Puppet Master: Axis Rising (2012)

Puppet Master: Axis Rising


Danny Coogan and his girlfriend Beth may have won the battle, but the war is still far from over. Danny and the puppets have managed to thwart the planned bombing at the munitions plant, but after the ensuing scuffle, Tunneler gets whisked away by Nazi Kommandant Moebius. Some time ago, Moebius kidnapped Dr. Freuhoffer, a brilliant Austrian doctor with a penchant for doll making, and has been trying to force him to make a device that will reanimate the dead. Freuhoffer has come close to Mobius’ goal, but so far he’s had trouble deciphering the occult texts he’s been given explaining the process, and all of his experiments have ended in utter failure. But now that he has Tunneler, and thus access to the formula which animates him, he’s sure he’s on the right track. The only problem is, that he doesn’t have nearly enough of the formula to animate a human…. at least not yet. So while he’s busy trying to synthesize Toulon’s chemical compound, he uses what little is left of the formula he has at his disposal to animate four new puppets: Bombshell, Weremacht, Blitzkrieg and Kamikaze. Their first field test is to try to assassinate high-ranking US General Porter, but Danny and company manage to thwart them. So now it’s up to Danny, Beth and the remaining Toulon puppets to track the Nazi’s back to their lair and stop them, before Moebius’ planned ‘resurrection serum’ ever sees the light of day.


But even without intervention, something tells me it won’t be much of a threat.

Did any of that plot make sense? I hope so, because after a decent start to the ‘trilogy’ the plot is obviously starting to get all convoluted again, and I know it can get confusing. So that already doesn’t bode well. But if it doesn’t, don’t blame me, blame Full Moon. Or perhaps more accurately, blame Charles Band, because he not only produced, but also directed this film (and the next one), and after seeing his work, all I can say is that I’m already missing David DeCoteau something fierce. I may have to put up with an unusually high number of crotch shots and guys walking around in their underwear in most of his films, but at least he can generally make the movie look nice and pull out some decent performances from his low-budget actors. Those particular skills…. do not seem to be Band’s forte.


I’m not very good, what can I say?

Made only two years after the last film, the three returning characters have all been re-cast, and not for the better…. Well, scratch that. The actress who plays Ozu was actually pretty good and maybe even better than the previous one, thanks to her not being portrayed in as quite a cheesy manner as she was in the first film (not to mention also having Japanese ancestry this time around). So, small props for that, I suppose. EVERYONE ELSE on the other hand, went in the complete opposite direction. Danny and Beth are acting a LOT dopier this time around, with a quarter of Beth’s screen-time seemingly being taken up by nothing but exaggerated reaction shots. The new actors also look NOTHING like their previous counterparts. It seems that some time between their run from the Nazi hideout back to the Coogan home, they both managed to swing by the barbershop and hairdresser, because Danny’s suddenly sporting a new buzz-cut, and Beth’s hair has been dyed (a very attractive shade of) red. So they’re forced to spend a lot of their earlier screen time ‘casually’ dropping each other’s names, so you don’t forget that these two completely new faces are actually supposed to be characters from the last film.

In addition to this wonky new duo, the protagonists are also joined by Sgt. Stone, the gruff, cranky war veteran who isn’t at all happy with his new assignment babysitting a couple of kids, let alone finding out about their tiny little army of puppets that he now has to work with. He’s probably the most competent actor in the film who’s on screen for more than 10 seconds, and he really does a pretty bang-up job in his role, as he once served in the army and had ample inspiration for his character. But he still occasionally feels like a poor man’s R. Lee Ermy, so make of that what you will.


At least Beth’s hair looks really nice though…

And the Nazi’s have gone from a group that poses a serious threat to basically exaggerated caricatures of themselves. They deliver cheesy monologues, they laugh at their own jokes…it’s a complete 180 from the absolute seriousness portrayed in the last film. Like they don’t really know what real evil is, so they’re trying way too hard to be evil and they just end up looking like complete idiots instead. It almost feels like some kind of character assassination, like they’re all only two minor steps away from being turned into some kind of cartoon villains. Or maybe someone off the FX show Archer (Have you watched that? Good show….). Except even that doesn’t seem quite right, because even on that show at least the bad guys are competent at being bad guys. So yeah, the acting took a dive in this film, and it really sucks.



On the bright side of the waka-do plot and the cheesed-up acting, the puppets actually managed to look a bit better this time around. Most of their movements are still little more than the herky-jerky, wibbly-wobbly motions of a 7-year-old playing with their toys, or just close-ups of the puppets slowly turning their head. But there are also a couple of brief (and I mean incredibly brief) moments where it looks like they were actually animated. The footage probably only consists of a few scant seconds total, and what they animated was very minimal, but hey, even if it’s only five seconds, that’s still at least a marginal improvement from a lot of these later films in the series.

Oh, and Six Shooter is back with his newly designed head, which doesn’t actually look too bad. It’s just unfortunate that he really doesn’t get to do as much as the movie proclaims, despite the film’s insistence that his inclusion is some kind of big help. It’s really not, and they probably could have pulled off the ending without him, but it’s still nice to see him again after having to put up with that weird looking Ninja puppet from that last film that we’re likely never going to see again, so I guess I’ll be nice and let the movie play pretend.


But I do like his new little black outfit.

The film also sports four new puppets in this outing, and they run the gamut from “Pretty Cool”, to “Really Cheesy”, to “OMG, What the HELL Were They Thinking?!”. The first new one is Bombshell, who resembles a miniature Nazi female officer seen in the movie (though it’s unclear if it has her soul or not…), wearing a metal bra. Under the bra are two mini gun turrets that she gleefully uses to mow down enemies. That’s definitely not the way I’d choose to go, but I’m sure some dudes out there would find that kinky. Then we’re later introduced to the three other puppets. Weremacht, which is just a werewolf wearing a Nazi uniform. I’m not really sure what significance a werewolf would hold to the Nazi’s other than maybe looking kinda cool, but there he is. Then there’s Blitzkrieg, who has a robot-like upper body, complete with gas mask, helmet and gun turrets for hands, and a Panzer tank lower body. Blitzkrieg is pretty neat, and I kinda like him. He’s basically a really pimped-out RC car, so he lucks out and gets the most genuine movement of all the puppets in the entire film. Good for him, I say.


But then the film trips over itself and gives us Kamikaze, a jumpsuit wearing, walking, talking (yes he talks) racist Japanese stereotype carrying a bomb on his back. His design is actually based on some of the Japanese themed propaganda posters from WWII, so in that sense I’ll give Full Moon and company credit for being far more time-frame and historically accurate than they usually are in any of their films. Cause hell, it’s not like the Nazi’s were known for their racial sensitivity…. But good god, is this thing cringy. And it doesn’t help that all he does is stand around and threaten to blow himself up and take everyone with him until he…actually blows himself up and takes everyone with him. Good job, dude. That’s not horribly lame at all. But what makes him worse, is that his inclusion and namesake once again muddles the series’ internal timeline. By Full Moon’s own account, these three movies are supposed to all take place either in 1941 after Toulon died and the US entered the war or, at the latest, some time in early 1942, and the Kamikaze pilots didn’t start their attacks until late 1944. So either Dr. Freuhoffer has the unspoken power to see into the future, or Charles Band and company really need to pull out a history book, sketch out a basic timeline and get their shit together.


I vote for the latter.

So Puppet Master: Axis Rising ends up being just a tish worse than the last film. It looks worse, the acting is WAY cheesier, and some of the plot threads are…just bizarre, even by this series’ standards. But on the bright side, the pacing is better, we get some new interesting puppets to look at and some improved movements, and some of the side characters are pretty entertaining. But even with its issues I’d still put the movie somewhere in the mid-tier of the rest of the series, which is still pretty decent for these films. But don’t mistake that in any way for being considered “good”. I’d never call any of these good. Heaven forbid. They’re just sufficient time-wasters at this point. Which is fine for low-budget horror movie fans…. assuming of course that you have really low standards.

Puppet Master: Axis Rising is available on a variety of streaming services.

Puppet Master: Axis Rising is also available on DVD and Bluray.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s