Robot Jox (1989)

Robot Jox tries hard, but is fundamentally a series of fight scenes strung together — robot against robot, man against man, man against woman. The premise had potential, but it seems the script wasn’t really given the couple of more drafts it needed. Still, it was fairly good, for a science fiction action movie. Part of it was because the script was by Joe Haldeman. For those who aren’t familiar with the name, Haldeman wrote the award-winning science fiction novel “The Forever War.” It’s considered one of the very best powered battle armor novels, right up there with Robert Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers” and John Steakley’s “Armor.” And this movie is really more like a giant powered battle armor movie, rather than giant robots. It’s closer to what fans would have wanted instead of the travesty that was Paul Verhoeven’s “Starship Troopers,” which bore only a passing resemblance to the novel it was based on.

Despite some assumptions, this really isn’t based on Homer’s “Iliad.” A couple of names are all they had in common. Achilles having his robot’s foot blown off had no parallel in the Iliad, which didn’t include Achilles’ death. Nor was the ancient Achilles a noble warrior. He was the mightiest, but also vengeful and petty. Even the robot jock killed off in the first scene doesn’t fit. He was named Hercules, while the Greek Iliad would have had Herakles.

The effects were fairly good for the time and the budget. True, it wasn’t comparable to “Terminator 2” a year later, but that movie cost ten times as much. The stop motion was almost as good as the robotic walkers in “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi.” Better, in fact, than a lot of Ray Harryhausen animation, which is highly regarded, but quite dated.

Don’t bring high expectations into this and you probably won’t be disappointed. It’s better than a lot of other low-budget flicks and even some big-budget blockbuster wannabes that have better effects but far worse scripts.