Some movies are about how much people love certain genres of movies. Turbo Kid is that kind of movie. The kind of movie the filmmakers of Turbo Kid love aren’t the movies you might expect. They love the low-budget, campy, kid-centric, post-apocalyptic action movies of the 80s. See BMX Bandits, Robot Jox, and The NeverEnding Story for example. These movies are basically live-action cartoons, and Turbo Kid is no exception.
The year is 1997, it is the future, and the apocalypse has already happened just as in the 1980s, 1997 was the future and the apocalypse frequently happened in movies. A kid survives on his own by selling the stuff he digs up in junkyards in exchange for society’s currency, water. He’s alone until his meets a girl who needs a friend, and they get caught up in a villain’s plot to control and create more water in a nefarious way. Since civilization ended in the 80s, all the costumes and props are from the 80s. The soundtrack is a synth-heavy pop opera. There’s a girl called Laurence Leboeuf who’s rather good. Turbo Kid is a lot of retro fun.
The film is also insanely violent and gory. At the post-screening Q&A, the film’s director said they used 90 gallons of fake blood. A man’s entrails are pulled out by an exercise bike at one point. Multiple heads are sliced in half. Turbo Kid is gruesome. Remember, this is a live-action cartoon, and cartoons can be pretty violent. If Jerry hit Tom’s head with a sledge hammer in real life, blood would splatter. In Turbo Kid, so much blood splatters I felt like I was going to get some on me. Imagine Sam Raimi teamed up with James Cameron to make a Mega Man movie for a buck twenty-five. That’s Turbo Kid.
This kind of movie-love is contagious. I didn’t grow up watching the films Turbo Kid’s filmmakers love, but Turbo Kid made me wish I did. Theirs is an exuberant nostalgia. Nostalgia sometimes makes people stagnate. They don’t want to move on from the “good times” they knew, but there’s nothing wrong with the kind of nostalgia that inspires people to create something new like Turbo Kid. “This is great! There should be more of this!” is the essence of loving, responsive creation. Maybe we could do without the gore, but that’s really a matter of taste.