People have always painted the future as either bleak or bright. No matter what though, the thought of the future having robots involved has always been a thing. Whether they’re being used as tools by man to help them do things or just coexisting, robots will continue to remain as a staple of the future. However, the idea of using robots to fight in the place of humans is an even smarter idea seeing that war has plagued mankind for centuries. If the fight could be isolated to just a single match that would depend on the success or failure of another party, then the war would be avoided altogether. This is at least the idea that was brought to life by Stuart Gordon for this feature and it does have some replay value.
|Mecha suits before they were a big deal|
The story by Gordon and script written by Joe Haldeman is about a group of individuals called Robot Jox in an apocalyptic future. Where superpowers win wars by having people fight in giant robot suits. Whoever wins, wins for the place they represent. The premise itself sounds very entertaining and is an interesting way of settling major combat. Fighting for the Americans is Achilles (Gary Graham), while Russia is fought by his sworn enemy Alexander (Paul Koslo). As Achilles enters the end of his contract with his 10th match coming up, he plans to make it his last. All the while, it seems that important information is leaking out about secret weapons being used in the robot suits. Supporting Achilles is his boss Tex Conway (Michael Alldredge) and weapons developer Dr. Matsumoto (Danny Kamekona).
Gordon's premise for the film is an intriguing and creative one. Feeling like a test film for Guillermo Del Toro's Pacific Rim (2013), the setup is almost the same. There are also feels to be inspiration from Japanese mecha suit animes. To see it performed in live-action though is a completely different spectacle. This is a separate topic of discussion though. While the setup looks good, the main cast isn't as magnetic and the story execution is unfocused. Achilles also meets Professor Laplace (Hilary Mason) who is developing genetically modified people known as tubies. The one standing out among them is Athena (Anne-Marie Johnson), where Achilles and her form some kind of connection. But this is where it ends, because it never goes further than that.
This unfortunately leaves a couple of subplots left unresolved and the leads lacking character development. Gary Graham as Achilles is okay at what he does. But as a romantic lead, not so much, especially when his co-star looks much younger. Not sure what Haldeman was thinking for the script on this but he didn't go to write for any other movies after this. Paul Koslo does make Alexander a fun villain to watch. The visual aspect entertains too. When Achilles and Alexander are in their robot suits fighting, the stop motion animation is really enjoyable. Being that it's an older special effect, it really gives the action sequences much more energy and character. Seeing the giant pieces of machinery use all kinds of tricks and mechanical weapons looks great.
|"Never thought I'd have such a ridiculous career....."|
These components also go hand in hand with Mac Ahlberg's cinematography. With other pictures under his belt like Re-Animator (1985), House II: The Second Story (1987) and Deep Star Six (1989), Ahlberg did a fine job here too. The mixing between models and actual large scale sets is practically seamless. Then there's the musical score provided by Frédéric Talgorn. While Talgorn is not as well known in the mainstream realm, his music is just as exciting as if he were. Not only does he create a main theme for the feature, but it's all organic. This is rare considering many composers resorted to synthesizers during the 1980s. It's very well composed and it helps all the more bringing in some kind of emotion into the story.
Points Earned --> 6:10