Monday, May 18, 2009

Rock'em Sock'em Robots: The Movie

If you've seen the trailer for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, you pretty much know what to expect: this movie's gonna suck. I base this not only on the giant robot depicted sucking sand, trucks & everything in its path into oblivion, but also on the basis of Michael Bay's previous movie, Transformers, which sucked. In fact, don't Michael Bay's movies generally suck? Isn't that the consensus opinion?

If you're a fanboy like me, no doubt you love stories about giant robots & teenagers saving the world, so to help fill the void created by Transformers' extraordinary sucking, I've prepared a synopsis for a long overdue movie based upon one of my favorite childhood toys, Rock'em Sock'em Robots.

Somewhere faraway in the future, say 2010 or 2011, robots have replaced greedy, unreliable, steriod juiced athletes. This is true not only in major professional sports, such as baseball, basketball, football (both American & international styles), but in sports across the boards, including the sweet science, boxing. Backed by the Mafia, the Yakuza, the RNC, Trump, the Russian Science Academy, Microsoft, Don King & all the usual suspects, robots battle for the fame & fortune of world boxing domination.

In order to gain the upperhand, promoters--always looking for enhancements & upgrades-- employ hordes of lab-coated, bespectacled geeks at their labratories. The Yakuza have forced Bobby, a blue jeaned teenage computer prodigy, to work for them to repay his stepfather's gambling debt. Held hostage, his redheaded stepdad, Lon, has lost everything--even more than Bobby knows! For the Yakuza are secretly experimenting on humans to turn them into robots (think Robocop) for fighting purposes.

Bobby has become an expert at tweaking A.I. to increase the robot's ability to adapt to its opponent's tendencies & to make its own punches less predictable, less telegraphed. All is going well--other than his being a slave & his stepdad kidnapped & tortured--until Bobby tweaks the subroutine & the robot somehow becomes sentient. While Blue's (as Bobby nicknames the robot) nonverbal communications result in several comic mishaps, as the days go by leading up to the next fight, Bobby & Blue develop a special friendship.

When the Russian Science Academy's robot knocks the block off Blue, who'd refused to fight as a form of protest, the Yakuza cut all ties with Bobby & the decapitated robot by dumping them in a sealed crate into the Pacific. Miraculously, Blue reboots himself in the nick of time to reattach his head & save Bobby.

As they languish by a remote shore, wet metal & flesh glistening in the sun, the boy & his robot, looking toward the distant horizon, decide to barnstorm the country as a boxer/programmer team. Since they don't have much upfront money, they have to start at the bottom, fighting at state fairs, for instance, or human tough man contests, in which Blue wears street clothes & greasepaint to hide the fact that he's a robot.

During one such event, Bobby meets Zoe, a smart, sassy, sexy, barely legal dancer at the club where Blue's posing as a woman wrestler to vie for a hundred dollar prize. Zoe sees through the disguise--they could afford only a cheap wig--but she also sees potential. Having saved & invested her tips wisely, she agrees to become their financial backer, but she insists that she travel with them, as she says, to protect her investment. Also, although it seems at first that they don't like each other, she & Bobby are really hitting it off!

This arrangement comes as no small relief for Bobby since it helps to keep his & Blue's true identities hidden. He imagines the grisly details of what the Yakuza might do if they found out they weren't rotting at the bottom of the sea. Besides, with Zoe's backing, the venues become bigger. In a montage that includes magazine covers & ESPN snippets, Blue's KO'ing the mob, uppercutting Trump, giving the RNC a devasting roundhouse, knocking the block off Microsoft, with Bill Gates, in a cameo, slinging his laptop onto the canvas. Finally, after avenging his loss to the Russian Science Academy with a single blow, Blue's worked his way back to the top. A title match for all the marbles awaits.

Success is coming fast for Bobby, but after an argument with Zoe about free will, exploitation, the nature of good & evil & so forth, he feels perhaps he used Blue against his will. Brooding over it, he tells Blue--earnestly, sincerely, genuinely--that he doesn't care about fame & fortune. It's Blue's decision alone & he doesn't have to fight if he doesn't want to. With a pregnant pause followed by a series of complex robotic gestures, Blue makes his intention, his metallic blue desire, known.

No longer controlled by his programming, he decides of his own volition to fight Lon, now fully acclimated as the Yakuza's candy apple red robot, for a billion dollar purse. There would be some moral ambiguity at this juncture, had Bobby--having sneaked into the Yakuza compound prior to the event to retreive some parts he had designed for Blue--not overheard Lon confess he only married Bobby's mother for her money & regretted that Bobby died before he'd taken out a huge insurance policy on the stupid kid. Then he laughed--a tinny, insidious, robotic laugh.

After the exciting boxing match that ensues, in the closing scene, Bobby--arm draped around Zoe, obviously his soulmate, his teary mother kissing him, overjoyed that he's still alive--slaps the dancing Blue high five, money raining down like confetti.

A great synopsis, you may say, I can't wait to see the movie, but what has this to do with poetry? In reply, let me say I'd considered writing the entire screenplay in rhyming iambic pentamenter, ala Moliere, trans. Richard Wilbur, but then I had an even better idea. The entire script will be written as a shape poem, intricately designed so that once unfolded, it resembles the original Rock'em Sock'em Robots toy in silhouette.

If that's not genius, I don't know what is.