Sorry for the slight delay. Our power went out last night as I was writing this review.
Fight movies. We've all seen them. And really, if you've seen one, you've seen them all. I mean, is Kickboxer any different from Bloodsport? No. Are they both entertaining? Yes. Arena takes the "fight movie" theorem and shoots it into outer space. The plot follows Steve Armstrong, a man so plain, he could moonlight as a vanilla wafer. Why didn't they just stamp "American Hero" onto his forehead? Anyway, he reluctantly signs a contract with a fight promoter to compete on the arena circuit. These are the big leagues, and an earthling hasn't won the championship belt in fifty years. Most of the sluggers are either aliens or robots.
The fighting involves kicks, punches and wrestling moves. Basically, anything goes. We're introduced to the current champion within the first ten minutes. He's the cyber mutant on the right side of the poster. In relative terms, he is the Brock Lesnar of arena fighting. The arena itself looks rather impressive. I'm not sure how much money the producers had to blow, but it couldn't have been a hefty amount. Director Peter Manoogian ensured that the bulk of his slender resources went to the special effects department. He made great use of miniatures, matte paintings and old-fashioned animatronics. This isn't Star Wars, but it's more epic than one might think.
What else would you expect from the man who brought us Demonic Toys? I kid because I love. Arena is fun. It doesn't stray too far from the Rocky formula, but I wasn't bothered by the customary script. Horror critics use the term "mindless" to describe films like this, and while I hate to take the easy route, it's true that you need to leave your brain at the door to get as much out of the viewing experience as possible. There were only a couple of furrows in the storyline that pecked at my nerves. I couldn't make heads or tails out of the handicapping system that safeguards against foul play. Thus, the ending confused the piss out of me.
Speaking of the ending (I'll do my best to sidestep spoilers, but you can probably figure out what happens), it would have been more meaningful if Steve was the first human to win the championship. We already know that it can be done, so the victory doesn't carry as much weight as it could have. Those are frivolous invectives, though. The bottom line is that Arena is a merry, mild-mannered block of sci-fi cheese. It's a piece of cake. It's...cheesecake! I just came up with that. Honest! Am I too clever for the room or what?
4 days ago