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FILM:
BATTLE OF THE ROCK LORDS

ORIGINAL RELEASE:
21/03/1986
WRITER:
Jeff Segal


SYNOPSIS

Solitaire explains Cordax's plight to the GuardiansThe Guardians' construction work on Gobotron is interrupted when the planet is struck by a strange meteorite. They investigate the crash site, and find the meteorite has two objects inside. It opens up, revealing a pair of rocks. These then transform into robots, and introduce themselves as Nuggit and Solitaire. They come in peace from the planet Cordax, asking for the Guardians' help. Solitaire explains to them that Cordax was once made up of many kingdoms, each with their own kingdom and Power Sceptre. However, a Rock Lord named Magmar is conquering the rest of the planet, taking the Sceptres of the vanquished lords to boost his own powers at his Stonehead base. Apart from Solitaire and Nuggit, only a small band of Rock Lords led by Boulder oppose Magmar.

Command Centers and Thrusters battle over GobotronThis is all overheard by Fitor, who reports back to Cy-Kill on Roguestar. He's intrigued by the Power Sceptres, and orders a full-scale attack on Gobotron in order to capture Solitaire and Nuggit. The Guardians agree to help Solitaire, but the Renegade Fleet arrives before they can begin preparations. The size and force of the attack has the Guardians on the back foot, and Cy-Kill is able to infiltrate their headquarters. Nick, AJ, Solitaire and Small Foot are captured by the Renegades, then use them as hostages to cover their escape. The fleet returns to Roguestar. The Guardians plan their next move, and Nuggit reveals he can track Solitaire. Leader-1 prepares to lead a small team to get around their defences - himself, Turbo, Scooter, Matt and Nuggit. On Roguestar, Cy-Kill begins interrogating Solitaire, and finds out about the exist of other Sceptres. He orders Roguestar to make for Cordax.

Boulder tussles with one of Magmar's thugsThe ship reaches the planet, but is unable to negotiate the large asteroid field surrounding Cordax. Instead Cy-Kill heads to the surface in a Thruster with a small team and Solitaire, searching for Magmar. He has been surprised by a pre-emptive attack from Boulder's forces. The Command Center is damaged negotiating the asteroid belt, and crash-lands. Meanwhile, Magmar is on the point of being defeated when Thruster arrives. The Renegades rout Boulder's army, and only a handful of his troops escape. He proposes an alliance to Magmar, who eventually accepts when he sees Cy-Kill has Solitaire's Sceptre. The Renegade refuses to hand it over just yet, but does give Magmar Solitaire herself.

Turbo and Leader-1 chase after ThrusterThe Command Center is badly damaged, and the Guardians are unable to contact Gobotron for help. In the meantime, Leader-1 decides they should meet with Boulder in order to help, and recover the hostages. On their way to his stronghold they're attacked by Boulder's troops, who believe them to be in with the Renegades. They manage to clear up the misunderstanding and head to the stronghold. However, they're soon found by Cy-Kill and Magmar. The Guardians take on Thruster and the Renegades, but both Leader-1 and Turbo are damaged. They all manage to escape thanks to Marbles' precognition.

The Guardians and their allies on the Sea of FireHis escape route takes them down a river of lava know as the Sea of Fire on a slab of rock. Believing they're finished, the Renegades withdraw to repair their Thruster. However, Scooter is able to direct the rock to shore, though they now have to travel across Corvax's wasteland. Boulder states that they have to beat Magmar to the Kingdom of Fossils to prevent the Sceptre of its' Rock Lord from being taken. Back onboard Roguestar, Nick and AJ manage to escape from their cell, and then find and free Small Foot. They cause considerable damage to Roguestar, interfering with Cy-Kill and Magmar's planned assault on the Fossil Lord before flying down to Corvax in a Spacehawk.

Small Foot and Pulver-Eyes sabotage one of Magmar's Rock VehiclesThe other Guardians and their allies are unable to reach the Fossil Lord before his Sceptre is taken by Magmar and the Renegades. The spared Lord meets with them, as do Small Foot and the kids. She suggests cannibalising the Spacehawk in order to repair Leader-1 and Turbo, and makes weapons for their friends. Realised they have to act fast, the group sneaks in to Stonehead's perimeter, sabotaging Thruster and laying charges around the base. Inside, Magmar adds the Fossil Lord's Sceptre to his machine, invoking ancient powers and creating a new weapon - the Ultrasceptre. Cy-Kill and the Renegades try to take it, and a fight breaks out between them and Magmar's followers.

Cy-Kill with the UltrasceptreBoulder orders the charges blown, while Solitaire escapes in the confusion and meets up with the good guys. Together they all storm Stonehead, but Cy-Kill grabs the Ultrasceptre and leaves with the Renegades. The Guardians give chase, and finish off the ailing Thruster. Cy-Kill actives the Ultrasceptre, but is able to control its' raw power. Leader-1 knocks the weapon from Cy-Kill's grip before it can consume him, and the Renegades retreat. The Ultrasceptre them collides with Stonehead and is destroyed. Magmar also retreats, and Cordax is saved. The Guardians repair the Command Center, bid farewell to their friends and head back to Gobotron, promising to visit Cordax again.


NOTES

Brimstone and MagmarThere's another possible appearance by Major Mo near the start (though without a Hanna-Barbera character model, it's difficult to be sure). Despite being referred to in other places (such as the Rock Lords toyline literature) as Quartex, in the film the planet is clearly called Cordax. Rock Lords isn't the name of the race from Cordax, who aren't otherwise named, it's a title - the only Rock Lords in the film therefore are Boulder, Solitaire, Magmar and the Fossil Lord (oh, and the unnamed unfortunate killed by Magmar near the start). Each has their own vibrational frequency. A long time ago they were organic beings, before everything on Cordax was fused with rock by a natural catastrophe. Nuggit, however, is robotic and predates the rock people, though he doesn't remember any of it, being found and repaired (from the sounds of things, by Boulder and Marbles themselves).

Granite is attacked by StoneheartCy-Kill has considerably revamped his fleet since the defeat in "Mission Gobotron". The Thruster used for the bulk of the story is his personal craft (and also his favourite). Marbles uses a boomerang, and has psychic powers. Slimestone and Pulver-Eyes are seen to have rifles that fire mud. Sticks 'n' Stones is a conjoined twin, always arguing with himself. Brimstone appears to be Magmar's second in command. Rock Narlies are creatures that live all over Cordax, an seem to have avoided being fused with rock. Cordax's landmarks include the Wastelands, the Dark Forest and the Sea of Fire. Rockasaurs are also seen. Renegade Spacehawk transport jets are seen for the first (and only) time.

Boulder with Pulver-Eyes, Marbles and CrackpotGobots: Battle of the Rock Lords was released to 1045 theatres in March 1986 (five months ahead of Transformers: The Movie) and took a grand total of $1,338,264 - making it the 159th most successful film of the year (seriously, try and think of anything like 158 films from 1986 - that's how badly this thing did). It was rated G, animated by Hanna-Barbera and distributed by Clubhouse Pictures. The film was renamed Machine Men: Battle of the Rock Lords for Australian release. It's been released on VHS in America, Australia and the UK amongst others; the UK release by Frontline Video was in the early 1990s, and is possibly the most recent release of any Hanna-Barbera Gobots material.

SolitaireThere is considerable speculation that the film was originally intended as a four- or five-part TV miniseries, either as a coda to the Gobots' adventures similar to the Transformers serial "The Rebirth", or (less likely, with the line on the wane) as the opener for a second full season of the show. Supporting this is the picture size (which retains a standard television ratio), the presence of fades where there would be a commercial break or episode endings and the general cheapness of it all - the animation is no different to that seen on the weekly series. It would seem Tonka got wind of Transformers the Movie, hired a few affordable celebrities to dub the new characters (Telly Savalas as Magmar, Roddy MacDowell as Nuggit, Michael Nouri as Boulder and Margot Kidder as Solitaire), added a cinema-style set of titles and put the thing out.

Magmar's Stonehead fortressThe Rock Lords, of course, had their own toyline. Like Gobots it originated from the Machine Robo line, being an import of the Rock Robo. Despite the film crossover (and another in the pages of the Official Gobots Magazine) the toylines were promoted as separate entities. They received no further media. Rock Lords had a strong first year, outselling Gobots (which was winding down), before a much poorer second year as they began to run out of figures, and was cancelled in 1987. The range was also sold in Europe (but not in great numbers; they were avaliable reduced en masse in many outlets, and I strongly remember getting nearly every figure on one trip to town). They still have a (surprisingly snooty) cult following.


TRIVIA

Fitor with two cups and a length of stringGobots Featured: Van Guard, Tork, Turbo, Leader-1, Scooter, Zeemon, Heat Seeker, Fitor, Small Foot, Twister, Rest-Q, Sparky, Dozer, Cop-Tur, Crasher, Pincher, Klaws, Bugsie, Hornet, Doctor Go, Twin Spin, Stallion.

Humans Featured: Matt, Nick, AJ.

Others Featured: Solitaire, Nuggit, Magmar, Tombstone, Sticks 'n' Stones, Stoneheart, Brimstone, Slimestone, Granite, Crackpot, Marbles, Pulver-Eyes, Boulder, the Fossil Lord.

Doctor Joy/Professor Von GoParticularly Glaring Errors: Zeemon suddenly has a pair of rectangular yellow eyes on his windscreen. Doctor Go is seen inside the Guardian Headquarters; it was probably meant to be Professor Von Joy. It gets weirder later on when Doctor Go turns up on Roguestar - with Von Joy's body, but with a new face added (it's not quite Doctor Go's face, missing the monocle and having yellow eyes). Bizarrely, the character is credited as Herr Fiend (the name Tonka gave to the toy the normal Doctor Go is based on). Cy-Kill calls Bugsie "Klaws" a few times. By way of recompense, Klaws replaces Bugsie in some of the long shots. While Leader-1's plan about only taking one Command Center has its' merits, there's no reason he shouldn't take another half-a-dozen Guardian troops with him. Just how do Small Foot, Nick and AJ cause the Renegades so many problems on Roguestar?

Moments of Actual Quality: The Renegades take the piss out of Magmar and his troops being rocks at every opportunity.

Unintentional Hilarity: Heat Seeker's needless exposition noting Solitaire is changing too is rendered especially redundant, seeing as she's already changed when he speaks. Crackpot kicks Tombstone in the crotch.


REVIEW:

Boulder and company surround the Guardians and NuggitNot actually too bad. The film isn't quite as leaden as I remember, though even at 74 minutes it drags in places (noticeably the pointless trek across the wastelands). Cordax and its' people are well explored, though, and nearly all the Rock Lord characters make a solid first impression. The film never quite forgets the Gobots, though some of the excuses made in order to keep their numbers so low stretches credibility in places.

That said, it's really just a long, slightly above-average Challenge of the Gobots episode, and won't convert any doubters.