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Tuesday, 25 December 2012

ROBOT JOX (1989)


Robot Jox, for all of its failings (mainly budget related), has a very special place in the hearts of a lot of genre film addicts. It has a charm to it which is hard to beat, and the makers of the film strived to bring an epic film to the screen with a tiny budget and actually pulled it off.

Directed by Stuart Gordon (yeah, THAT Stuart Gordon!), Robot Jox tells of a world in which war between humans is outlawed, and thus disputes are cleared up via giant robots (piloted by humans) beating the crap out of each other. Based originally on a story from SF legend Joe Haldeman, it's the sort of pulpy, fun, exciting romp of a sci-fi movie which just doesn't get made any more.

Sure, the robots, the models and stop motion animation used in the battle scenes look cheesy, but it works in the context of the film itself. The key to the look of Robot Jox, and its success of execution in terms of production, is the sterling editing job which cuts the live action seamlessly with stop-motion and model shots into one fluid sequence which is still very exciting if not all that convincing.

Robot Jox was one of the films that everyone would be desperate to say they had seen. Giant Robots and cartoonish violence are, after all, very appealing to kids. We would make up scenes that weren't even in the film, just to sound like we'd seen it, using only what we'd seen on the cover and in the cover blurb as the basis for our wild claims.

Kids of today would despise it, as it's very much of its time, but that won't stop legions of balding old farts like me loving the hell out of it, along with anyone else who can appreciate genre cinema of any level.

Clad in brightly coloured costumes, the assembled cast must play out a politically-themed plot in-between the scenes of robot based mayhem, making them look remarkably like middle-aged Power Rangers. But really, who gave a damn about the plot of this film? Most viewers were there for the robots and the robots alone, and in the scenes of mechanical carnage, there's nothing onscreen but pure, golden entertainment.

It's not quite Ray Harryhausen quality, and the models used in the animated sequences do look rather like Transformers toys, but Robot Jox has a great time not taking itself too seriously. I'd liken it to a low budget Starship Troopers or original series Star Trek in terms of atmosphere, and it takes me back to an era of filmmaking where science fiction movies were as pulpy and kitsch as a lot of the fiction which spawned them.

A lovely, nostalgic film which holds up very well to these eyes, but those more critical towards the 1980s aesthetic will hate it. I couldn't care less really though, as I love it, in all of its cheesy glory.


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