve the little ones, but building chairs?
I’d want my deposit refunded on principle. The same way I’m guessing I’ll want my free time refunded by Charles Band once this feature is over.
(Kudos to Charles for finally jumping onboard the computer animation bandwagon and actually updating Full Moon’s logo presentation! It’s about time!)
I hate to say that the tenth time is a charm, but this might be the most professional Puppet Master of them all. (At least until I see the sequel.) It’s amazing what happens when you base your story around interesting characters, instead of around stories about said characters.
Danny is our protagonist here, apparently crippled, so he can’t enlist, so he instead finds Toulon’s puppets after Toulon is murdered by the Nazis in the original Puppet Master. That’s all you need to know about Toulon and his automated blocks of wood. Everything else focuses on Danny and his fight against the Nazis, instead of magicians running from Egyptian demons. No one wants the secret to animated small puppets, they want to win WWII.
it’s also amazing what a talented director (David DeCoteau) can do for a film. The light sources actually match up from shot to shot! Puppet Master: Axis of Evil looks like a real, legit, film. Even if its lead has the worst pretend limp ever. He does alright playing a socially inept nerd.
Oh, there’s also a new ninja puppet this time around, ‘cuz you can’t fight the Japs without a silly, one foot tall stereotype battling alongside you. Jester’s still dumb as hell though.
Full disclosure: I’m apparently a total Kraut sympathizer, as lead villain Maximillion (Tom Sandoval) is bad-ass. He’s pretending to be an American to infiltrate our glorious factory culture, and the first thing he complains about is our obsession with baseball! His criticism of how easy it is to pass for an American (i.e. just publicly badmouth the Krauts and Japs) still holds true today.
Sadly Max still falls victim to his baser needs. First he attempts and fails at hooking up with the local Japanese terrorists who have infiltrated Chinatown, so he then falls for Danny’s girlfriend, Beth (Jenna Gallagher). Which isn’t so strange in and of itself, except that Max is oblivious to Beth’s complete and utter distaste for him. Normally after a villain kidnaps their victim, they also accept that they and their prey will never be friends. No one ever explained that facet of behavior Max in officer training.
I know it seems strange to say this because I’m talking about puppets, but Tunneler looks noticeably older in this film. Either it was just a bad sculpt, or perhaps the look Full Moon was going for just didn’t work out, or giving him the look of a 40 year-old, doughy shoe salesman was purely intentional.
Danny’s All-American brother, Don (Taylor M. Graham), is murdered by the Nazis the night before he was scheduled to enlist. So naturally he’s reanimated in the body of Toulon’s new ninja puppet. A shame really, since Don might be the only jock character who was also actually human; showing a wide array of emotions instead of the usual self-centered dunderheaded-ness.
Ninja gets the last kill of the movie, offing Max, which makes sense even if it does sort of emasculate Danny in the process. You’d really think they’d push for Danny to rise up and be the hero once his heroic brother is out of the picture; rather than rely on his brother righting wrong from beyond the grave.
I guess the one saving grace from the sequence is that Ninja also dies, thus explaining why he’d never be seem again in the series.