Robot Wars (1993) review

Robot Wars posterDirector: Albert Band

Starring: Don Michael Paul, Barbara Crampton, James Staley, Lisa Rinna, Danny Kamekona

DRAKE – “It’s getting ugly out here chief, request surface troops on the double.”

LT PLUNKETT – “Request denied. Stop acting like a weak sister.”

As you may have guessed, this review isn’t about the 1998 BBC TV show in which Craig Charles commentated while a bunch of pale recluses battled their own custom-made robots, before fidgeting nervously as the producers cruelly get a beautiful woman to try and get an excruciating interview out of them.

No, this is yet another low-budget offering by beloved B-movie studio Full Moon, this time pitting two massive mechanical monstrosities against each other while the filmmakers cruelly get a beautiful woman to try and solve a mystery in the process.

So you see, it’s very different. Except for the big robots and the beautiful woman. And the cruelty.

"Fuck, I just remembered, this ISN'T the beach that doesn't have the big robot scorpion in it. Let's go there instead"
“Fuck, I just remembered, this ISN’T the beach that doesn’t have the big robot scorpion in it. Let’s go there instead”

The film’s set in the year 2041, where most of the cities we knew and loved have been long destroyed and people live in the likes of ‘New Chicago’ instead while desert wasteland lies between major cities.

One company offers a tour service that cuts through this wasteland, allowing passengers to visit new areas. Oh, and the vehicle they use to do this isn’t a bus or a train, but an enormous robot scorpion.

Shit’s about to go down, though. You see, the company’s head chief has arranged a deal with the “Eastern Alliance” – he’ll give them their Mega Robot 2 model in exchange for funding to make and upgrade new robots.

What he doesn’t know is that the Eastern Alliance representative, Chou-Sing, has devious intentions. When he gets to take out the Mega Robot 2 for a test drive he suddenly reveals his true colours, threatening to destroy everyone as only a large steel scorpion can.

"Concentrate, Stumpy. If the viewer sees how serious we are they might not notice the shite bluescreen effects"
“Concentrate, Stumpy. If the viewer sees how serious we are they might not notice the shite bluescreen effects”

If only there was a man who could stop the evil Chou-Sing, preferably one with rugged good looks and a level of self-confidence that would be downright infuriating were he a real person. Enter Drake, a walking cliché of a man and every bit the typical ’80s action hero.

As you’d expect, Drake is something of a hotshot robot pilot, but his bad attitude and a disagreement with the chief saw him getting booted off the tour run. After Chou-Sing turns nasty though, a spot of humble pie munchery from the lieutenant brings Drake back, ready to blow up some stereotypical Asians.

Also accompanying Drake is journalist Leda, played by Barbara Crampton, who you may remember from Re-Animator. Unless you haven’t seen it.

Leda thinks there’s something dodgy going on in the nearby town of Crystal Vista (which looks suspiciously like LA), so she goes on a tour there and deliberately misses the return… um, journey (flight? Drive? It’s a fucking scorpion) so she can hang around and investigate.

"Are you kidding? Of COURSE I know how to ride a bike. I've been doing that since I was, like, five"
“Are you kidding? Of COURSE I know how to ride a bike. I’ve been doing it since I was, like, five”

There’s also a rather rotund chap called Stumpy, who Drake considers his wingman. He reminds me a lot of Kyle from Tenacious D, and that’s about as deep as his character gets.

Of course, all this pesky storyline nonsense is mere foreplay leading up to the final climactic battle between the aforementioned robo-scorpion and Drake’s own mech, the Mega Robot 1 (which was deactivated by the company and had been lying underground for years, presumably only so someone could activate it and dramatically punch through the ground above it in the future).

Considering its budget, the robot fights actually aren’t too bad. A mix of puppetry and stop-motion animation, they’re never quite believable but certainly never threaten to stray into laughable territory either. Indeed, the final blow is pretty effective.

"MEGA ROBOT 1 IS BACK IN THIS MOTHERFU - actually, I'm concerned by the weak leg support here"
“MEGA ROBOT 1 IS BACK IN THIS MOTHERFU – actually, I’m concerned by the weak leg support here. I’m far too top-heavy. This won’t end well”

It’s also got a fairly brisk pace, no doubt due to its 71 minute runtime. Other than its needlessly long intro sequence during which it feels like nearly every crew member is given their own credit, there’s very little pissing about and you’re kept entertained throughout.

It’s no Pacific Rim, not by any stretch of the imagination, but if you’re looking for some cheap and cheesy mechanised scrapping then you could do far worse than Robot Wars, despite / because of the lack of Craig Charles (delete as applicable).

trev_newtrev_newtrev_new

HOW CAN I SEE IT?
As with the dismal Hideous!, Robot Wars was recently released on DVD by 88 Films. As well as a selection of upcoming 88 Films trailers, it also contains the original Full Moon Videozone feature on the making of Robot Wars that appeared on the VHS version of the film. It’s only ten minutes long though, compared to the usual half-hour Videozones. Still, it’s worth a watch regardless and can be bought here.

You can also find it on DVD in the US, but I’d recommend you instead go for this double-bill DVD containing both Robot Wars and the similarly cheesy giant robot movie Crash And Burn.

SHOW ME THE TRAILER:

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