Science fiction stands apart from other genres, often so far apart so that you have to shout to tell it anything. Yes, there are lots more lasers, lots more planets, lots more Stephen Baldwins… but there are also lots of people fascinated by specifics. Sci-fi fans make intricate technical drawings of the spaceships in “Galaga,” and show up to conventions and movie premieres in Tron costumes and Princess Leia outfits that deviate not an iota from the original. I don’t think anyone has ever drawn up specs on the car in “Driving Miss Daisy,” or walked through a con dressed as James Gandolfini’s character in “The Mexican.” But sci-fi’s obvious predilection for specifics didn’t prepare me for “Robot Jox.” I expected movies about robots with claws, jaws and laser eyes, but who knew they would make a movie solely about a robot’s loins?

The people of the Robot Jox universe
It’s just hard to imagine a world where everyone dresses like Sub-Zero from Mortal Kombat.

Ok, just kidding, but the reality isn’t much more impressive: The Robot Jox-verse takes place “fifty years since the nuclear holocaust almost destroyed mankind.” Judging by the respirator masks and medieval hoods everyone wears, the main result of this near-apocalypse is that the human race has to spend a lot more time painting sets for the Renaissance Festival. There is a silver lining of sorts: war is outlawed, and all disputes are “settled by single combat,” which sounds good until you realize the Robot Jox are the ones “settling” these disputes, by controlling big bots with lasers and exploding arms and other weapons that can be shown with wires and stop-motion animation instead of expensive CGI. Suffice to say: in the future, your country can lose half its territory because your citizens weren’t that into MechWarrior 2. Another odd fact: the Robot Jox fight each other. Shouldn’t there be Robotnerdz for them to hassle instead?

Achilles poster is vandalized with the word 'Cowerd'
This poster is temporary like Achilles

The big dispute of the day is over Alaska, which, as the announcers repeatedly bring up, is rich in oil and lumber resources. This is all the useful information a person can get out of watching this movie. The Last Frontier controlled by the “Market” alliance, known for love of freedom and terrible Robot Jox strategy. Seriously, they have a guy named Achilles, brave, undefeated, unstoppable, and they leave him on the bench to watch every one of his loser teammates get crushed to death by the collectivist “Confederation”! Ok, to be fair, the Confeds have a mole inside Market HQ, but still, I don’t see a whole lot of World Series teams start Game One with their worst guy. Eventually Achilles is in the rotation, albeit because everyone else is dead, to fight for all-important Alaska, rich in oil and lumber, against Alexander, a Confederation Jock who is rich in screams and mispronounciation.

Tex and Achilles prepare for their big 'donations'
A toast, to our good health and – wait, these containers are for WHAT?

Achilles trains for the big fight by sparring, though I couldn’t tell you how perfecting feints and jabs help a guy when he’s at the controls of a giant robot. His sparring partners are genetically engineered but plucky recruits, who all hope someday to become Robot Jox and get crushed to death too. Achilles and his coach, a former Robot Jock called Tex Conway, don’t like these new-school “tubies” or their mentor, an aging Edith Bunker-ish professor, but they do their part for the cause by giving “raw material” for new GeneJox. I would rather watch four hundred Chucky sequels than see Mrs. Bunker ask these two for their samples. Ewwww.

Alexander and Achilles at the bar
Mario Lopez watches a dramatic moment between Alexander and Achilles. Too bad they’re only having a drunken moment.

Time to fight! Achilles’ crew members tell him to “crash and burn” as he boards his robot. Saying “good luck” is actually bad luck for Robot Jox, but still, “crash and burn” is about the last thing you’d want to say to a guy about to start combat, isn’t it? Save for maybe “try to choke yourself with your own butt”? And Achilles ends up failing anyway; he fights gallantly against Alexander, but his robot ends up falling on the stands and killing hundreds of spectators. Oops! The group of four hockey referees who apparently run the world try to schedule a rematch, but Achilles vows not to fight again.

Athena and a hung-over Achilles
How to cure a hangover? Ask Lisa Bonet here.

With no capable Robot Jox available, the Market turns to the recruits to save the day. Most of them carry the “terrible at everything” gene, but one, a woman called Athena, has some potential. She’s bright and fearless and ambitious and ready to mix it up, robot-style; at one point she tells Achilles “there’s nothing you can teach me, except how to lose.” Or to kill spectators, don’t forget that. She wins the chance to become “the first female Robot Jock” after climbing a futuristic jungle gym faster than the other recruits. Achilles inexplicably chooses this moment to come out of retirement, offering to fight Alexander so long as there aren’t any spectators to stumble onto and crush. Athena isn’t happy about this – she yells “What are you, Brett Favre?” (ok, not really) – but the decision is made. Except that Athena drugs Achilles and steals his suit to go fight. Spectators everywhere breathe sighs of relief.

Tex Conway aims his gun
The sooner I kill you, the sooner I can finish morphing into Rip Torn!

There are a couple more roster changes ahead for the Market squad: the coach, Tex Conway, is the Confederation spy, and he’s decided to ice the Market’s lead technician, Dr. Mastumoto, to ensure all that valuable oil and lumber will end up in Confederation hands. The Doc, who knows Tex is crooked, secretly turns on one of his security cameras and implores Tex to remember his glory days as a Robot Jock: “you were once like Achilles,” he says. “Somewhere inside you is the real Tex Conway.” Which is when the real Tex kills the Doc, for real, but it isn’t long before the Market squad discovers what he’s done and tries to arrest him. “I’ll see you in hell!” Tex yells, and he runs (er, waddles) off a ledge to his death, shouting “Geronimo!” on the way down. Justice isn’t always coherent.

The Market team has no coach and no technician, and their only Robot Jock is a well-meaning but clueless clone of Lisa Bonet, so kiss Alaska goodbye, is what I’m saying. It doesn’t take long for Alexander to win a pretty one-sided battle; so one-sided, in fact, that he ends up getting disqualified for pounding on Athena’s bot even after the fight is over. Then Achilles shows up to save the day; he points to the robot and tells Alexander “I’m gonna get in this thing, and I’m gonna KICK… YOUR… ASS!” The referees say “the battle is over.” “Not for me,” says our doof, and he locks in for another round. So then he should get DQ’ed too and I should get control of Alaska.

Robot with a chainsaw in a peculiar place
Or maybe it’s just happy to see you.

But yet again, Achilles manages to fail. And fail. And fail. He flies his robot into space, but Alexander shoots it out of orbit. Back on the ground, he tries to roll his bot, tank-style at his opponent, but Alexander just pummels the robot with shells and lasers, eventually turning Achilles upside down. And then, the biggest failure of all: Achilles just watches while Alexander’s robot unleashes a giant chainsaw from between its legs. Now I know where the movie got its title.

Alexander and Achilles fight with flagpoles and rocks

Somehow, though, Achilles uses a little ingenuity to turn Alexander’s bot against itself, launching a severed rocket arm against its former colleague and blasting Alexander out of the cockpit. Then they start fighting with rocks and metal poles – yes, the movie about futuristic robot combat features a rock fight – until Achilles gets the upper hand. Alexander says they’re going to be killed if one doesn’t finish the other off, but Achilles has had enough: “We can live!” he shouts, tossing his flagpole away. Alexander recognizes that a catchphrase has been born and drops his rock, and they give each other a Wondertwin-style thumbs-up/fist bump.

Thumbs up fist bump!
All we are saying, is give Nintendo Power Gloves a chance

Hooray for world peace! But who gets Alaska? Mildly recommended for the mountains of inexplicable moments.