Friday, March 25, 2016

049. Abraxas: Guardian of the Universe and 050. R.O.T.O.R.

Jump to R.O.T.O.R. (1987)

049. Abraxas: Guardian of the Universe (1990)
Director: Damian Lee
Writer: Damian Lee
From: Sci-Fi Invasion
Watch: Rifftrax

Abraxas, a Finder, an intergalactic policeman, must follow his former partner, Secundus, to Earth and capture him before Secundus can find the Comator, a 5-year-old boy who unknowingly carries the “anti-life equation.”

I am giggling just trying to write the capsule summary of this movie. Jesse Ventura is Abraxas, Sven-Ole Thorsen is Secundus, and the movie is unrelentingly stupid.

Of course I love it with a passion that burns like the hearts of a thousand suns!

The movie starts with Jesse “the Body” Ventura explaining, in voice-over, what a Finder is while strapped to a table getting electric shocks. His body is undergoing special treatment to keep him as a superhuman space cop. During the voice-over, he reveals that he's just over 10,000 years old.

We then cut to a dark room that's actually one of the police stations where the two guys on duty basically repeat what Ventura just told us. Turns out, Secundus, Ventura's former partner, has turned bad and is trying to create the Comator, the being that will carry the anti-life equation and give Secundus the power to destroy this and several other universes.

Exposition done, we now cut to Earth where Secundus and Ventura are having a laser battle. Secundus briefly eludes Ventura, finds a woman, and puts his glowing hand on her stomach thereby impregnating her with the Comator. Ventura captures Secundus, sends him back to base, and then refuses the order to kill the woman before the Comator is born—which happens within the next five minutes.

Yup. Space rape to fully-formed child in five minutes.

Ventura leaves and we now see the drama of the mother, Sonia. She initially considers throwing the baby off a bridge, but doesn't. Instead, she returns home where her parents are incredulous of her story, but somehow not curious how Sonia hasn't been pregnant the previous nine months. When she won't say who the father is, they kick her out. Five years later, she's a single mom raising Tommy, who is mute and getting picked on bullies. The principal, played by Jim Belushi, suggests that Tommy stop being weird. She suggests he do his job and tell the bullies to stop picking on him. Around this time, Secundus escapes space jail and Ventura follows him back to Earth to find and save Tommy.

The movie never stops having “What?” moments. It's an obvious Terminator rip-off, tries for comedy that never lands, and is just constantly weird. One of my favorite moments is when Ventura, having found Sonia and Tommy, is staying in their house. Tommy walks into Ventura's room where Ventura is sitting up, shirtless, in bed. He says, “Do you want to sit up here with me? I'll tell you a story. It's about two men who were partners.” I initially saw this with my friends and we were just dying. The movie is constantly like that—unintentionally laugh-out-loud funny from start to finish.

I actually grabbed the Rifftrax version of this because I had already seen it and I'd listened to the amazing We Hate Movies episode of it many times. The riff is okay, certainly fun, but the movie itself is so goofy and weird that it's difficult to be funnier than the film itself. It's a good riff, but, my God, it's a funny movie. Obviously, I highly, highly recommend this. Be sure to follow it with We Hate Movies' breakdown.

050. R.O.T.O.R. (1987)
Director: Cullen Blaine
Writer: Budd Lewis from a story by Cullen Blaine
From: Sci-Fi Invasion
Watch: Rifftrax

R.O.T.O.R. is a project to create a robotic cop that can't be stopped by criminals. However, an accident causes the prototype to activate 25 years early and go on a killing spree. The only hope is that its creator can figure out a way to disable the robot before it's too late.

Another “we're totally not a Terminator/Robocop rip-off. What? No. How could you even think such a thing?” Possibly even weirder and sillier than Abraxas. I also pulled the Rifftrax version of this because I was familiar with it due to the Best of the Worst episode that featured it, had watched it with friends, and wanted to do a Rifftrax double-feature here.

It's actually difficult to talk about the movie without just repeating Best of the Worst because their response to it is so good.

“One of the most fascinating bad movies I've ever seen.”-Jay Bauman
“Establishing shot: the movie!”-Rich Evans

This is a presentation of such stunning incompetence that it's almost a work of genius. But it's not. Not by any standard or stretch of the imagination.

So, R.O.T.O.R., which stands for “Robotic Officer Tactical Operation Research” (which doesn't make sense and is stupid), is a project dedicated to building a robotic police officer for our world's inevitable descent into a dystopian hellscape where the only way we can protect against crime is to unrelentingly stalk and murder each and every law-breaker, no matter how small and petty the offense and y'all are cool with this plot cause you've never read Judge Dread, right? Right. The hellscape will be here within four years.

Not “four years from now,” as in 2020, but “four years” from the time the movie is set, which seems to be its production year of 1987. Best of the Worst notes that the project is supposed to launch in 25 years, so that's when the movie posits humanity will be beyond hope, but it's actually more pessimistic than that. Four years—before the end of the first Bush administration!

Anyway, the head scientist on the project is Coldyron (pronounced Cold-Iron, so mark “stupid names” on your Bad Movie Bingo Card) who gets pressured by some government representative to accelerate the program. He refuses and quits. The next most-senior scientist, with the help of his sarcastic robot assistant (mark “inexplicable tech” and “failed comedy” on your card), start a diagnostic on R.O.T.O.R. Meanwhile, in R.O.T.O.R.'s room, a low-level tech is “flirting” with his co-worker (mark “sexual harassment”) while making weirdly racist comments about himself (mark “racism”). He sets his headphones on some contacts and, when picking them up, accidentally completes a circuit waking R.O.T.O.R. up (mark “convenient accident”). R.O.T.O.R. leaves on his own motorcycle (why is there a motorcycle for a project that won't launch for 25 years?) to do his job protecting citizens. This is more than half-an-hour into a ninety-minute movie (mark “failed pacing”).

Cut to a car with couple having an argument about whether to go to IHOP or get married. Now, you may think this is not grounds for an argument as the two choices are not mutually exclusive and, indeed, do not operate on the same timeline. “Should we make long-term, life-altering plans that require a lot of logistic consideration, or have a gnosh?” In fact, isn't that a discussion you don't want to have on an empty stomach? Really, they should be arguing about where they're going to eat to discuss whether they should get married or not, not arguing about whether to get married or to go eat. I know I'm giving a lot of space over to this question, but it's really important. I'd say it's even fundamental to the film. It must be since we spend an eternity in this goddamn car with these pricks whining at each other! I honestly wondered if somehow a reel from another film hadn't accidentally been swapped in and nobody noticed because no one else had watched the film.

R.O.T.O.R. shows up, shoots the guy in the head for speeding, the woman lays on the car horn, which is apparently R.O.T.O.R.'s weakness, (but don't count on them to take advantage of that. Mark “pointless weakness”), and then speeds off with R.O.T.O.R. in pursuit. Dr. Officer Stupidname eventually finds out, and does what he can to save this woman. Sorry, wait, I have that wrong. He does nothing to save her and tells her to be bait. In the meantime, he takes a nice trip to the airport to pick up a colleague and fill them in on what's going on.

The movie is gloriously incompetent. Literally nothing is done right down to the copyright card that comes up at the end of the credits. The MPAA gives filmmakers a template to put in their movies with the copyright information. Just add the year, your production company, and the number on file with the MPAA and you'll be fine.

This is the card R.O.T.O.R. has. Yup, that's right, completely blank. They added the template but never bothered to fill it in. I don't know if that means it's even legally copyrighted or not.

R.O.T.O.R. is delightfully awful. There's a dropped sideplot with a love interest, Dr. Stupidname looks like he's doing a Grumpy Cat impression the entire movie, and the colleague he calls for help has an odd white stripe in her hair that leads to Best of the Worst referring to her as “Skunk Lady.” It is such a trainwreck and I was absolutely agog watching it. I was on the cusp of sputtering, “How is this a movie” the entire time. So much fun, but not to be watched alone.

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