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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

New on Video: Robotic Rumpus in Robot Jox

Posted By on Tue, Jun 30, 2015 at 4:00 PM


When I worked at the Video Zone in Fresno in the early '90s, one of my coworkers and best friends would always answer the question "What's a good movie?" with the same answer: Robot Jox. He was being facetious to a certain extent, because he just liked the sound of the title and thought the concept was absurd, but it was as good a suggestion as any. (For my first few months, I always recommended Oliver Stone's Talk Radio, which was my favorite movie at the time and still rests high up on my list. After a while, I came to realize that they weren't asking for what I thought was a good movie, but rather they wanted something that they would like, which is fair enough.)

But 1990's Robot Jox isn't a bad movie, certainly, and it defines the early-'90s-VHS era for me. And, Shout! Factory is releasing it on Blu-ray on July 7.

In a dystopian future in which war has been outlawed, nations settle their disputes by having men (and women!) in giant robots duking it out. In the commentary and elsewhere, director Stuart Gordon says he influenced by anime series such as Macross and was also a big fan of the Transformers toys. Let's stop and consider that while he was directing the extreme horror classics Re-Animator and From Beyond, he almost certainly had a Transformer or three back home on his shelf. (I'd like to think he had them on his desk while working on scripts. I have Funko vinyl figures of Rarity and Twilight Sparkle flanking my computer as I'm writing my Pony book.) Mr. Gordon wanted to a see a live-action movie of giant robots punching each other out, so he decided to make it himself — and there is really no better reason to make a movie because you want to see it.

Robot Jox is necessarily pre-CGI, and actually looks damned good in spite of the limited budget. Mr. Gordon was able to shoot inside Dino De Laurentiis's massive studio in Rome (the grounds of which are now home to a movie-themed amusement park), while the stop-motion animation of the robots themselves were filmed out in the Mojave Desert, thus allowing for natural light and backgrounds. There are certainly post-production optical effects in Robot Jox, but much of what's onscreen in the robot battles occurred in front of a camera, and you can't beat that.

Don't get me wrong — I loved Pacific Rim, which Mr. Gordon name-checks in the commentary. It even snuck into my Top 10 list for that year, because it was just so much fun. But for all its primitivism, Robot Jox is an equally worthy giant-robot movie, and when they're done well, we can never have enough of them. Of course, when they're done poorly, we get too many of them.

And hey, the Red Letter Media guys even liked Robot Jox.

And if it sounds like your kind of thing, you'll probably like it too.

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Sherilyn Connelly


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