So this is something a little different, I’m posting more of a review/analysis of this quirky little animated ‘mini-movie’ for the simple reason that my sister and I watched this recently out of pure nostalgia since we first saw it years ago as children, and there was just so much I wanted to talk about, so don’t take this one too seriously and let’s analyse this masterpiece.
So the rather oddly titled ‘Action Man – Robot Atak’ (with a seemingly deliberate spelling mistake) begins with a nice few shots of a man, presumably Action Man, on his motorbike speeding through the city. So far, so good, at least until Action Man decides to careen through the window of a bald, weirdly animated gangling professor (Who is not Doctor Gangrene). As it happens, all is not quite as it seems, since Action Man speaks in a voice that sounds like an actor for an Orc from The Lord of the Rings is doing an impression of what he thinks a half-Russian, half-Cockney person might sound like. It turns out that Action Man is actually a villain in disguise, he kidnaps the professor, and they leave. Now is probably the time to point out that plot points progress very quickly in this short film, and cuts between scenes are often sudden and accompanied by a little animation to let you know that one scene has ended and another has begun. In this case, the villain kidnapping Professor… Moron (Is that really his name?) is followed suddenly by a warmly-lit shot of the real Action Man and his team. You know its the real Action Man this time because he doesn’t stand around creepily not talking for ages even when directly addressed.
Oh wait, he does. And it’s really weird. Why does it take Action Man so long to say anything? And when he does speak, boy is it weird. I thought the dead giveaway of the last ‘Action Man’ being a fake was that his head was malformed, he spoke weirdly, and generally acted like a freak but this real Action Man is not much better. For a start, his companions address him by the rather awkward acronym of ‘AM’, so it sounds like they’re ending every statement to him with ‘Ey, Em’. Secondly, since Action Man is a British product, Action Man himself is also British. This has never sat right with me, even though I am British I have always considered Action Man to be American and it seems to fit his more gung-ho attitude. Having him have an RP voice makes him sound like he is a villain, and given that his introductory scene is so weird we’re left thinking ‘is this guy even the real Action Man?’ I suppose we shouldn’t expect class-A acting from a plastic figurine.
Speaking of plastic figurines, Action Man’s two compatriots seem to act as nothing more than these during this entire film. They act like pre-programmed robots with set phrases, usually praising Action Man for how cool he is and spouting expository dialogue about the plot. All we really know about Flynt (yes, again, it is spelt that way) is that he is Australian and likes to do stereo-typically Australian things and all we really know about Redwolf is that he is Native American and likes to… be bored? This definitely comes to a head in two of the few scenes where all three characters are sat around doing nothing action-orientated. I’ve already discussed the first one, where we first see Action Man and the whole thing is boring and weird. The second one, however, is perhaps even more awkward and out-of-place. Having been on an adventure, the scene begins with the team chilling in the back of the Team Truck, only for Flynt to start reeling off a list of prior feats that the Team has accomplished (even accompanied by little 2-second-long interspersed shots of said feats) purely so that the audience can see that they have been busy killing robots. Why not just montage the shots of the various battles and just let us know that way?
Regardless, one of the worst scenes in the film is here. This scene, and indeed the character it introduces, ruins the entire show for me. After managing to fool Doctor Moron, No-Face goes ahead and reanimates his master, Doctor X, ranting incessantly about how awesome he is (like two other characters we already know) and makes a big deal about his return that was inevitable anyway since he’s the villain. But honestly, until Doctor X comes along, things seem to be going pretty well for No-Face. He’s fooled everyone into thinking Action Man is a criminal and, in the process, kidnapped a brilliant scientist who he assumes can make him ‘mind-control gas’.
So why bring back Doctor X? He seems to be doing pretty well on his own. As it happens, No-Face reveals that he brought Doctor X back so that the mad scientist can make him a new face. The poor bastard just wants a new face, since he appears to have swapped his skin for a load of purple and green play-doh, and Doctor X is apparently the only person who can make him one. So why didn’t he just rebuild Doctor X as a head and then bribe him? Or threaten to never rebuild him again if he didn’t make a new face?
Whatever, No-Face is no longer the villain, now Doctor X is in charge. And boy, is he terrible. From almost the first scene he is in, this guy hams it up to the max and he just looks ridiculous. No-Face was threatening and almost menacing with his trench coat and face bandages but Doctor X looks like the end boss of a level from a Japanese shoot-em-up game. And his voice is hoarse and, at times, quite shrill, so on the whole he isn’t very threatening at all. It’s obvious that they had to put Doctor X in the movie since he is the main villain and this just so happens to be the design that Doctor X had at the time in the toy line, but they could have at least tried to beef him up with more to do than stand around ranting, being beaten up, and having his awful plans foiled. His first scene, his opening scene in the film where you see the main villain for the first time, has him being unceremoniously ripped apart by a gorilla and his limbs scattered around the room. Imagine a world where Darth Vader’s first scene in Star Wars: A New Hope is him having his arms and legs popped out of their metal ball-joints by an obese primate and tell me if that still makes him intimidating.
After a substantial dose of ‘capture-and-escape’ involving a ridiculously incongruous boxing match, a missile silo and a very flimsy harpoon cable we finally get to our final confrontation between Action Force and Doctor X. For some reason, they decide not to bring the gorilla with them this time and smash through the walls of Doctor X’s base in a heavily armed and armoured battle truck, only to step out of the truck and challenge Doctor X and his henchman to a… duel? I think? Whatever the motivation, they all start fighting, and after a long fight scene Flynt redirects the mind-control missiles (of which apparently there are only three). It is here that we must ask a vital question – does the mind control gas even work? It was never tested, and Professor Moron didn’t seem too sold on the idea of making it in the first place. Doctor X seems to think that three missiles full of this stuff is enough to allow him to conquer the world though, and he clearly has a good noggin on his shoulders (except for the numerous times in which he doesn’t) and anyone with the confidence to shape an entire previously undiscovered Eastern-Pacific island into a clumsy representation of their most aggressive-looking initial could probably take over the world regardless of what’s in the damn missiles. Nonetheless, Flynt decides to redirect said missiles – back to the location from which they were fired, namely, the room in which he is standing. They all die horribly, and the movie ends with the credits rolling silently over a black screen.
Nah, not really. They all escape and it’s only Doctor X and No-Face who die horribly. Except they don’t, since this is a cartoon, they survive (somehow) and vow revenge. But shouldn’t they be mind-controlled? I guess the missiles were just missiles after all, maybe Doctor X got confused. He was ripped apart by a Gorilla earlier that day. So the movie ends, just like that, with the heroes victorious – or does it?
I propose a theory that Action Man was Doctor X all along.
Only Doctor X would hire someone as incompetent as Flynt to carry out technical and demolitions responsibilities on a team carrying out high-stakes missions like Action Force do. Flynt is unwittingly working for the bad guy all along.