Gobots: Battle of the Rock Lords – Powerful Living Rocks!

Some people said watching this would be akin to flogging me, but I guess I must be a little masochistic, because I’ve always had time for it. After the conclusion of the Challenge of the Gobots series, Hanna-Barbera took their shot at a movie version a little before Sunbow unveiled Transformers – The Movie with this crossover/introduction to the Rock Lords. It’s the final time we’d see the Guardians and the Renegades (and the first and last time we’d see the Rock Lords), and a few stars of the time were on board to play some of the new characters, so it does feel special if you’re into it.

Of note, on my copy, the video released in the UK, there are trailers for Starchaser – The Legend of Orin (a massive Star Wars ripoff that I will get to some time), The Adventures of Mark Twain (the WEIRD claymation show with the famous “Satan” scene that I’m tempted to do too if I can find it), The Adventures of the American Rabbit (which bizarrely is on Netflix and I could also do), and Teen Wolf (nothing against it, but it’s not in my wheelhouse).

So, just to confuse everyone unless you’re au fait with the toyline, the opening credits introduce us to Margot Kidder as Rock Lord/Lady Solitaire (kind of an action girl/spy), Roddy McDowall as her diminutive squire Nuggit, Michael Nouri as Boulder, the leader of the heroic Rock Lords, a character who sounds like he has balls the size of watermelons, and Telly Savalas as evil Rock Lord leader Magmar, then the rest of the series regulars on one card.

As the Guardians work on the rebuilding of Gobotron, a ship crash lands at high speed, carrying Solitaire and Nuggit, looking for help on their planet of Cordax. Magmar is capturing Rock Lords and taking their power weapons, and when he has all that he needs it will give him access to an ultimate weapon, so the Guardians agree to help stop him. The Renegades learn of these events too, and with Cy-Kill liking the sound of that weapon too, they decide to throw in with Magmar and his crew.

Solitaire has an incredibly deep voice through some effects being laid over Margot Kidder’s voice, even deeper than Nouri’s! Nuggit is likeable but every bit the get-into-trouble character that Orko or Bumblebee was. There are a couple of Rock Lords on their side who are fun, like Crackpot and Pulver-Eyes, but the villains are more fun. Regular voice actors like Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, Michael Bell and Dick Gautier get to play characters like Tombstone, Sticks and Stones, Slimestone and Brimstone, and in a bizarre cameo Foster Brooks plays a Rock Lord who looks like the Creature from the Black Lagoon called Stoneheart. Not characters of consequence and just making up the numbers, but they look and act cooler than the heroes do for the most part.

The regular characters fill their normal roles, with Guardian Smallfoot getting captured and having to escape with the help of human friends Nick and AJ. Cy-Kill, played in grandiose fashion by Bernard Erhard as ever, gets to chew on some lines. Turbo is the tough guy with a heart of gold who would shoot first and ask questions second if not for some gentle reminders. Leader-1 is the stalwart hands-on-hips leader. Cop-Tur gets to be dopey in an endearing way. Crasher is manic and cackling, a pretty strong sub-commander for the Renegades.

The story sees the Renegades capturing Solitaire and forcing her to lead them to what they want, even seeing through her pitiful attempts to deceive them (Cy-Kill, in a great line, threatens to have Crasher turn her into “costume jewellery”). The Guardians and Nuggit head to Cordax too and team up with the heroic Rock Lords while Cy-Kill and the Renegades align with Magmar. On the planet of the Rock Lords, there are multiple battles between both sides, including dinosaur-like creatures too.

The most interesting bits with the good guys are some vague revelations about the world before everyone became Rock Lords, with everyone having been flesh and bone (except for robotic Nuggit, who’s from a civilisation before them) before a cataclysmic event where everyone was fused with rock. The best bits with the villains are the smooth scheming between them and then the sudden switch to bickering and squabbling.

While most don’t, I really like this film. The Gobots get their knocks, but I think they’re really useful in launching the Rock Lords. I think they would’ve done fine on their own because the characters are strong enough and the actors have fun with the roles. Michael Nouri does everything he needs to do as Boulder, but as in Masters of the Universe, where Frank Langella played Skeletor and made him the best character in the film, it’s Magmar who’s the most fun in the film thanks to Telly Savalas being happy to drop his guard and just ham it up for a memorable performance.

Old video tapes and YouTube are your only options for viewing this, as Warner Classics have released the whole series but not this film on DVD. I hope that changes, although understandably it could be due to association with other companies, but it’s a shame it’s not. In a way, I’d describe it as the best of the Gobots, which for some might not be a high bar, but I really think it’s worth a chance.