Apr 19, 2013

[Movies] GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords (1986)

As much as I have been a rapid Transformers fan ever since I was a kid, I'd be lying if I tried to claim that I didn't try to give the GoBots a chance. After all, I was a bit of a sucker for robots in general - thus the reason that The Mighty Orbots continues to hold a special place in my heart.

As much as I tried to give the GoBots a chance, they never really grew on me. Sure that had a rather diverse cast and had way more female robots than the Transformers ever did (yay diversity!) but beyond that it was hard to appreciate their quirky antics.

When in doubt, I guess we can blame Scooter. What was up with that guy anyway? He will never be anything close to Bumblebee in the human companion game.

The main role of this movie - like most cartoons in the 80's was to launch a new toyline. While the GoBots were already being marketed by their own television show, this movie hoped to leverage their relative popularity in order to help the Rock Lords make a mark on the toy market.

But seriously, they turn into rocks.


Synopsis: Gobots: Battle of the Rock Lords is a 1986 animated movie produced by Hanna-Barbera and directed by Ray Patterson. This happened to be the last movie distributed by Clubhouse Pictures.

As the Guardians continue their efforts to rebuild their planet of Gobotron, a mysterious asteroid crashes into the planet. But it's not just another space rock - it's actually a ship carrying Solitaire (Margot Kidder) and her companion Nugget (Roddy McDowall). They've come on a mission of mercy to seek the aid of the Guardians to stop the evil Magmar (Telly Savalas) from taking over their planet. He has been systematically defeating the other Rock Lords and taking their power scepters in order to consolidate power around him.

But as the Guardians agree to help, Gobotron is attacked by a massive Renegade fleet led by Cy-Kill (Bernard Erhardt) himself. Fitor (Kelly Ward) had managed to spy on the Guardians during Solitaire's briefing and thus the Renegades decided to take the secret of the Rock Lords for themselves. They manage to kidnap Solitaire and Guardian Small Foot (B.J. Ward) and the humans Nick (Ike Eisenmann) and A.J. (Leslie Spights) and force Solitaire to reveal the location of her world. Meanwhile the Guardians try to stage a rescue mission with Nugget,  Leader-1 (Lou Richards), Turbo (Arthur Burghardt), Scooter (Frank Welker) and the human Matt (Morgan Paull).

Now it surprises me to this day that this movie actually had a major theatrical release. I can imagine this being one of those direct to video movies, but not a full feature film. No wonder it was the last of its kind before future resources focused on the small screen market again.

And it probably didn't help that I really don't think the Rock Lords had a very strong toy concept to begin with. Both the Transformers and the GoBots relied on the fascination with vehicles turning into robots. There was a bit of magic as you transformed them from one form to another that just built upon the already present interest in cars and planes and things of that nature. But the Rock Lords turn into, well, rocks. And while we often joke about owning a pet rock, I don't think this is something that kids would particularly aspire to.

Back to the movie though, the core concept wasn't necessarily that bad. The plot was fairly complex, especially with Solitaire's attempts at deceiving Cy-Kill into allying himself with the noble Boulder (Michael Nouri) instead of locating Magmar to seek an alliance. And I kind of appreciate the nuances of that aspect of the story as they various forces tried to jockey for control of the planet.

However on the GoBot side they had to resort to some fairly extreme measures in order to equalize the playing field to a limited degree. One, we were stuck with essentially the same limited cast of characters for both the Guardians and the Renegades. Two, the Guardians really had a bum rap with power being so limited and thus they couldn't just blast away at their Rock Lord opponents. And let's not forget the fact that the Renegades still had a working vessel throughout the adventure to really take it to the Guardians in a bad way.

GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords wasn't necessarily a bad movie but it wasn't in the least bit great either. Thus it's rather poor performance at the box office and its limited value even in the home video market. But still, I remember the movie mainly because we had a copy at home and when you're bored enough, you'll watch almost anything. Thus the movie can only rate 2 Rock Lords rolling across the landscape out of a possible 5.


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