Foreign knockoffs are usually too soft a target to give the Yakmala treatment. To qualify, there needs to be that ever-elusive Intent of Quality, the most ironclad rule in the Yakmala Doctrine. I will attempt to make that case for this week’s entry, the strangely present-tense title The Man Who Saves the World, also known by its bootleg nickname Turkish Star Wars.
I hope I have the strength.
More Accurate Tagline: The Scarecrow was only half right.
Guilty Party: Writer and star Cuneyt Arkin is a veteran of over three hundred films as writer, director, producer and actor. According to his IMDB page, he is also a medical doctor, which is good, because after watching this movie I need someone to remove the sections of my brain that remember the experience.
Synopsis: Who the fuck knows? Trying to figure out what happens in The Man Who Saves the World is like trying to solve the Jack the Ripper murders. Best case scenario, you’ve still got a bunch of disemboweled hookers on your hands.
Okay. The only way I’m going to make any sense of this is try to enter the mind of Cuneyt Arkin, which will require a trampoline, a badly translated Koran and a strong blow to the head. The worst part is that all that will make sense when this is over.
Horrible, sanity-raping sense.
It begins with a throbbing in my head. The theme song from the original Battlestar Galactica kicks in. Over footage from Star Wars, the film hurls its backstory at us like a hatchet made of kuru. I’ll try to sum it up. There was a star-spanning empire, but everyone reverted to a more primitive time. Also, earth blew up a couple times, but it’s still mostly okay, due mostly to the protective “coating which was formed by compressed human brain molecules.” A bad guy, known as the Wizard, really wants to destroy the earth, but can’t because he doesn’t have a brain.
Enter the film’s heroes, two true Turkish warriors, Murat and Ali who are, according to them, “crossing over the space speed.” No, I have no idea what this means. Standing in front of what I assume to be one of those banks of TVs at Best Buy while an endless loop of the Millennium Falcon going to Yavin and the Death Star trench run plays, Murat and Ali pretend to fly starships, or possibly they’re pooping while wearing helmets. It’s hard to say.
They crash on the Wizard’s homeworld, a planet that is a cross between an arid desert, Eli Roth’s Sesame Street, and a late-period Duran Duran video. The locals vary from oddly tubby skeletons, toilet paper mummies, some pots-and-pans robots, a few aggressive muppets and some British redcoats. For some reason, Murat is convinced that this might be an all-girl planet and remains optimistic about this despite the planet’s visible female population of two. He delivers these lines with frequent glances to Ali along with uncomfortable quips about Ali’s alleged hotness, so I think we all know what Murat really wants.
Murat and Ali get captured, thrown into an arena, escape, hook up with a group of rebels who are shortly massacred by the aforementioned toilet paper mummies, and escape with a woman and her little brother. The woman is supposed to be attractive, but she wears more makeup than a hooker that works the Gathering of the Juggalos. Inspired by the massacre, Murat and Ali do a training montage. This is apparently enough, so they go to the Turkish version of the Mos Eisley cantina scene, which is so depressing my eyes tried to kill themselves with booze and pills. The Wizard captures both Murat and Ali, so that training didn’t really help much, did it? Also, the Wizard gives Murat a new shirt with giant orange circles right over his nipples. I… I don’t know either.
The Wizard throws Murat into the arena, and this works about as well as you’d think. Murat defeats the monster mostly by jumping over him. Please stop, Murat. You look like an asshole. He breaks out, leaving Ali behind. Murat then learns that to defeat the Wizard, he needs a sword, a brain and Islam. Murat obtains all three things relatively easily, and wanders off to fight the Wizard. Unfortunately, Ali has become jealous (and justifiably pissed off that Murat abandoned him), and beats up Murat, taking the sword. Later, consumed with guilt, Ali runs off to do… something. He explodes. Okay then.
Murat then uses the sword to forge a pair of gauntlets and some gold boots from the Ziggy Stardust collection. Using his new weapons, he fights the bad guys while the Wizard maneuvers his nuclear superweapon in place to destroy the earth. Murat triumphs by karate chopping the Wizard in half. Lengthwise. This actually happens.
Murat leaves the planet to jump around like an asshole elsewhere.
Life-Changing Subtext: Jesus, fuck. I don’t know. Let’s go with the moral of the story, stated at the very end: “There can’t be a human without the world and there can’t be the world without human. Because human is the greatest value in the universe.” It’s true, you can get a whole pallet of human at CostCo for like six bucks.
Defining Quote: Trying to pick the most insane quote from The Man Who Saves the World is a little like trying to pick your favorite molecule from the crust of brains protecting the earth. Here’s a good one that combines the film’s shaky grasp of machismo, trademark Engrish with just a soupcon of what-the-fuck. Ali: “Those coming ones are too sour faced. It’d be nice of some chicks with mini skirts were coming.”
Yes, Ali. Yes it would.
Standout Performance: Amongst the various monsters the Wizard throws at our hero, there is one that looks like a giant, clawed Elmo with enormous handlebar mustache. He is El Mo, the southern cousin of the famous muppet, and he is here to fuck your couch.
What’s Wrong: Let me put it this way: the most common sentence in my notes was “What the fuck is happening?”
Flash of Competence: The score is excellent. This is because it’s mostly the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Not even disguised with Turkish instruments (whatever those might be). It’s straight up stolen. But in Turkish Star Wars, anything that doesn’t give you visions of the time when dread R’lyeh rises about the waves, is a win.
Best Scenes: When Murat and Ali arrive on the planet, my favorite exchange takes place (this would be the defining quote, but I had to save it for best scenes. This underscores how incredibly arbitrary the categories are. It’s almost like I’m just making this shit up as I go.) Murat, totally convinced that they’ve wound up on a planet with nothing but women asks Ali to “do that world-famous whistle that no woman can resist.” What? Do Turks think women respond like dogs? Ali obliges, but he doesn’t get women.
I’ll let Murat explain: “You whistled wrong. Instead of women, skeletons came.” Does… does this happen in Turkey?
During the first arena battle, Murat and Ali are tied up. They have to watch the injustices going on to really get inspired to actually do something. Amongst the various robots, monsters and… Turks, I guess, attacking villagers, there’s a robot throttling a kid. And he’s really strangling him. Shaking him, lifting him off the ground. And here’s the thing… I think he’s really lifting the kid up by the neck. I’m pretty sure that kid didn’t survive. And the movie keeps cutting back to him. Like, hey, remember this? Kid getting strangled. And it cuts back to Murat, who has to glower at this for a long ass time before he decides to, you know, save a child from being murdered. Maybe the kid was Armenian?
After our heroes escape the clutches of the dread toilet paper mummies, they decide to train. This mostly consists of punching rocks and jumping around. Eventually, they learn to punch rocks so hard they explode. In the final battle, Murat uses this power to tear the heads off mummies and throw them at other mummies and the fucking heads explode like bombs. Which, I admit, is awesome.
Transcendent Moment: This is the moment where The Man Who Saves the World enters the Yakmala pantheon like the insistent fist of a newly minted proctologist. In the synopsis, I casually mentioned Islam. That wasn’t a tossed off bit of xenophobia. I was serious. Murat finds a shrine that broke off from the world a thousand years ago. Here he learns that Islam is the sign of civilization. Not one of the signs, along with, say, medicine, education, roads, and laws against child-throttling robots. No. Islam is THE sign. Islam is the defender of all religions (yep, that’s chiefly what Islam is known for) and the bad guys are only evil because they’ve gotten away from their religion.
Yes. In the middle of a light space opera, we have an earnest entreaty for the righteousness of Islam. This is where we see the beating heart of writer and star Cuneyt Arkin. He sincerely wants us to understand that without his faith, we are doomed to a life without brains. This is what Star Wars was missing.
The Man Who Saves the World is tremendous upon first viewing, painful upon the second, and by the third, you forget a time when you had not seen it. You forget that bright world that made sense, where the skies were blue and random whistles didn’t attract portly skeletons. It fills you with optimism to know that all a man needs is a sword and a brain and he can do anything.
I’m gonna go jump over some fools.