The Eliminators, a movie I watched as a kid and had the fortune to catch again On Demand over the holidays, held up remarkably well for what it is. I expected to laugh at it but, while I may have done so in places, as an adventure movie it does OK. Like a lot of these kinds of movies from the Eighties, The Eliminators’ plot seems as though it may have been generated by a random encounters table (TM TSR…get used to it. This will be a nerdy review). And it well may have been, because this movie is For Nerds, By Nerds.
The highlight of the film was without question John the Mandroid. Mandroid, a catchy term tossed around in this movie, is the same as cyborg. A rebuilt pilot (of course), John struggles with his murderous programming by an evil scientist, who plans to use John as the prototype for his army of Mandroids. He is introduced in the final stages of testing for this purpose, then ordered to be disassembled. A Japanese scientist (important later) has some moral qualms about dismantling a living person for scrap, though. Mad scientists always hire squeamish assistants. Dr. Quandary helps John escape, but not before being lasered through the heart, giving our Mandroid his Uncle Ben moment. Anyway, back to the Mandroid suit: he has removable/replaceable arms a la Evil Master of the Universe Trap-Jaw, as well as a working half-track lower body, which he can switch out for his robot legs (you were warned about the nerdiness. I forgot to mention the geekiness). The half-track is slow to the point of being ridiculous even when he does use it but it doesn’t matter because it looks BADASS. The Mandroid design team members are the real heroes of the movie.
John breaks into a military base to try to find some help with his hardware issues and picks up the next member of his adventuring party, a Colonel Hunter (I have no idea of what, she never wears any sort of uniform) working in military R & D. She has a pet robot named S.P.O.T., seemingly designed to make a neat toy. She asks John how he managed to get past the guards. “Knock out gas,” he replies. Security in this top secret base is lax, even by James Bond villain standards. A two ton metal man with one glowing red eye manages to sneak in more or less undetected. Hunter, played by Denise “Tasha Yar” Crosby no less, instantly believes his story and falls in with his quest. There’s no time for it but the “initial misunderstanding and big fight before the team up” is one of the only clichés missing from the movie. She also takes the lead at this point, being that she is strong-willed, resourceful and has military experience and John is a Mandroid with memory issues who is easily confused.
In the next role play session, uh, I mean movie scene, our party picks up its next member. Fontana, a smuggler (who in spite of his noodle arms insists on cutting the sleeves off of his shirt) and our next adventurer, is introduced arguing with the Greedo to his river rat Han Solo, Bayou Betty. Tasha Yar walks in and announces that the toughest pirate in the bar wins their fare upriver. A battle royal immediately breaks out, as times are tough and fares scarce. And you thought people on the river were happy to give. Luckily Fontana is smart and sits out the whole thing while Bayou Betty beats the snot out of the entire bar full of stereotypical tough guys. Then he clobbers her from behind and flees with his prize. Bayou Betty gives chase when she wakes but they escape her because, though she may have a superior craft and be a more skilled and ruthless pilot, she did not pack a laser-equipped Mandroid. Them’s the breaks, BB.
Our next intrepid hero to join the party, seemingly at random, is that most essential warrior of the Eighties, The Ninja. Kuji was pretty average for a ninja, though. On a scale of Foot Clan soldier to Snake Eyes, this guy barely rates a Lee Van Cleef. The best part about the guy is the actor’s name: Conan Lee. That name just screams warrior. But Kuji wasn’t just randomly staking out this TerrorDrome. Remember the guy who sacrificed himself for John’s escape? That was- DUN-DUN-DUUUNNN -the ninja man’s pappy! He wants vengeance or redemption for the honor of his clan or whatever it is ninjas want. So he throws his lot in with the Eliminators, which is finally taking shape with his addition. Everyone knows an adventuring party isn’t fully formed with less than four members, Priest (or Mandroid), Fighter (or Ninja), Thief (or Smuggler) and Wizard (or Scientist).
As you will recall, our villain planned an army of Mandroids, to use as an invading force. His end goal is to conquer the Roman Empire. Yep, the man has also perfected time travel. Pretty ambitious guy, too bad he was SO EVIL. Now that they have battled their way into his stronghold, the Eliminators attack with all their might. They do defeat him and foil his history altering and textbook-reprint-requiring scheme, stranding him, in a nifty twist, in the year 4,000 or so B.C. This makes him, as the Hunter so aptly puts it, “the ruler of nothing.” And that’s where the movie abruptly ends.
Given the nature of The Eliminators’ concept and likely target audience, the few female characters come off remarkably well. They neither ask for nor need rescuing in the film, and frequently are better at important tasks than their male counterparts. None of this makes the movie better or worse, but I think it worth noting in a movie so grounded in boy-friendly themes that it didn’t even bother with a romantic subplot. And make no mistake, this is a boys’ movie. Mandroids, ninjas, river pirates, laser-firing robots, Roman soldiers and caveman tribes guarantee that. As Fontana puts it, “What is this? A comic book?” And, yes, save the fact that it’s on film it is a comic book. But that is also the charm of the Eliminators. It is put together with a mixture of attention to detail and silly broadness that only love of genre and a low budget can provide. I don’t like to normally go so deep into the plot during a review but the Eliminators has become somewhat scarce and I don’t know how easily found it is on the internet since I never checked, but if you read this I think you’ll know how interested or not you will be in the film. 3 ½ stars, nicely hokey action/adventure genre piece, and a pretty good specimen of the Eighties too