• Robot Jox

    Released By: Shout Factory
    Released On: July 7, 2015
    Director: Stuart Gordon
    Cast:Gary Graham, Anne-Marie Johnson, Paul Koslo
    Year: 1989
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    The Film:

    It's fifty years after a nuclear holocaust almost exterminated the entire human race, and the world is made up of two nations; the very Americanized "Market", and the very Eastern Blocish "Confederation". War is outlawed, and disputes between the superpowers are decided by a series of battles between each nation's giant robot warriors, piloted by their highly-trained "Robot Jox". Stuart Gordon's 1989 film opens as the Market and Confederation are battling over the resource-laden territory of Alaska, with the evil Alexander defeating and then unnecessarily flattening his opponent with his massive robotic foot. Despite the fact that the Market's team of weaponry wizards are convinced that they have a spy in their midst, they forge ahead with future battle plans, employing Robot Jock Achilles, who has won nine battles. But during the tenth battle, Achilles is dealt a mighty blow by a wickedly slow-moving rocketfist, resulting in his robot flattening a whole bleacher section of spectators.

    While the match is determined to be "inconclusive" by the referees, Achilles is so distraught over the killing of the bleacher bums that he vows to never fight again. The Market team turns instead to their group of test tube-raised warriors, who have been genetically trained and raised to be the fiercest and most skilled of Robot Jox, specifically Athena, who will be the first ever female Jock to sit behind the controls. Having ignored the jeers and threats from Alexander, the other test tube babies, his friends, and sinister phone calls, it is his love and protective nature that brings him back to the battlefield to stop Athena from being harmed. As he's about to find out, however, love may not conquer all, especially Athena's genetic need to be an authentic Robot Jock and the fact that she'd rather kick his ass than make out with him. And with natural resources in the balance, and a spy still on the loose, there can be no doubt that Robot Jox is heading into some serious stop-motion action before concluding with a serious WTF? .

    Robot Jox is definitely not a film that one would have expected from Stuart Gordon. While it is argued (usually by Gordon, himself) that his previous films did dabble in sci-fi, films like Re-Animator and From Beyond are definitely not in the same book. Robot Jox contains no element of horror and therefore none of the sinister humour that one normally associates with his work. And while it does have its fans, there is no denying that the practical effects and budgetary constraints give the film a seriously dated aesthetic that may not work for many viewers. Rumbling rooms, model flying cars, and "futuristic" technical equipment that didn't even really look that high-tech by late 80's standards may raise an eyebrow or two, and tying into that dated aesthetic is the plot itself, with a Cold War vibe that screams 1980's.

    That being said, if it does work for you, it works in spades. There is a lot of good to be said about a film that relies mainly on practical effects and stop-motion animation, models and more models, and table-top sets with just a smattering of bad blue screen. The physicality of these visual tricks can be endearing, and certainly helps the film along in this age of CGI. And it's pretty fun to watch the actual actors react to things that are obviously not happening directly in front of them. As a result of the use models and animation, Gordon makes some pretty strange directorial decisions, but somehow, this weirdness manages to fit in perfectly, making Robot Jox an all-round, entertaining film where even the flaws become part of the entertainment factor.


    Robot Jox comes to blu-ray from Shout! Factory in a 1.85:1 transfer that looks good, though it can be said that the source material may give the illusion of looking a little shoddier than it is. Models, stop-motion animation and a radically exaggerated colour scheme do tend to make it look more dated than it is, and the vaseline-smeared lens look that exists in a few of the scenes will make you wonder if the set needs to be adjusted. But for the most part, grain is good and levels are decent, and there no artifacts or dirt that pop up during the run time.

    The DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track is adequate as well, handling the dialogue and effects appropriately. A surround track may have opened up some of the battle scenes nicely, but the stereo track is nothing to complain about, with good dynamic range and an absence of hiss and pops.

    Shout has included a number of extras with this disc as well, starting with Looking Back With Paul Koslo (10:14) in which the actor talks about getting the role of Alexander, working on the film and with other actors, and Gordon himself, interspersed with plenty of clips from the film.

    Next up are a number of Archival Interviews, with Stuart Gordon, Pyrotechnic Supervisor Joe Viskocil, and four other members of the SFX crew. Each interview is accessible separately from the menu.

    Behind The Scenes Footage (14:16) is an interesting watch, with camera footage of the model sets, location scouting, and on-set filming of the effects used in the movie.

    Two Trailers are also included, a really awesome Theatrical trailer and a less-awesome TV Spot, and there are also two separate Still Galleries available.

    A commentary with Stuart Gordon, moderated by Michael Felsher, is also included, and should be considered essential listening for even casual fans of the film. Felsher moves Gordon along nicely, covering virtually every aspect of the film, and there is nary a quiet moment to be found throughout the running time.

    A second commentary with the SFX crew picks up any details that Gordon may have left out regarding the visual effects, and is also chock-full of information and rarely quiet.

    The Final Word:

    While it won't be for everyone, I found that Robot Jox definitely did bring out the Transformers-loving kid in me and was thoroughly entertaining. For fans of the film, the Shout! blu-ray is a great way to see it.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 4 Comments
    1. Newt Cox's Avatar
      Newt Cox -
      I might have to grab this one. Met Gary Graham a few years back and he talked about how much fun he had on the set of this film.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      It definitely shows.
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Stuart Gordon liked this on twitter.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      I approve of this!