Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Robot Jox (Scream Factory Blu-ray) - War-Bots Do the Manifest Destiny Tango

I made it through life without seeing Robot Jox or Robot Wars until now. That means my life was completely unfun until the year 2015 because damn did I have a great time with this picture. What comes from the classic age of Empire Pictures in 1990 and the mind of the great Stuart Gordon is a tale of social and political commentary with direct influence from the Japanese Transformers  that stands the test of time. It’s plot points are relevant and influential. From a guy who grew up on American Transformers, Voltron, loved Robo Force, flirted with Gundam Wing and dined daily on my toy robot arm this is picture seems to come directly from the marketing genius’ that sold me my entire toy bin arsenal of daily combat. Scream Factory brings another Empire Pictures’ release to Blu-ray and, in following their tradition, gives us a great deal to appreciate.

Now while my introductory paragraph was filled with hyperbole and enthusiasm I can’t help but to let you know that the strong start and ample finish of Robot Jox is filled with an intermediary bit of plot that detracts completely from the bombastic robot battles that truly enamored me with this picture. You have to get through the politics, the training, the strange sexual tension and sexual commentary as well as the movie’s burning desire to tell a story. GASP. Robot Jox is more than just a giant robot fighting picture. The commentary about geo politics and dystopian future international relations are the thing of Orwell. Where it goes wrong, albeit for a brief moment, is that it forgets it’s creativity and goes into full on gratuity. Essentially Robot Jox remembered that it was made by Empire and thus must include “Empire-like” things.

The filler aside, folks who love the Sci-Fi styling of Full Moon and its predecessor Empire as well as the catalog work of Charles Band will certainly appreciate this picture. Fans of Stuart Gordon’s work will find this a departure from this body horror-esque, effects driven gore fests a la Re-Animator and From Beyond (From Beyond also hit Blu-ray from Scream Factory). It is not without appropriate humor as is common in Gordon’s work, but this picture almost seems like Gordon’s attempt to be serious… just for a moment addressing the political climate of 1980’s international relations. I suppose that’s not to say that Gordon’s pictures don’t address big questions. Re-Animator, From Beyond and even Dolls address issues that go beyond the splat and boob horror of the 80’s. It’s just that Robot Jox takes a direct approach, goes beyond Gordon’s affair with Lovecraft and plays in a Sci-Fi world rather than a Horrorific world. It’s a well done departure and may go underappreciated due to some of the more modern interpretation on this subject matter.

The Blu looks good and it has the extras you’d want. You get hear from Gordon and the effects guys. Perhaps having Charles Band sound off would have been nice since he produced the movie, but I don’t consider Robot Jox to be pivotal, late Empire Pictures stuff.

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Bonus Features

Audio Commentary With Director Stuart Gordon
Audio Commentary With Associate Effects Director Paul Gentry, Mechanical Effects Artist Mark Rappaport, And Stop-Motion Animator Paul Jessel
Brand-New Interview With Actor Paul Koslo
Archival Interviews With Director Stuart Gordon, Pyrotechnic Supervisor Joe Viskocil, Associate Effects Director Paul Gentry, Stop-Motion Animator Paul Jessel and Animation & Effects Artists Chris Endicott And Mark McGee
Behind-The-Scenes Footage
2 Still Galleries

Robot Jox pairs nicely with War Games starring Matthew Broderick. Something about the whole war via machine/computer/robot just makes sense. That begs the question, who would win in a fight? The WOPR or a bot?

From Scream Factory:

Warfare, advanced and upgraded!

From the mind of cult favorite director Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, From Beyond) comes Robot Jox, a thrilling sci-fi adventure finally available on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory.

In a future world where war has been outlawed, international disputes are settled in a single winner-takes-all fight between two of the ultimate killing machines. Massive, menacing and made-to-destroy, these human-piloted combat 'bots square off to determine global supremacy. But when tragedy strikes during a crucial battle and treacherous espionage raises the stakes, will veteran robowarrior Achilles walk away from the game for good… or take his revenge against his rival pilot, the homicidal Alexander?

Starring Gary Graham (TV's Alien Nation), Paul Koslo (Voyage of the Damned) and Anne-Marie Johnson (TV's In The Heat of the Night), this riveting (riveted?) sci-fi actioner will crush your burning desire for giant robot-on-robot action!

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