ROBOT JOX (1990)
Robot Jox is another little movie that has developed a bit of a following thought, I can’t fathom why. Produced by schlockmeister Charles Band, whose work also has a cult following, especially his Full Moon killer doll productions, and while I do like some of his stuff, I find most of it badly made and really cheap looking. His productions look far cheaper then they actually cost and Robot Jox is no different. Made for anywhere between $6.5 to $10 million, depending on what you read, this epic of battling robots and their pilots looks like a bad episode of the infamous 80s Buck Rodgers TV show complete with hokey, minimally dressed plastic sets and shiny spandex costumes. Robot Jox is set in a future where differences are now settled by gladitorial combat by giant robots piloted by specially trained and now genetically engineered pilots. The Western Market’s best pilot, naturally born Achilles (Gary Graham) is set to go up against The Confederation’s homicidal pilot Alexander (an awful Paul Koslo) and when the two meet, the battle goes awry. Alexander cheats and Achilles and his fighting machine land on a stand full of spectators, killing hundreds. Which makes one question why unprotected spectators are in the vicinity of gigantic fighting robots anyway. The match ruled a draw, Achilles refuses to fight Alexander again to determine a winner but, has second thoughts when he is replaced by a beautiful, young, genetically engineered pilot, Athena (Anne-Marie Johnson). Now Achilles must overcome his guilt and trauma from all those unnecessary deaths and stop the woman he’s fallen in love with from fighting an opponent she’s not ready for and face that same opponent again himself. As stated, Robot Jox plays and looks like an episode of some silly 80s Sci-Fi TV show and since it was actually filmed in 1987 but, delayed by Band’s Empire Pictures going bankrupt, the comparison aptly fits. The story is routine and cliche’, the dramatics are TV show level and the acting is bland with only Graham giving it a good try in contrast to the overacting Koslo, who is annoying and awful as Alexander. Even script writer, sci-fi author Joe Haldeman clashed with Director Stuart Gordon over his constant dumbing down of the script. And as for Gordon, the man who brought us the gory and giddy classic, The Re-Animator and the cult classic From Beyond, he directs this with little of the energy or devious fun of either of those movies and we get a flat and very by-the-numbers movie with a ridiculously sappy ending. The film was his idea yet he directs like he doesn’t want to be there. But, we come to a movie like this for the robots and underrated SPFX creator David Allen does provide some nice FX especially with the stop-motion animated robots but, despite the quality of his work, the sequences are few and far between and are far too short and slow paced to wow us or really make up for all the cheesy drama and bad dialog. These robots are big, ponderous and slow and it paces the battles as such. The lackadaisical editing doesn’t help either. The film is slow even at only around 85 minutes and it seems like a lot longer. If you’re a fan of Robot Jox, fine, I respect that everyone has their guilty pleasures and if there is anyone out there who is guilty of having guilty pleasures, it’s me. But, despite enjoying Dave Allen’s FX work, which looks better then anything else on this cheap looking movie, (where did the money go? Roger Corman movies like Galaxy Of Terror cost 1/3 as much and look so much better.) I find very little else to recommend it for other then to Charles Band fans or if you have just seen Pacific Rim (review here) and want to giggle over some of the similarities… and there are a few amusing ones. I was disappointed in 1990 when I saw this and it hasn’t gotten any better with the added nostalgia.
If you like Band’s stuff, check out Laserblast, a far more fun flick (for all the wrong reasons) with more of David Allen’s underrated stop-motion animation!
2 crashing and burning robot gladiators!