Views & Reviews From Writer Steve Miller
Formerly Reviews and Stuff at Rotten Tomatoes, 2005 - 2009.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

'War of the Robots' is an atrocity

War of the Robots (aka "Reactor") (1978)
Starring: Antonio Sabato, Yanti Somer, Mellisa Long, Aldo Canti, Jacques Herlin, Frank Seidlitz, and James R. Stuart
Director: Alfonso Brescia
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

When a scientific genius (Herlin) and his luscious assistant (Long) are abducted by strange, golden-haired aliens, an experimental reactor is left running. Only the professor knows how to shut it down, but if it isn't shut down, it's going to explode. So Captain Boyd (Sabato) and the brave crew of the starship "Trissa" are dispatched to rescue him before Sirius Station is destroyed.

"War of the Robots" is an awful space opera that lifts elements from all sorts of sources ("Star Trek" and "Star Wars" come to mind, but since "Star Wars" itself is an hodge-podge of borrowed fantasy and sci-fi elements, it's hardly fair of accusing someone else of borrowing from it) and mixes them up in a plot that doesn't know when to quit. There were moments toward the end of the movie where I thought it was finally over... only to have another "threat" emerge for our heroes to fight off. If there ever was a case of a movie overstaying its welcome, it's "War of the Robots."

And this is on top of badly choreographed fight scenes, serious sub-standard acting, and overlong, tedious space battles (I can almost hear the producer in the editing room as they unfold: "I paid 250 lire and a Happy Meal for those models--and I'm spending a lot more on animators. I want every second of model footage on the screen. ALL of it!").

Speaking of 250 lire and a Happy Meal.... Even more damaging to the entertainment value of this film--other than for those who like to make mocking commentary as a film unfolds--is the fact that little cleverness the script contains is negated by the fact that the film's ideas overreach its tiny budget. The set requirements and costuming requirements and special effects needs of this film all demanded that a great deal more money be spent than was. If a decent amount of money HAD been available, we might have been treated to a humanoid robot menace a little more awe-inspiring than these guys:

(I suspect they were going for a "Nordic Alien" sort of vibe--based on one of the more-often described types of outer-space visitors who supposedly abduct and anally probe trailer park dwellers in the American southwest--but what they end up with look more like the members of a failed rock band named Lord Fauntleroy's Fanboys.)

In fact, this film was SO low-budget that many of the same sets, costumes, and spaceship models can be spotted in two other sci-fi films featuring the same actors and production staff; together with this film, they are what I have labeled "The Recycling Trilogy." So low were the budgets that they just brought back the same actors to wear the same costumes, so they didn't even have to pay for a seamstress to refit them.

"War of the Robots" is elevated slightly by a couple of clever plot-twists--which I will refrain from revealing; by the delightful Yanti Somer walking around in a uniform that's about one size too small; and some unintentionally comic elements such as the commander of the mighty alien armada being named General Gonad, it's not a movie I can recommend with good conscience to anyone but Osama bin Laden or others I wish the greatest possible suffering upon. (In fact, Somer and her ill-fitting uniform may well be the film's high points.)

1 comment:

  1. How could anyone possible take a great title like "War of the Robots" and screw it up???