Directed by Albert Band (Robot Wars) / Charles Band (Crash and Burn)
Starring Don Michael Paul and Barbara Crampton (Robot Wars) / Paul Ganus and Megan Ward (Crash and Burn)
Is this double-feature mech fest from father and son Albert Band and Charles Band worth your time, or do the films rust over from all the cheese and watered-down plots?
The first film in this line up – Crash and Burn – is a suspense thriller taking place in the desolate future of 2030, where the corporation Unicom has turned the government into a police state and sends life-like androids to murder crotchety, old men who run decrepit television stations out in the middle of nowhere. It’s up to Unicom fuel deliverer Tyson to discover the mystery of this undercover machine while batting off the advances of sexually-charged teenagers and public access television teachers.
The film is a suspense thriller Terminator rip off. Leading into the action is slow and uneventful. Most of the characters are doing random slice-of-life events and trying to get laid in their television studio/hospital/commune. The only think keeping you paying attention is the promise of some giant robot action or the T&A possibility, the former being short and disappointing and the latter awkwardly long. For being billed as a giant robot movie, all we get is a singular mech picking up some debris in the last few minutes.
Moving on to Robot Wars, we actually get giant robots fighting. Again in the future, now the 2040s, veteran robot pilot Drake is relegated to a tourist attraction as the last giant robot – the scorpion-shaped MRAS-2 – gives rides to sight-seeing passengers hoping to see some action. After a profit-blinded military lets a foreign ambassadors steal the MRAS-2, Drake must save the day and his new love of his life with the long-lost legendary robot MEGA-1 and a few too many tequilas.
Robot Wars’s robot combat in the movie’s climax, but it’s poorly shot and executed. The camera is often too close to the models to get a sense of the fight. You never get a good sense of motion from the relatively-still cockpit scenes while the robots are being knocked around. As for the models themselves, the humanoid MEGA-1 (similar to the one in Crash and Burn) is top heavy with a dull industrial design. The scorpion-shaped MRAS-2… looks like a giant scorpion, and that shape doesn’t lend itself well for a suspenseful one-on-one mech fight.
If these movies teach us anything about the future, it’s that people fall in love in no time. Both films have romantic relationships developing over the course of hours, and none of them are particularly believable. Drake in Robot Wars outright proclaims his love interest will bear his children right after meeting her, and she’s basically all on board within a day. Maybe it’s a survival instinct coupled with shorter life expectancies in a desolate future.
Both films are poorly written hasty relationships, slow pacing, uninteresting action and superficial commentary on profit-oriented governments. While Crash and Burn is boring and uneventful, Robot Wars is at least cheesily entertaining, mostly because of the charismatic and fun lead. Drake knows how to have a good time piloting robots, getting into fights, drinking tequila and abrasively hitting on girls who hate his guts. Crash and Burn’s Tyson is as bored as a 2×4. That’s about its only redeeming factor though.
Crash and Burn 2/10
Robot Wars 4/10
Both films are in fullscreen, despite being listed as widescreen (the DVD menu is widescreen, so maybe that’s how they get around it). The video for both films have a little grain, with Crash and Burn being slightly washed out.
The audio is occasionally quiet, with random jumps up. The ambient noise also tends to damper the dialog. The soundtracks are uninteresting as well.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
Both films are on a single disc contained in a standard DVD case, and that’s it. There’s not a single bonus feature in this collection. At least it’s a real plastic case and not some flimsy cardboard.
A weird inconsistency is that even though the title of the collection and the front cover list Robot Wars first, the actual DVD menu and the back cover list Crash and Burn first.
Overall (Not an Average)
I love giant robot flicks. From Mechagodzilla to the Megazord, from Gundam to Getter Robo, a good mecha slug fest is always a fun. Only Robot Wars in this collection comes close, but not by much.
The Films 2/10 and 4/10
The Video 3/10
The Audio 4/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 1/10
Overall (Not an Average) 3/10