Film (1990). Empire. Directed by Stuart Gordon. Written by Joe Haldeman and Dennis Paoli. Cast includes Gary Graham, Anne-Marie Johnson, Paul Koslo, Hilary Mason and Robert Sampson. 82 minutes. Colour.
In a decimated Near Future world, conflicts are now resolved by "jox", popular idols who pilot the Robot colossi (see Mecha) with which wars are settled in single combat (see Games and Sports). The hero Achilles (Graham) is traumatized when he accidentally crushes a spectator stand and quits, but returns when Athena (Johnson), the Genetically Engineered test-tube-created woman (or "gen jox") he loves, endangers herself by entering the field of combat. A long-cherished project of Charles Band's financially troubled Empire Pictures, and his most expensive, Robot Jox was several years in the making and is disorientingly inconsistent in its production values: top-of-the-line effects by David Allen in the robot combat, but low-budget interiors and a few wobbly matte fringes. Gordon, scaling down his gore effects after Re-Animator (1985) and From Beyond (1986), handles the subtly humorous pulp-sf angles very well and gives the film a pleasantly uncluttered comic-bookish look, while Haldeman's sf-writer touch can be traced in the neat background details (ad-campaigns for pregnancy, bigotry against "tubies") and in his distinctive blend of military-hardware expertise and anti-War attitudes, the latter being especially apparent in the surprisingly emotional climax. The film was novelized by Robert Thurston as Robot Jox (1989). [KN]
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