Made in 1988, released to video stateside in 1991 for your viewing pleasure, welcome to Arena!
This futuristic proto-Real Steel, which has one of the best handicap-systems for boxing ever, is a movie all 1980s film aficionados must see!
On a space station where anything that’s bedazzled or covered in lamÃ© fabric obviously makes it futuristic, the intergalactic pastime is to watch alien “gladiators” box/sumo wrestling/UFC fight/slap flight. All right, I know it sounds confusing, and the story line behind the boxing matches (which you crave more of throughout the movie) seems to get in the way of this Rocky in space–but it is a really neat idea for a sport!
The sport is kind of a mix between Rock’em Sock’em Robots (because the aliens fighting each other are bastard children of Rahzar and Tokka from TMNT2, a grasshopper, and Maurice from Little Monsters minus being blue, and well, minus being robots too) Sumo wresting (because the singular purpose of each fighter is to toss their opponent out of the ring twice before they can declare victory) and slap fighting (because there’s a lot of slapping going on and sometimes not enough fist punching).
Witness some of this mayhem:
The great thing about the “game” in the “arena” is the handicap system. In order to make things “equal,” each opponent is given a handicap by a “light” that shines down on each of them. Each light, either blue or red, thus weakens or increases the strength of the fighter’s bodies so that–in theory–the fight is a fair fight. Think about it: we could finally see a mouse box an elephant, and it is a fair fight! How awesome is that!?
Armstrong pretty much sums up the central conflict in this story: “I had this dream that one day I could come up here and fight in the Arena. There’s just no room for real fighters up here anymore, at least not for humans.”
The one catch about the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine-like intergalactic space station is that “earthlings” haven’t really fought in the arena matches in a long time. Thus the problem–and enter Steven Armstrong (Peter Satterfield, you know…Dr. Pierce Peterson from The Bold and the Beautiful) to save the day, sleep with the sexy Jade (Shari Shattuck, you know…Rene from Mad About You), and call people stupid.
With Leck from DS9 (Yeah, Hamilton Camp! You know, the old Ferengi that’s always messing up Quark’s plans) cooking up eggs with four hands, and the gorgeous Claudia Christian (Susan Ivanova from Babylon 5) at his side how could Armstrong lose! Don’t you want to watch it yet?
Oh, and let’s not forget the awesome creature and special effects work done on this film. With guys like Michael Deak playing the champion named Horn, and doing the special effects you can’t go wrong! Deak’s filmography alone is impressive: Ghoulies II, The Phantom of the Opera (1989), Hulk, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Bad Boys II, Tremors 4, Transformers, and Tron: Legacy just to name a few! Now do you want to watch it?
Seriously, with Wezzil (Armin Shimermanand, yes, Quark from DS9) and Rogar (Mark Alaimo, yes, Dukat from DS9) plotting against Armstrong as he tries to box his way to victory while feeding the hungry orphaned children of the bowels of the space station how could you not what to see this? With it’s confusion and action Arena really is a must see, and must own. Order it at on VHS because it is that much of a Bad Movie Classic, it’s only on VHS! (Or Watch it on Netflix Instant Streaming. I did.)
Finally, as a fond farewell to this movie review I leave with the words of the Space Comic from Arena: “Oh, I could stay all night, folks, but I gotta go. A hand for the boys in the band, and remember, I hate your guts!”
Directed by: Peter Mangooian (Enemy Territory, Seedpeople)
Written by: Danny Bilson (The Rocketeer and The Flash TV Series) and Paul De Meo (Zone Troopers and The Rocketeer)
Cast: Paul Satterfield, Hamilton Camp, Claudia Christian, Marc Alaimo, Shari Shattuck, Armin Shimerman, Brett Porter, Charles Tabansi, Michael Deak, Jack Carter and more
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 97 minutes
Average Film Rating: 4.9 out of 10
Bad B-Movie Rating: 4 out of 5
Bob-o-Meter Rating: My Eyes!!!… Why!?… Mehâ€¦ Goodâ€¦ Greatâ€¦ Yes!â€¦ Badassâ€¦ Awesomeâ€¦ Holy Shit, Man!
Images taken from (and more can be found at) the entry on BadMovies.org.