1989’s R.O.T.O.R. Fails the 80s Cyberpunk Legacy

r.o.t.o.r. feature

R.O.T.O.R. (aka Blue Steel) is a low-budget action film from 1989 that was produced, written, and directed by Cullen Blaine. When one man is responsible for so many roles on a movie, it means one of two things: the movie is going to be awesome, or it’s really not. Unfortunately, in the case of R.O.T.O.R., it is the latter. The film has been billed as Robocop meets Terminator and falls significantly short of what made each of those movies excellent.


The basic plot of R.O.T.O.R. is that Captain J.B. Coldyron creates a robotic police officer (the Robocop element) with the intention of creating a new police force that can be judge, jury, and executioner (is that a touch of Judge Dredd?) in the field. The robot is activated before it is ready and goes on patrol resulting in a traffic stop turning into an execution. The driver’s fiance, Sonya R. Garren, flees the scene, and R.O.T.O.R. begins to hunt her (the Terminator element). Coldyron teams up with Dr. C.R. Steele, the designer of R.O.T.O.R.’s chassis, to defeat the renegade robot and save Sonya.

I want to see the version of this movie where R.O.T.O.R. looks like the poster.

I want to see the version of this movie where R.O.T.O.R. looks like the poster.

The above could make for a pretty decent B-movie if R.O.T.O.R.’s storytelling weren’t incredibly bad. To start, the opening scene is the film’s climax, which can be used well, but in this case, it is used to cover-up that the beginning of R.O.T.O.R. has almost no rising action. That is to say that nothing interesting happens in the movie until 30 minutes in when the inciting incident occurs. This event is the robot being activated. You could easily shear off the first 30 minutes, and this movie would have better. It isn’t until 30 minutes later that the first interesting character is introduced, Dr. C.R. Steele. This is terrible plotting; you shouldn’t introduce a pivotal character just before the movie’s climax. Steele brings an element of other great 80s B-movies by casting a strong, smart female character (whom I’m pretty sure is a body builder) into the movie. In my opinion, she should have been the protagonist.  In addition to terrible dialogue, that is poorly delivered, and uninspired fight scenes, R.O.T.O.R. wastes its final minutes by having the gall to set up a sequel. Although, the sequel looks like it would have been the movie that R.O.T.O.R. should have been with the robot being replaced with a Steele look alike. Was Steele a replicant? The few good moments the movie DOES have are nothing but well-lit entrances for R.O.T.O.R.

Steele as R.O.T.O.R. II

Steele as R.O.T.O.R. II

I can’t in good conscious recommend that anyone sit through this movie. It fails to be visually interesting, the characters are mostly flat, the storytelling will put you to sleep and if you came for the action you’ll be sorely disappointed. One reason you might want to watch R.O.T.O.R., which is what I took away from it, is if you are a writer. The movie’s storytelling is SO bad that everything it does wrong is immediately obvious. This can act as a tool for learning what not to do while constructing your own plot.

R.O.T.O.R (aka Blue Steel) . . . 2/10

There. Now you've seen the best shot in the movie.

There. Now you’ve seen the best shot in the movie.

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Veritas is a cyberpunk and writer who enjoys all aspects of the cyberpunk genre and subculture. He also journeys deeply into the recesses of the dissonance exploring his nihilistic existence. If you'd like to contact Isaac L. Wheeler (Veritas), the founder and editor-in-chief of Neon Dystopia, you can do so here: ilwheeler.founder@neondystopia.com
  1. It came out in 1987. Not 1989


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