ROBOT JOX - The Best Damn Robot Movie There Ever Was
ROBOT JOX is a movie scientifically engineered to appeal to the eight-year-old boy that exists in all of us. This part of our personality is what’s responsible for potty humor, a moth-to-flame-like lust for new dinosaur facts, and – yes – our innate desire to see giant robots fight to the death.
Even the “X” in the name ROBOT JOX is like throwing chum to the adolescent male in our noggin – everybody knows boys can’t resist words that end in the letter “X.” It’s wired into our cortex (“cortex” being another word that drives boys wild).
A 1988 film from Stuart Gordon, ROBOT JOX was the film that seemingly killed Charles Band’s Empire Pictures. Once a mighty studio, able to fulfill the world of all its GHOULIES-related needs, Empire Pictures was permanently handicapped when it bankrolled the latest film from horror auteur and all-around-master-filmmaker Stuart Gordon, the man who helped put the studio on the map with his films RE-ANIMATOR, FROM BEYOND and DOLLS.
ROBOT JOX was to be a collaboration between Gordon and famed science fiction writer Joe Haldeman. The two had met in the ‘80s when Gordon was hired by the Chicago public television station to direct a four-part adaptation of Haldeman’s novel THE FOREVER WAR. When funding was slashed, Gordon worked with Haldeman to turn a portion of the script into a stage play.
Later, following Gordon’s initial successes with Empire Pictures, he called up Haldeman and asked him to help develop an idea – a sci-fi adaption of THE ILLIAD. That initial idea would be the genesis for ROBOT JOX, a film set in a post-apocalyptic future in which war has been outlawed and the world’s two remaining superpowers settled their disputes with single-man combat.
One catch, though – each combatant is piloting a multi-story death-bot with a varied supply of weapons including chainsaw penises, jet-propelled rocket punches, and green lasers!
Haldeman’s high-brow approach to the subject matter clashed with Gordon’s Saturday morning cartoon intent. The result is a perfect storm of late ‘80s silliness, beautifully sparse stop-motion animation and some of the greatest cartoon caricatures to be stuffed into skin-tight spandex and given a wonderful looped rat-tail hairdo. There’s a portly southern robot pilot named Tex who wears a cowboy hat and is played by Michael Alldredge for crying out loud! Also leading up the film’s cast is ALIEN NATION’s Gary Graham, IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT’s Anne-Marie Johnson and THE OMEGA MAN’s Paul Koslo.
ROBOT JOX is a live-action Saturday morning cartoon through-and-through. In fact, if you concentrate hard enough while watching the film, you can actually begin to taste Lucky Charms cereal inside of your mouth. That’s either proof of the power of filmmaking or a sign that you have brain cancer.
Charles Band would later follow up on the mild success of ROBOT JOX with two films from his Full Moon Studios, CRASH AND BURN, and ROBOT WARS. Despite being sold as sequels to ROBOT JOX in some territories, neither film has any real connection to Gordon's film.
If you’re looking for a night of robot carnage so inspired it would cause even Michael Bay to take a momentary break from masturbating in front of a lit match to nod in appreciation, seek out ROBOT JOX for your viewing pleasure.