Mystery Science Theater 3000 returns on Netflix with The Gauntlet, a new brand of torture for Jonah, Crow, and Tom Servo, a binge of six awful movies to stretch their insanity to its limits. It arrives on the 30th anniversary of the series and has the extra meta challenge of testing if the audience, too, can survive the binge. The movie choices are bizarre, with some downright hysterical picks, and are another set of great entries in the comedy series. Jonah Ray stars as Jonah Heston, with Hampton Yount as Crow and Baron Vaughn as Tom Servo, and their lead torturers, Kinga (Felicia Day) and Max (Patton Oswalt), return for more experiments and idea exchanges.
It’s a season of ripoffs, each movie aping off the success of another. The season starts strong with Mac and Me, a fever dream E.T. ripoff with terrifying aliens and product placement galore. There’s so much to riff off of, and there isn’t a moment wasted. Atlantic Rim, too, allows for so many glorious jokes in both the commentary and the completely weird tone, bizarre performances, and rarely showing anything due to budget constraints. Lords of the Deep in the third episode is a severely punishing watch, taking its sweet, sweet time to get to any point it’s making. The movie is full of filler and unfortunate low-budget fare to the point where it’s so dull even the jokes have difficulty landing. But once the third act kicks in, the crew manages to salvage things with some fun commentary on the silliness unfolding. Crow sums it all up nicely at the end, though: “That was brutal.”
The Day Time Ended is such a strange movie, leading to some of the best comedy fodder for the season. Windows getting looked out of, horse fodder, weird little creatures; it has so much madness in it and provides for some spectacular comedy. Killer Fish is just as silly as the name implies, a Lee Majors-starring film about piranhas and heists and easily avoidable deaths. Ator, The Fighting Eagle is a Conan the Barbarian clone with some dull, monotonous fights and some silly moments, the jokes from the crew the only real upside to the movie’s runtime. Fun fact for fans: Cave Dwellers, a previous episode, is a sequel to Ator!
The little sketches in between movie segments are fun; some jab at the current situation in the movie at hand while others are full on musical numbers and pieces of an overall narrative playing out. There’s also some surprises for MST3K fans, little nods sure to be welcome. Ray, Yount, and Vaughn are at the top of their games with the running movie commentaries, always entertaining even when the jokes aren’t as heavy-hitting. There were some calls for the jokes to breathe in The Return, the previous season, and here it is fine-tuned and less of an issue.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Gauntlet is an excellent addition to the long-running series, the movies mostly being hits with the comedy consistently delivering. For fans, this is another solid entry; for newcomers, it’s a great place to jump on in (though you’ve missed some incredible stuff, go catch up!).
Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Gauntlet arrives on Netflix on November 22nd. All six episodes were provided for review.