Robot Jox

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Today Robot Jox (1989) is best known as the progenitor of Pacific Rim (2013) that features a robot suit with a chainsaw penis. Guillermo del Toro borrowed a lot from Stuart Gordon’s dystopian epic, but what his film lacks is the low budget ingenuity of Gordon and producer Charles Band. No matter the limitations of a production, these two icons of the B-Movie always deliver spectacle. And what a series of spectacles Robot Jox turns out to be.

Rendered in stop-motion animations, the robot battles in Robot Jox take on the glacial pacing of Gerry Anderson’s “Supermarionation” epics. The kinky weaponry that Gordon adds to the mix suggests the influence of the Kaiju picture. Taken together, these slow moving battles feel like a stilted, homoerotic ballet acted out in the desert.

The acting is equally ham-fisted and uneven. Gordon plays with tried and true stereotypes, often for comic effect, that lend little to the proceedings in terms of actual characterization. The lone standout in Robot Jox is the always badass Anne-Marie Johnson. Johnson, under Gordon’s direction, is allowed to be a powerful woman of color who is never blatantly sexualized by the camera’s gaze.

All in all Robot Jox is unsuccessful in its science fiction myth making. What Gordon delivers is something of an ineffective homage to the robot movies from the fifties. That’s not to say that a great deal of effort and care wasn’t put into Robot Jox. It’s just that the end result is sorely lacking, especially compared to Gordon’s other films from the eighties.