Story: Danny (Kip Canyon) was able to stave off a Nazi attack thanks to the help of his supernatural puppet friends, but while the battle is won, the war is another issue. The Germans have taken one of Toulon’s puppets, Tunneler, and plan to investigate the mysterious creations in order to craft their own reanimation process. After all, if puppets can turn the tide of a battle, imagine what reanimated humans can do. But the experiments on humans have proven to be a failure, even with the newly sampled green goo from Toulon’s puppet. As Danny and the others work to rescue Tunneler, the Nazis manage to use the serum in a successful bid for reanimation, crafting their own puppets to carry out the violence they envision. Now the Nazis are armed with powerful puppets, but can Danny and Toulon’s minions manage to overcome the odds and thwart this insidious plot?
Entertainment Value: This second installment in the “Axis” trilogy makes some casting shifts and takes a more violent approach, both of which were wise decisions. The result is a step in the right direction, but the shifts made weren’t bold enough and the movie ends up a minor improvement, but still a less than satisfying sequel. The narrative picks up where Axis of Evil left off and takes a fun path following the German quest for reanimation, which includes the new puppets. That was a good choice and I wish the movie would have committed to the puppets being the focus, but once again, the series opts for the dull human stories instead. The story is watchable, but slow and forgettable, especially when you have these bad ass puppets just waiting to be unleashed. The human cast doesn’t do a lot to stand out or make the material shine, but Brad Potts grasps the b movie appeal and dials up his performance. If the writers and other cast members had Potts’ approach, Puppet Master: Axis Rising would have been so much more fun to watch.
As fun as Brad Potts can be as Sarge here, even he should have taken a backseat to the real stars of this franchise, the puppets themselves. Especially in this movie, where you not only have all of Toulon’s original creations, but the new puppets crafted by the Germans. Bombshell is a seductress with chest mounted firearms, which are used often when she is set loose and makes for a fun visual, while Weremacht is a werewolf that attacks with feral verocity. Blitzkrieg is a heavily armored and heavily armed tank that can really uncork some damage, while Kamikaze is…well, the less said about the poor design choices on this puppet, the better. Between the German puppets and Toulon’s creations, Axis Rising has so much potential, but it refuses to center the puppets. When the movie lets them loose, it is fun to watch and when the humans take over the focus, the movie grinds and sinks. Not as badly as Axis of Evil, but close and is only saved because of the increased puppet presence. So Axis Rising does improve upon the previous sequel, but only by a minor amount.