Stuart Gordon. In many ways a Full Moon fixture and not a name I associate with movies that aren’t horror. So his name alone is enough to make Robot Jox interesting. Now, I hear ya, and I know what you’re saying: “If it’s not horror, what in god’s good green hell it doin’ in the hallowed halls of Castle Blogferatu?”
It’s a fair question. Lemme ‘splain.
Y’all might recall that, not long ago, I opened up Full Moon Friday for requests (which can still be left in the Comments by the way PS), and this one comes from geelw over at Destroy All Fanboys.
Second, when checking out the title, I realized that I’d never seen it before. So, being that it’s Full Moon, and produced by Charles Band, and directed by Stuart Gordon, I felt I should have a look just in the interest of, if nothing else, professionalism.
So, welcome to yet another dystopian future (as if there’s any other kind). There’s been a nuke-yuh-ler holocaust, humanity has been decimated, and the world has been divvied up betwixt The Market (capitalism) and The Confederation (communism).
Wars are now contests settled by giant robots piloted by humans (the jox) with a big ongoing rivalry being good guy Achilles and big bad Alexander. Achilles is slated for his 10th and final fight after which he is released from his contract.
And that, for me, is one of the movie’s drawbacks. In terms of the robot fights, there’s a certain level of Ivan Drago/Rocky IV-ness to it, stuff I’m generally not a fan of. Add to that a standard helping of hamfisted intrigue, noobs jockeying for recognition, and protagonistic self-doubt/dark night of the soul type stuff, and we’ve got your classic “underdog and redemption” story arc.
That said, the fights do end up pretty deadly when it comes to Alexander. Plus the Market team is all run by a big corporate arm that pushes for people to have more and more kids in order to provide an endless supply of jox who maintain a level of celebrity status. In terms of corporate control over culture as well as the jox, there are some welcome shades of Rollerball here.
The stop-motion robots themselves are entertaining to watch. They may have a kinda blocky Transformers/Voltron look to them which makes perfect sense. It is a 1989 movie fer fucksakes. It’s fair to say Full Moon also has some of my favorite stop-motion work this side of Ray Harryhausen. For me, that’s what makes this movie fun to watch and more than just some mechanized Rocky movie. This just in from the non sequitur department: Guillermo Del Toro.
Well, it’s not that much of a non sequitur. See, one other thing that elevates Robot Jox for me is Pacific Rim. If you follow me, Jox was obviously first, and Del Toro, being the knowledgeable horror nerd that he is, is doubtless familiar with Gordon, not to mention Full Moon.
Sure, Pacific Rim has the bots fighting kaiju, but the influence is clear. In fact, Gordon has suggested that if he’d have been able to do a sequel, it would have been jox vs. aliens. So…yeah. And I’m not alone. Check out Zachary Paul over at Bloody Disgusting.
So while I won’t get carried away patting myself on the back, it’s always nice when you’re not the only one who notices something. I would, however, also hasten to point out that, before any of this, including the Transformers and Voltron, there were Jet Jaguar in Godzilla Vs. Megalon (1973) followed by Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla (1974).
BODIES- 3 onscreen, over 300 crushed by falling robot