Friday, August 2, 2019

GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords

GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords
Ray Patterson

A crystalline being named Solitare (Margot Kidder) and her sidekick, a golden nugget/robot named Nuggit (Roddy McDowell), request help from the good guy GoBots called the Guardians. On Solitare’s homeworld a villain named Magmar (Telly Savalas) is killing off the owners of  ‘power scepters’ and once he has them all he can forge "The Ultimate Weapon". Magmar isn’t in the alone as the Guardians’ enemies, the evil Renegades, led by Cy-Kill (Bernard Erhard) look to form an alliance with Magmar.

If they are remembered at all, the GoBots will be remembered as a distant shadow of the cultural juggernaut that is the Transformers franchise.  True confession time: as a child, I had gotten into GoBots well before I knew much about Transformers. I had quite a few and even wrote Tonka tell them how much I liked them. They sent me a photocopied catalog of all the available bots and a free Cy-Kill. That GoBots love couldn’t last under the marketing slam of numerous Transformers TV ads, a cartoon series which was a 30-minute ad in and of itself, and a movie that would scar a generation. GoBots had their own cartoon and film, neither of which made much of an impression on anyone if you could even find somewhere to watch them.

"Look out, space turds!!"
GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords managed to come out five months before Transformers: The Movie (1986), but it was rushed in and out of production while Transformers took years to create. This shows in the animation which is barely a step above Saturday morning cartoon grade. There’s nothing dynamic here, there are no visuals that warrant being in a feature film and the story in no way benefits from being told in a longer form.

The movie only exists to sell toys, beings that transform into rocks. I’m not sure who thought that would be interesting or even useful. The movie itself even struggles to make the ability to turn into a rock practical. There is an evident lack of care in the production, the story and visuals exist as a seventy-one-minute time filler that hopes to boost sales. Transformers: The Movie had more or less the same aims, but at least took the care to produce some decent animation and managed to blunder into a memorable first half.

Roddy McDowell's face while watching the movie.
The story here is a simple battle over a MacGuffin. None of that really matters. The only fun to be had is in the uneasy alliance between the villains, Cy-Kill and Magmar, but even that is short-lived.  There is a moment in the story where the characters discuss that the inhabitants of the Rock Lords’ planet used to be human until some disaster changed them into rock beings. This one interesting tidbit is brought up and then dropped in favor of more endless laser gun battles.

This is a really dire film. Even when viewed through the lens of nostalgia and the love for the toys I had has a child, its faults are inescapable. Maybe it is for the best that the GoBots animation is all but forgotten if this was the best that it could manage. GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords should stay buried.

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