Robot Ninja (1989)


J.R. Bookwalter‘s movie about a comic book artist that becomes a superhero seems to have had a budget of fifty bucks. Because of that much of the movie’s elements are sacrificed. This includes common sense, continuity, logic, a coherent story, tolerable acting, and even the most fundamental special effects. Somewhere embedded in the seams of this nearly unwatchable farce is a good movie. But the director spends more time trying to get mileage out of the cameos by Linnea Quigley and Burt Ward, than he does trying to elicit a genuinely good narrative. Who can blame him when the movie garners a cast of terrible unknowns? I’m surprised Ron Jeremy doesn’t pop up at some point.

I mean shit, if you don’t have a budget, at least give us some interesting characters. One thing “Robot Ninja” has going for it is that it’s a superhero movie about a fanatical comic book fan trying to fight crime in reality a la “Kick Ass” and “Super.” It’s just that any nugget of satire is lost in a haze of junk. Bookwalter‘s low budget cheapie is a complete mess without a single shred of story that makes any sense. Michael Todd plays Leonard Miller, an obnoxious comic book artist whose indie comic book Robot Ninja is now a hit television show. The problem is the TV executives have turned his character in to a series in the vein of Adam West’s Batman (get it? Burt Ward is in the movie!), and Leonard is pissed his edgy comic is being humiliated. Despite becoming filthy stinking rich, Leonard insists on keeping his comic dark and violent. What does this have to do with the central plot? Nothing.

It’s just a lot of really clunky exposition, and Bookwalter milking the appearances by Burt Ward and Linnea Quigley as much as possible. After three thugs kidnap a couple alongside the street, their attempts to rape them are botched when Leonard intervenes. Despite his best efforts, the couple is murdered and Leonard barely survives. Through this experience he decides to use the incident as a source of a story for his comic book (Man, what a stone cold prick), and make his superhero cool again. If that’s not enough, Leonard decides to strike back at the criminals by inventing the costume from his comic book and wreaking havoc on them for their crimes. As noted, most of the narrative is all over the place, with the movie showing its bottom of the barrel budget. In one scene a truck speeding through a highway obviously is just being rocked back and forth by stage hands while the actors mimic driving.

And for some reason the score seems to drop out of the movie for minutes on end, draining all attempts at tension and suspense. And I’m sorry but I can’t figure out why Robot Ninja is a hit comic, when the art by David Lange is bush league. We’re supposed to be impressed with opening wipes of Leonard’s comic book, but it looks awful. The suit in the flesh looks even worse. For all intents and purposes though, director Bookwalter doesn’t let his character off the hook as Leonard gets the ever loving crap kicked out of him during his crime fighting. Plus, Leonard involves his friends only to get them killed, so it’s kind of fun to see his character go out in an embarrassing manner. It makes the entirety of the movie pointless, but it’s indicative of how much even director Bookwalter hates this character. “Robot Ninja” is embarrassing D grade slop best suited for the bold and masochistic movie geek.