Robot Wars (1993)
WRITERS: Based on an original idea by Charles Band
Screenplay by Jackson Barr
DIRECTOR: Albert Band
STARRING: Don Michael Paul as Drake
Barbara Crampton as Leda
James Staley as Stumpy
Lisa Rinna as Annie
Danny Kamekona as Wa-Lee
Yuji Okumoto as Chou-Sing
Peter Haskell as Rooney
QUICK CUT: In another future that is vaguely similar to Robot Jox, but NOT THE SAME AT ALL, the last remaining mega robot is all that stands between the North Hemi nation being taken over by the Centros and the Eastern Alliance. Brace yourselves for a lot of futurey sounding locations!
Drake - Our hero, a pilot of the MRAS-2 robot, doing little more than living the life of a glorified tour guide. The only excitement he gets to break up the tedium is the occasional Centros attack that he easily stomps on. Gung-ho, macho, and very little time for authority, he is a man stuck doing bland work and edging towards snapping.
Leda - SOMEhow she's Drake's love interest, even if they're antagonistic until the last seconds of the movie. She's mainly a scientist investigating the mysterious Crystal Vista and the secrets it contains. A plotline they shoulda stuck with for her more than any romantic subplot.
Annie - Leda's best friend, and a journalist who is there more for moral support and a vacation than any actual journalism. Which she might be more interested in using that to uncover the mysteries of the abandoned town, but let's not do THAT, shall we?
Stumpy - Drake's co-pilot and best friend, and not the brightest bulb in the movie. But he is loyal, and he's a good shot. And he's probably smarter than most of the Centros are protrayed as.
Rooney - The closest we get to any sort of leader of the North Hemi empire, and Drake's boss. Stacker Pentecost this guy ain't. Willing to stage events of danger to make the robots seem more important, always looking for a buck, he's pretty much your typical politician.
Wa-Lee - The main antagonist of the film, because the Centros goons are just helmeted thugs that may as well work for AIM. He's the representative for the Eastern Alliance, and trying to broker a deal to buy robots from North Hemi. At least, that's his story...
THE GUTS: If you thought Robot Jox was bad, just wait until you hear about the sequel that's not a sequel but totally wishes it was a sequel, Robot Wars! To be clear, this was marketed sometimes as a sequel, is also from Charles Band, but has absolutely zero relation to Robot Jox. The two universes do not go together at all.
We get tossed right into the deep end of plot lake with a scorpion-like robot investigating a breach along the borders of the North Hemi nation, while carrying passengers. All under the watchful eye of their government who is hosting a delegation from the Eastern Alliance.
This seems like a terrible way to travel. Who woke up one day and said, "Hey, you know what? Who needs cars and trucks and busses, and at the worst PLANES!, when we can travel from one place to another in a gigantic whirring, clanking, mechanical spider that jerks us all over the place with each stride of its many legs, and need to wear helmets? THIS IS BRILLIANT!"
Oh, and there may be tanks along the way!
The best part is one of the passengers is carrying a briefcase she drops along the way as they're being attacked by some Centros goons, and we see it carried a bunch of test tubes that are now shattered. What did you expect to happen while traveling by Scorpion Air??
So the fight comes to an abrupt end when the MRAS-2 fires a blast from its stinger at the tank and makes it go boom. Took them long enough to do that.
And wouldn't you know it? The government tells the passengers it was all just a readiness excercise and there was nothing to worry about! Well good, you gonna pay for all the broken stuff?
While the scorpibot docks to let off its passengers, we meet a tour group getting a bit of an infodump about the MRAS-2 being the last of the great mega robots from the Kaiju wars some time ago, and meet Leda and Annie.
They just so happen to know each other, and Leda vents about the asshole pilot who did the breaking when they meet up. Right next to said asshole pilot. In true fashion, he hits on her and asks her out, because we need a romantic subplot no matter how forced or unlikely.
On the upside, the demonstration went well, the Eastern Alliance delegation was duly impressed, and they're all set to ride along on the next trip out to Crystal Vista to seal the deal.
Speaking of Crystal Vista, Leda tells Annie about how she thinks there's more going on in the ghost town than the government wants anyone to know. Their story doesn't add up of how it was abandoned, and she found secret tunnels and other things lurking around.
Drake has some evidence that proves the EA is selling weapons to the Centros, and they can't be trusted, but when he brings it to Rooney, his boss just brushes it aside. Everyone sells weapons to everyone else! So what? All Drake gets out of it is being taken off duty for now.
While some other goober takes Annie and Leda out to Crystal Vista in Mega Scorpion, Drake and Stumpy wander around the desert looking for more Centros to shoot at so they don't get bothered. And so Drake doesn't get assigned to be the pilot with the EA delegation's trip.
Drake heads back to base with more tech that the Centros shouldn't have, that's made by the Eastern Alliance. There is a "Made in China" joke here, just waiting, I know it.
Back in Crystal Vista, Leda and Annie have naturally snuck off to places they shouldn't be, which seems to be an abandoned broom closet for all intents and purposes.
We learn with Drake and Stumpy that the other last great robot, MEGA-1 was destroyed some time ago, and an ancestor of Stumpy's tried to help hide the pieces. Drake asks the sensible question of how do you hide a giant robot... Hmmm, we have a mysterious city that shouldn't be there, rumours of a hidden robot...I KNOW I KNOW!!
Leda shoos Annie off so she doesn't miss the scorpion ride back, and so she can do some exploring on her own. Back in the basement, Leda runs into what appears to be a group of Centros goons.
Things start heating up as the Centros raid the terminal just as MRAS-1 arrives, and kill a few people. One of the Eastern Alliance dudes has a killer camera with a laser lens attachment that takes someone else out. I want one for my camera! And Wall-e reveals his own treachery everyone saw coming five miles back when he kills the guy who replaced Drake in the cockpit.
So, the Centros and EA Games are teamed up to steal the robot for great justice. No big surprise there.
While Drake and Stumpy hike out to Crystal Vista, which takes a surprisingly short amount of time, considering how long it takes an eight legged robot to stomp out there. They turn up just in time to save Leda from the Centros.
Drake and the crew head back to the school to continue investigating the basement. Meanwhile Wall-E discovers their location and stops blasting the strange structure he's been lasering for the last five minutes to go intercept them. Y'know, they never really explain WHAT he's doing out in the desert...
They're looking for the stolen gun of MEGA-1, in hopes of using it to stop Wall-E's rampage, but instead they find the cockpit, which is good because now they figure they at least have a means of using and controlling the weapon. And bonus, the entire giant robot has been buried under the town. Now, we made a big deal about how you hide PIECES of a giant robot. Can we revisit how you hide an ENTIRE giant robot?
And that's about when Wall-E realises how screwed he is. Cue the giant robot fighting!!
Or, uh, cue the giant robots pushing against each other playfully, seems to be what happens in actual practice here. Damn. C'mon, guys.
Drake remembers that Wall-E has hostages, so just waltzes right up to MRAS-2 and rips the carrying case right off the scorpion's back.
I start wondering if the whole point of this was to get MEGA-1's supercannon to end this fight, why hasn't Drake used it yet, right at the same time Rooney asks the same question, so at least SOMEone thought of it.
Wall-E uses the stinger laser and knocks Drake right on his shiny metal ass. At last, some good robot action. And I'd still take it over some of Michael Bay's robot fighting.
He goes in for the kill, crawling over the downed MEGA-1, and that's when Drake finally decides to use the superweapon, right when the scorpion is right overhead, doing the most damage, and with an added energy boost that came outta nowhere. And is ultimately meaningless because this is the first time we've seen it used so it didn't need to be extra powerful.
And so, Drake gets the girl he's barely spent any screentime with during the movie, and when they were together, it was mostly to be antagonistic to each other. But the hero has to get the girl, right, despite anything else.
Which leaves Drake and Leda to walk their robot off into the sunset as everyone lives happily ever after, except for the Centros soldiers who died.
Video: Kinda bland, but on the higher end of things. Your typical Full Moon direct to video quality.
Audio: Same goes for the audio.
Sound Bite: "Ahh, the Washington types! What a lovely bunch of coconuts!" Wa-Lee, our villain, also providing comic relief.
Body Count: A slightly different Body Count this month, since there was a lot of fights taking out Centros fodder.
2 Centros gunners get taken out when their tank goes boom.
Another 5 go away in an ambush by Drake and Stumpy.
A hapless guard gets taken out by the Centros in Crystal Vista
2 random people around the terminal get killed when the Centros invade.
Wall-E kills the MRAS pilot, Boles.
Another North Hemi drone bites it when he takes a dive out of the MRAS-1 hatch for some air.
Four Centros soldiers die off when Drake and Stumpy show up for a rescue.
Sing also dies in the rescue.
I'm gonna presume Wall-E bites it too, when Drake lasers MRAS-2 to death.
Best Corpse: Can I say a robot getting zapped in the face is the best death? Can I? if not, I love the guy losing his cool and jumping out of the scorpion's carrying case.
Blood Type - F: Absolutely bloodless. You can tell this is Full Moon's more family friendly fare, again. The violence is almost cartoony with the nameless drones zapping laser guns around like they escaped from GI Joe. The only effects worthy of note are the robots, and yes. Those are very good.
Sex Appeal: More violence than sex in this flick.
Drink Up! Every time a Centros soldier dies.
Movie Review: The plot is okay, if a bit light. And the logic and backstory never really gets fleshed out, does it? The acting is pretty lacking across the board too, unless it's a name you recognise. Drake's okay, Leda is decent, but overall everyone is drawn with broad strokes. On top of that, the movie ended up being rather uncomfortable with what amounts to the US being very jingoistic and stomping all over the Chinese analogues and the Mexican analogues trying to cross the border. I don't know how deliberate this was, but once I glommed onto it, I couldn't stop thinking about it. Two out of five hidden robots.
Entertainment Value: Still, when I wasn't wincing at the hopefully unintentional racism, it was a decent enough popcorny action flick. Actually, it's not very actiony. There is some good robot stuff towards the end, and a few moments here and there, but for the most part, you spend the giant robot action flick hanging out with the characters. While they may be broad caricatures at worst, you do end up liking some of them, and rooting for them. Robot Jox is the clearly superior movie with a better message, better cast, better story, and less plot issues. But this one is an okay way to kill 70 minutes. Three out of five crouching scorpions.