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Film / Robot Jox

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Achilles: You can live.
Alexander: Yes - if I kill you.
Achilles: We can both live!
Alexander: We are dead. We are Robot Jox.

Robot Jox was a low budget western attempt to exploit the Humongous Mecha genre, with screenplay written by Joe Haldeman (yes, that Joe Haldeman) and produced by a predecessor to Full Moon Features. In a dystopic future, a nuclear war has devastated the earth. With war outlawed, all territorial disputes are settled through Combat by Champion using giant robots piloted by "Jox", and their battles have become media-televised sporting events.

The film follows Achilles, a famed jox for the Market, and his rivalry with Alexander, the best jox of the Confederation. With Alaska, abundant in valuable natural resources, on the line in the next contest, and the two both preparing for the last of their contracted ten fights, the next battle will be one of the greatest in the history of the conflicts. Subplots include a new generation of genetically engineered jox including Athena, who's in the running to become the first female jox, and a Confederate spy in the Market ranks that keeps leaking information to the Confederation.

Two different films were promoted as sequels: Crash and Burn in 1990 and Robot Wars in 1993. Though the only connection either of these movies has to Robot Jox is that Humongous Mecha appear in them.

Compare Mobile Fighter G Gundam, which has a similar general plot hook.

This film provides examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Tex is a pretty friendly person for being a Confederate spy.
  • After the End: It's hinted at that World War III was a near-apocalyptic experience. The opening narration directly says that it "almost destroyed mankind", and in the aftermath all nations of the world (most of which were largely part of two alliances, the Market and the Confederation) agreed that open warfare is no longer permissible, hence the jox fights.
    • There is pregnancy propaganda all over the place, and Achilles' sister-in-law says she's just "doing her part" being pregnant, the implication being that population is a problem.
    • The same sister-in-law mentions "serving real meat" to celebrate Achilles' retirement; said real meat is a single hotdog in a large pot of stew.
    • Going outside requires one to wear a mask over their mouth and nose and Achilles is told to come inside quickly before letting the air in, implying some sort of aerial contaminants are still lingering.
    • While the Market is also against the Confederation owning an American territory, the major reason Alaska is a big deal is because it is so abundant in natural resources like lumber and oil, obviously implying a resource problem for the world.
  • All There in the Manual: A novelization, adapted from an earlier shooting script, provides a detail for something that happens in the final battle that isn't explained in the film. Alexander's Rocket Punch is supposed to explode on impact, but it malfunctioned in the first fight and was repaired for the rematch. This is why the damage it does to Alexander's robot in the rematch is so much greater; the fist laying next to the robot as it explodes is a shooting error.
  • The Artifact: The robot jox are referred to as "robojox" in dialogue. This was the original title of the movie, before the studio was forced to change it to avoid a lawsuit from the creators of RoboCop.
  • A-Team Firing: Twice in the final battle, justified to some degree each time for different reasons.
    • Alexander cannot hit Achilles as he rolls towards him in tank mode, because he's getting too close for Alexander's targeting display to lock on to him and Alexander doesn't have a clear field of vision that extends that far. Alexander literally shoots himself in the leg because he can't aim properly.
    • As Achilles flees across the field in the open, Alexander chews up the ground beside him but doesn't hit him. But when Achilles falls Alexander stops firing and starts up again when he's back on his feet, so Alexander being Alexander, he's probably just playing with him.
    • Both scenes also attempt justify this by having Achilles zigzag, but it doesn't work. His robot tank moves way too slow to really count as "dodging", and while we see him zigzagging to avoid Alexander's targeting cursor on Alexander's display screens, the next scene when he's actually being fired at he's running straight.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: Subverted. Tex famously won a battle this way, due entirely to a lucky shot hitting a spot on the enemy's mech weakened in a previous fight. Double-subverted. The Russians told Tex where to aim.
  • Ax-Crazy: Alexander plays a more controlled version of this. Off the field, he's Faux Affably Evil. Once he's in his robot, he's this trope all the way.
  • Badass Boast: Alexander gets a good share.
    "You're next! ACHILLEEEEEEES!"
    "Achilles! I have already killed you, right here! [points to his head]. Hahahahahahahahaha!"
    "I could, you know, squash you both! Like bugs!"
    • Achilles gets his turn when he prepares to take back the robot from Athena and challenge Alexander:
    "You're a lot of things Alexander, but you're not a coward. I'm gonna get in this thing, and I'm gonna kick! Your! ASS!"
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Tex jumps off scaffolding to his death after everyone sees his Engineered Public Confession.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Likely averted. Ajax, a former robot jock, is pretty much the only black dude in the movie, and although he seems to have been injured in a prior match, the first casualty of the movie is a white guy. Not counting any who may have been in the bleachers, though.
  • Blood Knight: Alexander, particularly since the matches do not have to be to the death, but they are for him. Defied in the bar though, where he refuses to fight Achilles and specifically says he doesn't fight for fun. His actions of course say otherwise.
  • Book Ends: The two fights between Alexander and Achilles both end with a Rocket Punch being launched to clinch the match.
  • Broken Pedestal: Athena idolizes Achilles, but after his Heroic BSoD has him back out of the rematch and she gets to meet him personally, she sees him as a coward.
  • Catchphrase: Crash and Burn! Said when a "pilot" downs his opponent. It's also used to wish pilots luck in a "Break a Leg" kind of way.
  • Chainsaw Good: Alexander's final robot has one between its legs.
  • Chekhov's Armory: Achilles's hovercraft, Alexander's Rocket Punch, the weapons briefing, Tex's lucky shot in his last fight and Matsumoto paying attention when Athena brings it up.
  • The Chessmaster: Doc Matsumoto is smart enough to make sure that his murder is recorded.
  • Color-Coded Characters: Red and white for the Market, black and yellow for the Confederation.
    • Light Is Good/Red Is Heroic: Though the Market mostly leans to white, they also feature red a lot.
    • Dark Is Evil/Evil Wears Black: However, in comparison to the Market's red and white being balanced, the Confederate uniforms and robots are virtually all black with sparse yellow details.
  • Combat Breakdown: The final duel begins as a standard mech-versus-mech duel. The mechs damage each other, change configurations, and eventually break down completely, prompting the jox to jump out and start pummeling each other with debris.
  • Combat by Champion: The entire point of the robot jox program is to decide international disputes instead of more devastating wars.
  • Death of a Child: The first fight scene ends with Achilles' robot falling onto the bleachers of the fight's audience, killing many people including multiple children.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: In the ending, Alexander and Achilles finally stop fighting and bump fists as a show of respect.
  • Designer Babies: The Genejox, the Jox currently in training to replace Achilles and the other Market Jox, somewhat reminiscent of the Clanners in BattleTech, even in attitude.
  • Didn't Think This Through: In the climax of their rematch, Achilles transforms his robot into a tank mode and rolls towards Alexander. While it works at first when Alexander can't aim properly because Achilles is at a bad angle for his targeting display, Achilles apparently didn't think that Alexander would just reach down and grab him once he got too close.
  • Eagleland: While the actual nationalities of the people aren't acknowledged (For all that is known, the United States may not even exist outside memory after World War III), the Market is obviously Western-influenced. They also have Tex, who is from the Deep South, and the Market leadership is aghast at the idea of the Russian-dominated Confederation owning a part of America.
  • Engineered Public Confession: How The Mole is discovered. Tex made the mistake of murdering Dr. Matsumoto while he was filming last instructions for the new features of Achilles' rebuilt mech, so Matsumoto turned the recording back on so everyone could see his deed.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Alexander is introduced with his black robot (wielding a spiked mace-arm) stomping up to stand over the fallen robot of his opponent, who is clearly terrified and surrenders, his back broken and his robot in no shape to continue. Alexander coldly demands the referees judge the match, and they rule in his favor and tell him to hold his position. Alexander's eyes light up and he turns back to his opponent to deliver a Finishing Stomp that crushes their cockpit and kills them. This immediately establishes him as a murderous Blood Knight who clearly enjoys what he's doing and will ignore the officials.
  • Expy: Given the director himself said that Transformers was his initial inspiration, it probably isn't a coincidence that Achilles's robot is red and white. His first robot particularly has a predominantly red torso with white legs; recolor the legs blue and it's a dead ringer for G1 Optimus Prime.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: By the time Alexander gets to thrashing Athena half to death, the referees, easily the most incompetent in futuristic dystopian sports films, have finally had enough of his shit, and they grow some balls and DQ him when he persists.
  • Everything Is Big in Texas: One of the characters, Tex, is nothing but this. Giant hat, heavy accent, boisterous attitude, heavy build; he's the biggest stereotype in a movie full of them. (It's surprising he's not played by Joe Don Baker.)
  • Evil Is Hammy: By comparison every other character is much more subdued, save for Tex. Considering Tex is The Mole though, this turns out to be unintentional foreshadowing.
  • Evil Laugh: It's practically a character tic for Alexander.
  • Failed Future Forecast: Averted. It's called Russia in this film, even though it's released in 1990. Then again, Alaska is also independent in the story, so no telling what happened to the U.S. in World War III, either.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Alexander is very cheerful and pleasant to be around off the field, except he openly revels in the chance to get on the field and brutalize opponents with his robot.
  • Flipping the Bird: Achilles is somewhat subtle about this as he tugs down his eyelid with his middle finger, pointedly glaring at Alexander.
  • Finishing Stomp: Alexander loves to stomp his foot on the cockpit of the opponent's robot to end the fight. The opening of the film shows him doing this after the referees rule in his favor and his opponent yields, wasting no time in having him Kick the Dog.
  • From Bad to Worse: In the final battle, Alexander is battering the Market robot with punches, until one of his arms is cut off. He then reveals his other arm has pistons in it, so he leans forward and lets them go to work with more forceful and frequent blows.
  • Future Slang: Mostly averted, but presumably jox is a corruption of jock(s).
  • Groin Attack: Inverted
    In Confederation [Russia], groin attacks YOU!
  • Handshake Substitute: The film ends with one.
  • Hates Being Touched: Alexander doesn't take it well when a jox in training challenges him in the bar, but when he grabs his shoulder he gets angry.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: Of course he hasn't. note 
  • The Heavy: The Confederation is the Big Bad of the story, but it's Alexander who acts as the main antagonist since he's the one taking the field in their robot.
  • Heroic BSoD: Achilles after the first fight. Killing hundreds of innocents in the act of trying to protect them will do that.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Alexander's robot in the ending is destroyed by his own Rocket Punch from his sliced-off arm.
  • Humongous Mecha
  • Informed Attribute: Tex is famous as the only Market jox (and perhaps the only jox at all) to complete his ten fight contract and retire, and he now serves as their tactical advisor, both clearly implying he is a skilled and intelligent jox. However, the Market is on a losing streak and in Achilles' first fight with Alexander, Tex proves absolutely useless, giving simple and basic directions ("he's attacking you, attack back"; "try that new weapon next") rather than anything useful. Double justified - Tex is The Mole, thus his ineffectualness is likely purposeful sabotage rather than incompetence, and he only won all ten fights because the Confederation let him, they wanted their spy to be someone highly respected and above suspicion.
  • In Name Only: The film has two "sequels", Crash and Burn, which was actually marketed in some areas as Robot Jox 2: Crash and Burn, and Robot Wars. The only connections between the three films are they all have the same producer (Charles Band), and he directed Crash and Burn while his father directed Robot Wars. Otherwise the three films have nothing in common in terms of story, characters or setting beyond "post-apocalyptic future where we have giant robots", and their connection to Robot Jox was mostly for marketing uses. And in the case of Crash and Burn, the giant robot really only appears at the end of the movie.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: Athena. At one point she strips down and showers with her male counterparts, with absolutely no indication that any of them care about their nudity. Justified in that they were all raised together and pretty much have no interest in anything except piloting.
  • Jerkass: The referees. As covered further down at Obstructive Bureaucrat, they have no interest in actually being fair and are generally rude and unpleasant. This is particularly relevant when Athena goes out to fight Alexander herself. Despite the Commissioner telling them that the robot was hijacked and their designated pilot is not operating it, the referees declare that since the robot has taken the field, it constitutes a legal challenge, and "the identity of the pilot is not our responsibility". When the Commissioner protests and demands they halt the fight to let Achilles take command of the robot, the referee repeats the ruling and hangs up on him.
  • Kick the Dog: Alexander is fond of this. In his first fight shown in the film, he crushes his opponent to death, even though he's already won the match and his opponent is desperately begging him to leave him alone. In the climax, he defeats Athena fairly, yet continues to pound her robot with the intent of killing her; when the referees arrive to demand that he stand down or else be disqualified, and his own superior officers call him to insist that he stop, he ignores them both and keeps attacking, forfeiting the match for his own bloodlust.
  • Large Ham: Alexander is clearly enjoying himself, especially in combat. Just listen to that Evil Laugh, look at that Psychotic Smirk!
    • Also Michael Alldredge, whose best known film role was a small part in Film/Scarface, and who spent most of his career as minor TV heavys, seems to be relishing the chance at playing Tex.
    • Surprisingly averted with known large ham Danny Kamekona (Sato in the Karate Kid movies) as Doc.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • It's mentioned that the opponent Alexander killed in the opening was at a heavy disadvantage when his robot's knee was damaged, and Achilles is sure to ask it's been fixed before the next fight. During said fight, he uses a fusion arm torch to attack Alexander's leg, damaging it to the point it falls back.
      • In response, the confederation outfits Alexander's new robot with four legs for intimidation and stability, and Alexander later shoots off Achilles' right foot.
    • The final move of their first battle is for Alexander to fire his Rocket Punch at Achilles, who intercepts it but is knocked off balance and crashes into the bleachers. In the final battle, Achilles takes refuge in the severed arm of Alexander's robot and activates the Rocket Punch feature to fire it and destroy his robot.
  • Luck-Based Mission: Tex became famous after a victory over a Russian opponent in a far superior robot, owing his victory to precisely hitting a weak spot in the enemy's armor. He chalks his victory up to blind luck. We later discover that he wasn't lucky at all...
  • Made of Explodium: Writer Joe Haldeman told a story about the filming that ended with a child of the director (or was it the producer?) saying "Daddy, tables don't explode."
  • Make Games, Not War: Gladiatorial duels between mecha substitute for actual war.
  • The Mole: Tex
  • Mugged for Disguise: Athena drugs Achilles and steals his gear to try and take his place in the final match.
  • Mustache Vandalism: The protagonist has his poster vandalised this way (amongst others) for retiring after he's left traumatised when his Humongous Mecha crushes a stand full of spectators.
  • Never Learned to Read: Its implied throughout the film that literacy has sharply decreased - all the weapon readouts are pictograms, Achilles is told he couldn't read his contract, and Achilles' brother has a job as a "reader."
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Achilles manages to use his robot to block Alexander's robot fist, but in doing so, ends up overbalancing and doing exactly what he wanted to avoid — crushing one of the bleachers around the open-air arena.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The referees are so incompetent that you'll almost wonder if the Confederation is paying them off.
    • It's implied that Alexander has killed his previous opponents, likely after he's been told to stand down. No consequences for this are shown. They come out to yell at him during the final battle when he moves to do it again, but he squashes them. He's disqualified for it, but that of course doesn't stop him from continuing the fight.
    • The ending of the first battle between Achilles and Alexander is meant to be hand-to-hand, no ranged weapons allowed, but Alexander has a Rocket Punch on his robot. After the fight when the verdict is disputed, the Commissioner points out that such a weapon is clear violation of the rules; the referees declare that this is "irrelevant" and rule the fight a draw.
    • When Athena mugs Achilles and takes the field in the robot, the Market protests that the robot was hijacked and asked the fight be stopped while they bring in Achilles. The referees reply that the robot has taken the field which means the fight is on, and the identity of the pilot isn't their responsibility.
  • Obviously Evil: Let's run down the checklist for Alexander — wears black, is Russian, is constantly smirking and smiling, is a Large Ham, gives an Evil Laugh at least once in almost every scene he has...yeah.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: Achilles's walk to the cockpit in the first fight shows him waving to and chatting up the guards and technicians. When Athena walks with almost not a word and with her helmet on, they note Achilles is acting weird. Then when one of the technicians around the cockpit slaps her on the rear as he had Achilles in the first fight, she turns around and they realize it isn't him.
  • Psycho for Hire: Who in the Confederation thought it would be a good idea to put the Ax-Crazy Blood Knight in the cockpit of a giant robot? Bites them in the final battle, when Alexander gets himself disqualified because he wants Achilles regardless of the official rulings the match is over, and when the Confederate officer yells at him not to be stupid, he rips out the wires for the communicator.
  • Real Robot Genre: They're armed with lasers, missiles and the occasional superweapon, but simple brute hand-to-hand combat is always an option. It also takes a lot of time and money to repair and upgrade them between fights, and their pilots are specially trained soldiers but are otherwise normal humans.
  • Rocket Punch: Alexander has one on his robot.
  • Rule of Cool: Let's face it, no one would remember this movie if they had done it all the same but without the giant robots. This is the entire reason it was even made, the director saw all the giant robots in cartoons but no one was trying to do giant robots in live-action, and he thought it would be cool.
  • See You in Hell: Tex's parting words before taking his life.
  • Space Is Noisy: Averted. Highly surprising, considering the incredible amount of Willing Suspension of Disbelief this film requires.
  • Space-Filling Empire: There are two competing world polities, comprised of the surviving nations.
  • Stealth Pun: Late in the second battle, which part of Achilles's robot is crippled? The foot.
  • Taking You with Me: Alexander attempts this on Achilles in their first battle, firing his fist at him as he falls down after Achilles damages his leg. It works, but probably not as he intended.
  • Tank-Tread Mecha: The Achilles has a mode where the mecha turns its legs into a tank platform.
  • Tempting Fate: Tex is particularly concerned about this.
    It's bad luck to say good luck!
  • Transforming Mecha: The two robots have flight modes where their cockpits tilt up and fins open on their body. Achilles's robot in the final battle transforms into a tank-mode by changing its legs into treads, since his foot has been blown off. His first robot also has treads so it may have been able to do the same, but we aren't shown.
  • The Worf Effect: A variant. In the build-up to the first fight between Achilles and Alexander they talk up Achilles' secret weapon, a "green laser" that is spoken of like a match-deciding factor. When Achilles tries it out on Alexander, they do nothing and he deflects them before shooting Achilles with his own green lasers. This is demonstrate how the spy of the Confederacy have infiltrated the Market so well, that secret weapons like the green laser are leaked to them and they can counter them perfectly.
  • Worthy Opponent: Alexander thinks so of Achilles. He doesn't return the sentiment, seeming to think of it as just another fight with a particularly unhinged opponent. As Achiles correctly calls him on, Alexander doesn't crush him and Athena as he takes the robot from her though he had plenty of time, he allows Achilles to get inside so they can have a proper fight.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: Why "Jox" instead of "Jocks"? Because itz kool!