Who doesn’t love giant robots? Other than giant aliens, not a lot of people.Though the technical geek in me wants to insists we call them ‘mech suits,’ because they are piloted, ‘giant robot’ just sounds better. A mech suit is something you may see Ripley in at the end of Aliens. Giant robots punch giant holes in things. Giant robots fight other implausibly giant stuff. Giant robots are as easy to operate as a video game. Giant robots don’t have to make sense!
The crowning glory of the giant robot movie is without doubt Pacific Rim, but a few people have noted its similarities to another cinematic entry into the giant robot world, Robot Jox. Even the latter’s director, Stuart Gordon, has alluded to the resemblances between the two. But he has a penchant for such big comments and, besides, it’s the giant robot genre. It involves a conflicted character to pilot and other giant things to punch or batter down with a cyclonic downpour of missiles and lasers.
Anyway, Gordon made a giant robot movie and called it Robot Jox. It’s not a great film. It’s not even one of his five best movies. But Robot Jox was never intended to be. In the last Eighties there was still a vibrant home VHS market that outlandish low-budget stuff could feed on. Today we sorta, kinda see that with some Syfy stuff, but Robot Jox aimed a bit higher than, say, Sharknado. Not a lot, but you can see the effort.
So why watch a bad b-movie from the late Eighties? Well, giant robots! Granted, Robot Jox cannot recapture my imagination as much as the little kid who saw it all those years ago. But it holds up in a strange way and is just lathered in future society cheese. After a nuclear war, the world decides to settle territorial disputes with giant robot battles. Seriously – at the time we enter this saga, the Confederation (USSR) crushes a fighter from the Market (US) and next up is Alaska, because it has oil or something. Our hero is Achilles, Market champion and set to fight the evil Alexander. I’d say he chews the scenery, but that may make it sound like everyone else isn’t.
Achilles also has competition from new clones bred to be robot pilots, something happens, crisis of confidence, someone’s spying, blah, blah, etc. The story is very straightforward and completely predictable. But who watches giant robot films for the story? Granted, Robot Jox did not have the greatest special effects budget and that shows. But you still get stop-motion robots firing their fists at each other.
Look, maybe I’ll just watch anything that has giant robots in it and isn’t some bizarre psychobabble about the human condition. Maybe I cut Robot Jox too much slack. But, you know what? This.
Cinophile is a weekly feature showcasing films that are strange, brilliant, bizarre and explains why we love the movies.
Last Updated: October 13, 2014