Just Look Away

Posted on May 6, 2011

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R.O.T.O.R.

“You fire me and I’ll make more noise than two skeletons making love in a tin coffin, brother.”

This 1988 action sci-fi movie has no reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, where a whopping 53% of the audience report liking it.

Why Bother?

“First prototype of a future battalion, on the battlefield highways of the future. He’ll be the judge, jury, and executioner. Now, I’ve got to wonder: Were we playing God, breathing life into our artificial Adam?”

Four years after The Terminator, and a year after Robocop,  WestWind Pictures attempted to capitalize on their success with this movie.

Normally this is where I try to say something nice about the subject of this column, but this week all I can say is that you watch this if you’re curious. If you like sci-fi, vigilante cops, unstoppable killing machines, or lady wrestlers, you might check this out.

I watched it

“Hey, I’m like a cemetary. I’ll take anybody.”

Captain Barrett Coldyron (pronounced Cold Iron; I am not making this up) is head of a Texas research program coming up with new law enforcement technology – Robotic Officer Tactical Operation Research (R.O.T.O.R.). When the movie starts, he meets with a bunch of scientists from the Brian Wilson Labs in Los Angeles, which initiates a game of “spot the Beach Boys lyric.”

The day he finds out that everyone above him has been stealing from project funding, he quits. His replacement accidentally activates ROTOR. It gets loose and starts killing people for any slight infraction of the law. A woman gets away, and ROTOR begins implacably hunting her. Captain Coldyron calls Dr. Steele, a scientist who helped originate the project, and she flies in immediately to help him hunt down ROTOR and stop it, rescuing the woman.

The Verdict

This movie is awful, period. I have no idea why 53% of viewers report liking it, unless they had some kind of drinking game based on it.

Even if the stars were good actors (and the character actors are all better than the stars), the dialogue is execrable. I’ve given you only a tiny sample of it here, and those aren’t even the worst bits.

They had nowhere near the budget of Terminator or Robocop, and the lack shows at all times. The director and editor had no idea how to put together an action scene. The writer(s) and director didn’t know how to pace an action movie.

Here’s a tip for stories featuring man-made monsters: You need to explain why the scientist (or whoever) is making the monster. If you’re writing, you have to tell us. Evocative examples serve you well. If you’re making a film, you need to show us. There are plenty of films that manage this with stock footage from news agencies, so lack of budget is no excuse. What you shouldn’t do is ignore it or, as with this film, have a bad actor talk about it without showing us any sign of the outlawry. Go back and watch how Mad Max establishes the world in which he must go mad to exact justice.

R.O.T.O.R. really is horrible. Just look away!

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Posted in: Movies, scifi