R.O.T.O.R. (1989) – By Jonathon Pernisek

 The subject of this review is a movie whose title I refuse to type more than once out of sheer laziness and annoyance. So for the record, today’s film is called R.O.T.O.R., henceforth known simply as The Robot Movie. Trust me, we’re much better off if I don’t have to type out such a ridiculous acronym every other paragraph. What does the acronym stand for? Why, it stands for Robotic Officer Tactical Operation Research, which…doesn’t really make a lot of sense, but whatever. All you really need to know is it’s a police officer…of the FUTURE!

Yes, this new robotic technology will help to curtail the destruction of society, a caving in of values brought on by rape, murder, jaywalking, and the need to park in the yellow zone so you can pop into the 7-Eleven for “just a few minutes.” This nifty copper can handle any situation, yes indeed…at least in theory. Ah, can you sense the rip-off looming on the horizon? Yep, he’s a robot made to serve humanity, but instead he turns on it and goes on a wild-crazy killing spree! Talk about unexpected! Now his creators, a potato-faced scientist laughably named Dr. Coldyron and a skunk-haired muscle gal named Dr. Steele (hoo boy), must stop this mechanical madman before he kills a frantic woman…who looks absolutely nothing like Linda Hamilton.

Now, I’m not a stupid man. I knew picking this movie it was gong to be a putrid retreated of every popular film from the time. However, the film managed to trick me for about half an hour into thinking it took itself seriously, which made it a blast to watch. Not only does it start off with a text crawl and voice-over narration from Coldyron, but the entire story is told through flashback and we get title cards telling us where and when each scene takes place. With so many storytelling clichés locked firmly in place, I was hoping for a delightfully cheesy, melodramatic experience.

Much to my chagrin, however, the movie stopped pretending to have any sort of moral code and began to get self-referencing to the point of tedium. Comic relief is served up in spades by a goofy-looking robot who actually asks at one point, “I wonder if this is how Terminator 2 got started?” Earlier in the film a scientist, whose gigantic coke bottle glasses and “humorous” character behavior clues us into his being a nerd, says something to the effect of, “What do you think this is, a low-budget science-fiction movie?” As you will understand, I started reaching for the fast-forward button at a certain point, because I just couldn’t take the cheeky material.

After a while The Robot Movie became incredibly tiresome, as it devolved into nothing more than endless driving shots, chase shots, and pathetically stupid dialogue between Coldyron and Steele over how they’re going to stop the evil robot. Speaking of which, the robot isn’t interesting. Know why? Because he’s just a guy with a porn mustache walking very stiffly who occasionally speaks in a gravely “robot” voice, and boy does that get old fast. He never comes off as a threat, especially when the story has him going up against stereotypical hillbillies and other characters that seem to have appeared from another script.

So what are the highlights before everything goes all higgledy-piggledy? Well, and I don’t quite know how to explain why I found this interesting, there’s this sequence where Coldyron wakes up in his ranch home that just goes on forever. It’s this pointless montage where he wakes up, gets out of bed, makes himself coffee, makes himself coffee, gets some carrots out of the fridge, goes outside, pets his horse, and then lets it drink the coffee while he munches on the carrot. And this is all set to a 1980s country tune, by the way, and before the montage even begins we have to listen to Coldyron talk about the ranch for at least 30 seconds. “The grass was greener than such-and-such, and the butter glow of the sun was peeking through the window…” Something about such a derivative scene just had me engrossed.

Then there’s the always entertaining parade of product placement, and the advertising in The Robot Movie is almost nonstop. Examples: An evil capitalist barks at Coldyron over the phone while pouring Coca-Cola into a wine glass. The comic relief robot asks the nerdy scientist if he’s going to finish his Wendy’s brand fries. And then, oh and then, a fighting couple actually debates over whether or not they should stop and eat at the International House of Pancakes. Sure, you could say these are just more examples of the self-referencing humor I claim to hate, but hey, product placement is funny no matter which way you swing.

I will not be watching The Robot Movie again anytime soon, unless I have to do a presentation on the history of said product placement or the horrors of bad film continuity (this thing is filled with errors out the wazoo). Yeah, it has a few kernels of genuine b-movie delight, but its prevalent mediocrity turns it into nothing more than a giant plastic coaster. Sorry, little film, but…dang. You’re just boring.

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Rogue Reviewers Roundtable Topic: The Robotic Menace

Jonathon’s Review Site: Cinebomb