Saturday, 22 February 2014
The Arena (1989)
There's an episode of the TV show Babylon 5 where a human fighter wants to take part in an alien MMA tournament. It's widely regarded as one of the worst episodes of the show. I mention it now because (a) the premise of this film is very similar and (b) they both starred Claudia Christian (though her B5 character wasn't a focus of the episode in question. Maybe she'd learned her lesson by then).
It's never a good sign when the box blurb doesn't match the actual movie, and Arena is such a film: the DVD cover claims no human has won the tournament for 1000 years, while in the movie it's only 50. It's not really an important difference, but attention to detail is a thing that is good, y'know?
Anyway, our nominal hero is a tall blond guy with an awesome six pack and a frankly fairly unlikeable personality. But we're supposed to like him anyway, as he whines about how the fights used to be about something, but now no-one will give him a shot. Fortunately for him, though, he gets into a fight at his work and punches out a listed fighter in the tournament. That leads him to be offered a contract, but he turns it down because he just wants to go home.
That'd make for a pretty short movie though, so he runs afoul of a local gangster - who also happens to manage the arena champion, of course - and signs up with the manager who previously offered him a contract (said manager is played by Claudia Christian, who is honestly not terribly good in this. Thankfully she's a lot better in B5). He proves a real contender (you're shocked, I'm sure) and comes in line for a title shot. Of course, the gangster from earlier isn't about to let his champ go out there without a few dirty tricks to help him out (even more shocking!).
Will Beefy McHuman triumph against all odds? Well, duh. Will you care? Probably not.
This one is worth checking out only for the alien costumes (which are sometimes quite inventive) and the parade of TV SF faces (in addition to Claudia Christian it also features the actors who played Quark and Gul Du'Kat on Star Trek: Deep Space 9).