Part of the charm with old things is that you can like them for what they tried to be. They can have quite understandable and sympathetic reasons for falling short. We have a certain acceptance for man-in-a-rubbersuit effects.
What makes Moontrap (1989) work for me is the concept... ancient temples, battlegrounds and robots on the moon. There are elements of hard-sci-fi in there, such as space-shuttles and space-beaurocracy, which lends credence to the fantastic parts. Perhaps Alien/Aliens also anchored themselves this way.
The designs of the Kaalium robots, ancient space suits, and moon/temple sets all work well. I think this is the type of movie which gained some form of permanent residence in the head of those who saw it. The plot moves a bit slow sometimes (and sometimes skip logistics) but its spirit and certain scenes are what sticks in the end.
Movie still. I think these guys are up there with Aliens, Predators, Terminators. Just need a little work. The head stuff is great but making large animated robot bodies on a low budget is obviously difficult. There's no Prometheus crater on the moon, or any matching constellation of craters. Because the moon is tidally locked Earth will hang in the sky, only wobbling a little. If Earth is close to the horizon then the crater must be somewhere near the rim. At first I thought the crater might be on the dark side but that would mean missing out on fancy Earth shots.
Locations and props. Suits intimately inspired Planet of the Vampires (Undead, rather). Prop & model making might be a bit easier nowadays with 3D printers, though that leads to a more controlled sometimes artificial look. Might be hard to show actors walking about in moon gravity, but it could be solved by having scenes with them seated, standing, exercising using elastic bands holding them in place, etc. Unsure if slomo of quick jerky movements would work for running.
I think I'd go for concrete grey over clean white for exteriors & interiors. Makes sense if the base was made from lunar concrete. Probably no big windows, which helps location effects-wise.
Topol...? Like the missile? Your parents named you after a intercontinental ballistic missile?
... The missile... is named... after me.
More exotic Kaalium redesigns. Key features are the rugby ball heads, mandibles, visor eye, skeletal theme. I'm thinking the muscles are not corpses (which would operate poorly on the moon), but some kind of synthetic fibres. They decorate themselves with body parts but do use heads/brains for extra processing and crude intel.
New Tech. Added a staff as reference to Stargate (which might be loosely connected to Moontrap). Bladed weapons aren't going to be useful against robots, unless it's fancy space blades. Short gun for close quarter (corridor) fighting. It handles like a semiautomatic shotgun, slow and deliberate with large cal penetrating FMJ rounds. SG uses the P90 but it's a bit generic brapapapa. The shield is some sort of electro-deflector.
The crew was actually prepared & equipped to fight the Kaalium models that they knew about from the crashed derelict ship. However, this didn't include the larger models which have more powerful weapons and thicker armour.
These are mostly ideas for places and events, inspired by Alien/Aliens and maybe Moon.
Because corporate America type plots have been done, I'm thinking that the Soviets recovered the ship from the intro (1990?) (surviving pieces fell into the Kara Sea, out of reach to Americans). The salvaged technology was monopolised, completely transforming sectors like energy, propulsion, construction and computing. The Russian Confederacy emerged - a Corporatocracy, Plutocracy and Theocracy, all in one!
Meanwhile the USA, its economy in tatters, was pushed to the sidelines, actively sabotaged by the RC as it bought up collapsing properties, siphoning away resources. Finding themselves at the whims of Russian capitalism and lacking strength to abrogate, the Americans implemented new economical policies, nationalising what they could, ending much of private ownership. Through sheer will, blood and guts they have recovered, and now even run small scale mining operations on the moon.
The Russian Confederacy was long kept in the dark by the Americans regarding the origins of the ancient ship. After many probes and exploration vehicles the Russian Confederacy eventually discover ruins on the moon and quickly erects a base/habitat using automated construction vehicles.
This type of lore should not be covered by an intro exposition. Conversation between crew who opine is more effective, as we get to know them & lore at the same time.
The Company name could be something like Rabotayet Zvezda but it translates to Running Star (as in runs/operates) rather than Star Works. I need it as a noun... Zavod Zvezda? "Workers" in the name won't fit with the political swap-aroo. I liked Rabotayet Zvezda as it sounds very Russian and also like Robot Welding in Swedish. Zvezdnaya Robototekhnika? Buynaya Zvezda? Zhestokaya Zvezda? Groznaya Zvezda?
Logo ideas. It's self-focused and ominous. I like the idea of a star, radiating, gravitating, capturing. Maybe something brutalist like F or M. Also thinking about the Roman aquila and Wayland forms. Could probably use several logos for various divisions / subsidiaries.
Eye of Sauron / Central spider designs. >I< is slang for butt but maybe it goes with the story tone.
Logo B has an abstract, unfeeling "bureau" vibe (Life asset Replacement bureau?).
• 202X. A shuttle of the Russian Confederacy is heading for the moon carrying a dozen or so people. A lion (important) character pats a bulkhead and praises the mighty Company which built it. This is clearly some sort of alternative future as we do not have any fancy shuttles or moonbases.
• The shuttle Tintin-style lands at a moonbase which was prebuilt by robotic construction vehicles (wheeled or clumsy quads with legs). The base has been awaiting its crew. An additional crew member was onboard, but kept in a sarcophagus with hush hush surrounding it. Inside is a... humanoid robot, maybe the first of its kind, but it’a not quite finished. Among the cargo was also a large moon rover and engineers are put to work assembling it, surprised that it's armed. There's some paranoia about an American mining outpost nearby which was crewed just weeks before.
• Superficially relations are good. The American mining base calls in over noisy video, welcoming the crew in a rather stiff and strange manner, but perhaps it can be attributed to the language barrier (attempting to speak Russian). It seems like they're having some problems with their transmission antennas but otherwise all is good. Getting replacement parts on their next shuttle.
• A week passes as the crew is settling in. Some brought personal stuff, maybe even furniture (has to be assembled) and paint for their quarters. Panty shots!
• In a briefing room inside the moonbase, the robot (immobile in its sarcophagus standing like an alcove) tells the crew their top-secret mission as not all were aware of it. Several of the human crew are marines. Some are scientists and experts in various fields. Their mission is not only to man the moon base, but also to investigate some ancient ruins and retrieve any technology they can find. Much surprise about this revelation. Apparently the encounter with the Kaalium in Moontrap I was not made public. In the early '90s the young Company salvaged a ship which fell into the ocean (shaky VHS video) (and also captured the Kaalium from the junkyard?). The Company became very successful by reverse engineering (and monopolising) any tech they could salvage. It now controls parts of the government by means of regulatory capture and bribery. Foreign meddling and espionage is a looming problem but so far only scraps of tech have leaked out. Other governments can only rent tech under strict supervision (Access Control Systems). What would happen ancient tech were to fall into the hands of foreign powers and competitors?
• Some more character development and interpersonal drama in a cafeteria. On TV in the background a presenter says something about a freak hurricane that moved in over a drought-stricken country. Devastation. Looks like no shortage of water now though. Then some news about Company's interstellar race with the Americans. The president (Rev. "Mammona Khristos" or something cheesy) had this to say about it: *starts speaking in tongues*. No one pays it any attention - it's normalised background noise. Vote safe with Alteria Homepod. Alteria (Ulterion?) - a subsidiary of Company - Tech you can trust. Next up: Oy moi yaytsa, season 2.
• The American mining base calls in, asking suspect questions about crew count and inventory (especially ship power cores). Caller is looking pale and abruptly ends call/conversation when getting counter questions as reply.
• A team is assembled and moves into the ancient ruins, marines in front. All clear. Signs of a battle long ago. Explorers find interesting things, like glyphs, artefacts, bones, and a robotic head similar to the robot crewman.
• Once back, during the debriefing, one of the explorers (actually MC) asks robot crewman about the head and finds out that the robot crewman (both brain and body) was partially based on the ancient tech, but that's nothing to worry about. It's still immobile because it's missing some component which might be found on the moon (a priority task).
• Days pass and exploration of the ruins continue. Some vague answers as to why there were humans (?) on the moon 14000 years ago. Atlantians? Where did the Kaalium come from? (...The Kaliam galaxy?) Why did the Earthlings revert to the stone age? These questions perhaps shouldn't be answered clearly. Instead various theories could be put forth.
• There's a reason to call up the American mining base. The person responding is looking deceased and accidentally reveals that the face/head is just attached to some sort of cyborg body, hooks tearing into the flesh. It's recycling phrases from before. "No problem here." "How many are you?" "Goodbye."
• The crew considers investigating, but first contacts the American government... which admits they've been having "communication issues" even though their repair kits should have arrived. Yeah... they might've found "something" but seem unwilling to share. They probably suspected the Company had some kind of advantage like this over them.
• An agreement is made and a team of marines + driver is sent over from moon base to the American base (62km), using the armed rover. Meanwhile, the crew is also starting to distrust robot crewman.
• Signs of battle in the American mining base, but no bodies. In a HQ room a dead man falls out of a locker, still clutching an axe tightly. On the body of this com officer a video recorder is found. The marines watch a video (narrated for posterity) showing the Kaalium in action for the first time. The Americans came across Kaalium eggs/heads in a lava tube, brought them back to base. Next day they were gone from the "secure" lab/storage and then BRAPAPA ZAP ZAP - 40 people dead.
• The marines are initially successful in fighting some smaller Kaalium models, but are nearly wiped out when the large ones show up. One of the lions insist they bring an intact larger head back as that was one of the primary mission goals. They have a special heavy armoured container for it. Retreating, they spot a row of rather large strange ships hidden in a lava tube. Back at base the crew observes as the rover makes its getaway.
• Some time passes. Robot crewman is not popular right now as the crew grasp its origins. The rover eventually returns, and docks. Lion appears in the door, but it's his corpse which is tossed out, revealing the Kaalium, some ornate with bodyparts of the marines. The base com-mast is blown up first thing.
• Meanwhile, an engineer has been finishing up robot crewman because they need it to activate a macguffin to escape the now deteriorating, infested moon base. MC speculates the Kaalium need power cores for their ships, which might be transports for an invasion force. Robot crewman seen behind finally gains mobility, revealing its purpose:
• A: It's Kaalium at heart, but is also controlling the Company using its powerful AI to invade various systems. Someone had found out and partially managed to disable it. Now, fully functional, it will help its brethren to invade Earth. MC and robot have a boss battle. MC escapes on shuttle.
• B: Surprise! It's actually a good guy for some reason, fighting alongside MC until the end. It stays behind on the moon, attempting to reprogram/fight the Kaalium whilst MC returns to Earth with a warning. Did something sneak aboard the shuttle?
• The power cores are detonated remotely, taking out some Kaalium and preventing their escape/invasion. Panty shot. The End.
It was said that the first ship encountered would burn up in the atmosphere. I think this was just an assumption. It likely had some advanced hull-plating. I also think it belonged to humans (or aliens) as it's architecturally different. Modern humans, and/or the captured Kaalium were able to somehow figure out it was launched from Prometheus Crater (the cryo chamber) on the moon even though it had been adrift for 14K years. It's unclear who is doing the little reconstruction sequence.
What was the ship's errand? It could have come from a third race of aliens visiting the solar system. It arrives as a derelict, and the moon people bring it down for inspection in the crater. It's decided that the ship should be sent to Earth base for further inspection but at this point the Kaalium who had killed the alien crew then hidden have infested both the ship and moon base. After a noble sacrifice the ship is disabled. This third race derelict situation would parallel Alien.
It's unclear how (in Moontrap) the NASA guards were unable to damage the first Kaalium built from Earth tech scraps, but had much less problem killing the large ones on the moon which were likely built from more advanced stuff. It was the special moon UZIs I guess, or those particular Kaalium were degraded.
What happened to the two survivors? How much did they reveal, and to whom? For my story it works better if they revealed very little, so maybe they went after that Kaalium head that fell into the junkyard and the three of them blew up. Killing off old protags is bad taste though. They... mysteriously went missing.
How did the Russians manage to keep technology pretty much to themselves and out of American hands? Well, looking at history there are many cases were countries are decades behind in the technology game. Couple this with political and economical sabotage/predation, hacking, spying and assassinations, and very advanced anti-tampering features. Perhaps the Americans only managed to advance 15 years from 1990 to 2020, whilst the Russians have alien AI and dominates energy, manufacturing, mining, transportation, etc.
Was the Prometheus Crater temple site explored further by the Americans? Maybe... but perhaps it just had that cryo chamber. The Kaalium might've looted and stripped out the place after it was opened.
What exactly do the Kaalium need that can't be found on the moon? Not sure. There are certain elements I suppose. Must be kind of hard to do manufacturing from scratch on the moon and the Kaalium might be scavengers when they lack proper resources and facilities.
Have the Russians (now culturally Americans/Colonials) conquered the world? Maybe just some old thorns like Finland, Ukraine, etc. I think they're more about building remote bases (for "peace-keeping") using pressure to make sure they get certain resources and remain unchallenged.
Why did it take the Russians 30 years to find a tech site on the moon? Maybe they assumed the ship had come from space? The moon might not be the first suspect because it's gray and dead. The ruins and temples could be quite hidden in crater walls and lava tubes.