Robot Wars (1993)
AKA Robot Jox 2, Robot Jox 2: Robot Wars
Starring Don Michael Paul, Barbara Crampton, James Staley, Lisa Rinna, Danny Kamekona, Yuji Okumoto, J. Downing, Peter Haskell, Sam Scarber, Steve Eastin
Directed by Albert Band
Expectations: Moderate. I loved Robot Jox, but Crash and Burn really soured me on other Full Moon movies trying to recapture some of that glory.
On the general scale:
On the B-movie scale:
Many moons ago, Uncle Jasper and I tag-teamed two of Full Moon’s three giant robot movies. Robot Jox, the first of these, was incredible. It was so incredible in fact that it bankrupted Empire International, and directly led to the genesis of Full Moon as a company. A few months later, Full Moon came out with Crash and Burn, to decidedly less satisfying results. Due to that film’s paltry offerings in the way of giant robots duking it out, I shelved Robot Wars for a later date; I just couldn’t bear to be disappointed again so soon. While Robot Wars definitely doesn’t live up to the incredible, hulking battles of Robot Jox, it does follow in its footsteps enough to be called something of a sequel.
But don’t get too excited: the “robot wars” are really only one battle at the end of the movie. Instead, I think the robot wars of the title are more a reference to the battles in Robot Jox than anything else, because in this timeline there’s only one remaining giant robot. I guess all those political struggles hashed out through robots bashing their fists into each other ended up working themselves out, as this sole remaining robot is now used as a tourist attraction ferrying tourists back and forth between a 1993 ghost town.
Now I know that doesn’t sound like it would make for a good giant robot movie, but Robot Wars is one of those movies that gets better by the minute. So what starts out as a fairly boring, futuristic space tourism movie, ends with a giant robot battle that recalls the gargantuan struggles of Robot Jox. And no matter how poor the opening few minutes are, and how the story doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, it ends with an incredible robot battle so I got my money’s worth. And one of those robots is a robot scorpion! You can’t argue with entertainment this pure!
Full Moon really pulled together on this one to deliver a film of supreme quality. They do a great job at setting up the film as being in the future, by showing us advanced computer displays and having all the tourists wear stupid headgear. I kid, but they really did a good job of selling the future, at least enough for a B-Movie fan like me. Anyway, this works perfectly when they eventually visit the 1993 ghost town, as they are able to leave everything exactly as is in those scenes and it feels like the characters are actually visiting the past. It’s brilliant, and I really enjoyed this aspect of the production. If only they spent more time hanging around the town and checking out all of the fun 1993 things that I would remember and get a kick out of seeing on-screen.
But the real stars of the film (no offense to the ever-beautiful Barbara Crampton) are the incredible robots built and animated by the wonderful Dave Allen and his team. Once again, he brings these lumbering beasts to life with large, scale models shot in slow-motion, and smaller scale models for stop-motion sequences. They look incredible, and like Robot Jox before it, the illusion isn’t simply in the visuals. The sounds these mechs make are loud, metallic and incredible. When the scorpion fires off that tail laser, you feel it in your soul. The robot sequences are mixed much louder than the rest of the film on purpose, to increase their on-screen presence and to bring you that much closer to your dream of seeing giant robots walk the Earth. It may not reach the awesome heights of Robot Jox, but the Robot Wars finale is a great low-budget alternative.
There’s not much else for me to say about this one; if you uncontrollably salivated at my first mention of the scorpion robot, then you are the target audience and you should give it a shot. Also, if you watched the Steven Seagal movie Half Past Dead and thought, “Who made this piece of shit?” then our hero Drake (played by Don Michael Paul) is your answer. Apparently he also wrote Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, and directed the butt of many of my jokes: Who’s Your Caddy? I’m always surprised to see the varied group of people who populate Full Moon’s films, and Don Michael Paul is definitely one of the more interesting cases. I’ve heard you’re not supposed to trust a man with two first names, but what about one with three?
Next week on Full Moon Tuesday, I’m getting back to what Full Moon does best: horror! It’s October so hopefully I’ll pull some good ones! Anyway, I’ll be checking out the obscure Psychos in Love, from Full Moon’s “Too Gory for the Silver Screen” direct-to-video series from the ’80s.