Robot Wars Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Full Moon Features
Directed by Albert Band
Written by Jackson Barr
1993, 72 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on December 15th, 2017
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
Robot Jox (1989) is about one thing: Robot fighting. These gladiator-style battles are frequent and immensely fun. The movie was granted a larger budget and longer production schedule than most of producer Charles Band’s other titles and it was an immediate success upon release. A few years later, a pseudo sequel arrived under the title Robot Wars (1993), but it has little to do with its predecessor - except for more fighting robots. The plot is thinner, the budget smaller and the success level lower. The biggest problem this time around is the lack of time spent watching the machines compete. Viewers get a lot of drama with some unnecessarily dense plotting and very little payoff for their patience. Clocking in at a paltry 69 minutes before credits, this second flick is a tough sell when compared to the original.
Don Michael Paul (Rolling Vengeance) stars as Drake, an ace robot pilot with a conscience. He doesn’t believe that it’s right to load your carrier with tourists and then deliberately step into a fire fight with some contras. He’s ready to walk away from the whole project and pick his fights his way. Drake’s retirement is called off when a military general goes rogue and steals the robot for his own purposes. Teamed with his mechanic (James Staley, Assassination), an archaeologist (Barbara Crampton, From Beyond) and a journalist (Lisa Rinna, Melrose Place) hoping to uncover a big scoop, Drake must refashion an older model robot to do battle with the general. It all comes down to his skill as a pilot, but the battle is over before it really begins.
Director Albert Band (Doctor Mordrid) makes a dedicated effort to keep things moving, but lacks an eye for creativity. There are no great moments to be found here; the story just kind of plays out from one scene to the next. Tension and suspense are nowhere to be found even when the stakes are raised and people’s lives are placed in danger. Actor chemistry is also absent from the production, as characters seemingly bounce off of one another without growth. Everything is bogged down by Jackson Barr’s overly involved script that wastes a lot of time before getting to the payoff. We don’t learn anything about the characters beyond their archetypes and their dialogue is at times really wordy. Barr’s biggest success is making audiences feel every one of those 69 minutes of run time.
Video and Audio:
Making its widescreen debut, Robot Wars appears in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio remastered from the original film elements. There is a lot of grain, particularly during the stop-motion sequences, but for the most part the picture looks fine. Nothing really pops in terms of color or black levels, but the transfer we get is serviceable.
Audio options include a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track and a 2.0 stereo mix. There are occasional moments when dialogue levels are drowned out by music and effects. There is a noticeable lack of bass in the fight scenes, but this appears to be the case with the film’s original sound mix.
The biggest draw here is the original Videozone (30 minutes) featurette that offers a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Robot Wars. The stop-motion animation gets most of the coverage, as it should. The piece moves on to the topic of film scoring with composer Richard Band and then focuses on a string of upcoming (1993) releases.
The Wizard of Wars (11 minutes) is a new interview with producer Charles Band in which he pays tribute to the late visual effects artist David Allen, whose stop-motion efforts elevated many Full Moon productions.
A 1997 promo reel (5 minutes) for the company touts the accomplishments of Band and the wonders he brings to life with his studio.
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