Youtube Film Club – Arena (1989)

Cool poster, even if that 1000 years is actually 50, according to the film

Cool poster, even if that 1000 years is actually 50, according to the film

Have you ever wondered what some sort of “Rocky” / “Bloodsport” thing, set in the Mos Eisley cantina from “Star Wars”, would look like? Well, wonder no longer!

This film stars some TV sci-fi royalty. Armin Shimerman and Marc Alaimo from “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” both have large roles, as does Claudia Christian from “Babylon 5”. Also, I was slightly surprised to discover, it’s from the Full Moon stable! Okay, it was Charles Band’s previous company, Empire, but I’m lumping it all under the one name. Did those guys make every sci-fi and horror film from the early 80s to the late 90s? Follow the tag at the end to read our huge array of Full Moon reviews.

It’s a space station, somewhere, and it’s 2000 years in the future, with inhabitants packed in like sardines. There are all manner of aliens there – mostly of the rubber mask variety, which I like. You’re not watching an old sci-fi film on VHS expecting mega-effects, but it’s all colourful and fun. The main reason for the station’s existence seems to be “The Arena”, where fights, broadcast round the galaxy, take place. Sadly, we don’t get to see a ton of different fights, but when we do they’re pretty good fun. The champion is a particularly mean-looking alien called Horn, who along with his manager Rogor, dominate life on the station.

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Into this story is dropped Steve Armstrong, a fast-food cook, and his boss Shorty, who has four arms. When he’s in a long shot, his arms are just under his cloak, but whenever he’s in close up there’s clearly someone stood behind him making all four arms work. This is a pretty funny visual, and they use it all the time, even in scenes which are supposed to be serious. Brilliant! Anyway, he’s a fighter but couldn’t get into the Arena, even though he’s obviously an amazing fighter, and it takes him injuring one of the Arena guys in a bar-room brawl for him to get noticed by one of the trainers.

So, we’ve got all sorts of different aliens, that lovely late 80s vision of what the future would look like, and a bunch of your standard boxing movie characters and tropes. My favourite bit is from the character listed only in the credits as “Space Comic”, like the cheesiest Vegas lounge act you’ve ever seen, cracking mother-in-law jokes. Oh, and how the music of the future is like atonal easy listening music. I’ve been known to groan when seeing Richard Band’s name as doing the music for a film, as he nearly always sounds the same, but with this one he really nailed it.

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I loved this film. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, the plot is solid if not too original, and it’s nice to see a woman playing the grizzled trainer role, and her gender not really being an issue. There’s not much of an arc to it, in that Steve doesn’t have to learn or progress in order to get from where he is at the beginning to where he is at the end, but it’s pretty small potatoes when it comes to this, another solidly entertaining movie from the golden era of Full Moon. And the title you win is pretty amazing, too – the victorious fighter at the end of the film (no spoilers) is described as the “New Undefeated Champion of the Universe”. No half measures, and I like that.

Rating: thumbs up

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One thought on “Youtube Film Club – Arena (1989)

  1. Pingback: Youtube Film Club – Robot Jox (1989) |

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