Another volume of Metal Munching Maniacs can only mean one thing, another two hours of mind-numbing scenes of metal boxes running into each other. The other three videos in this series, reviewed by Chris Tribby and myself here, here, and here, were really bad. But being a masocist, and not wanting Chris to be able to say that he reviewed more dud discs than me, I took on the task of viewing the 2003 Nationals DVD. Presumably this is the national championship matches, but they never really say.
Like the other volumes in this series, this is just a series of robot battles. There are no color commentators, background music, or explanation of the rules. Basically anything that would have actually made this disc enjoyable to view. If you watch tennis or boxing on TV, they take great pains to explain the rules and scoring in order gain new viewers. With just a little more effort, this might have been a disc that could have been fun to watch, but they go to great lengths to make it inaccessible to people who aren't into the sport.
One slight advantage this disc has over the other three in the series is that they actually tell you who wins a match. That's a big step up, but it isn't quite enough. They'll put up a subtitle that states a certain robot wins by a "26-19 judges decisions." That implies that there is some point of scoring mechanism, but what that my be is never explained.
I don't like to give totally negative reviews. Many people work hard to put a movie or DVD, and I don't like to belittle their labor even if the final product isn't perfect. But try as I might, I can't find any redeeming value in this disc. The production values are as low as any DVD I've seen, with cheap camera work and a total lack of thought to the viewer. There isn't any frame work for the disc, no structure that would make it easier to watch.
As it is, the disc gets monotonous very quickly with one battle seeming much like the previous one. You know it's really bad when you don't even care who wins.
The Dolby Digital mono soundtrack is a little weak. There isn't any narration, so the only sounds are the robots crashing into each other and an unintelligible mumbling that I soon realized was the announcer for the audience. The sounds of the battles themselves are a little muffled, leading me to think that the arena was mic'ed from the exterior. You could hear the comments of the audience, and the sounds of the battles weren't as forceful as I was hoping.
The full frame image is adequate, though it had a home video quality to it. The show just looked like something that one of the participants would have filmed. All the video suffered from digital defects, with aliasing (especially bad on robots with spinning weapons) and microblocking being the most prevalent.
There are a couple of extras on this disc, but nothing that impressed
me terribly. The Construction Timelapse (sic) shows the arena
being build up quickly, something that would have been funny if I was still
in elementry school. The Tournament Timelapse, (sic again)
on the other hand compressed the whole disc into 2 ½ minutes which
I found much more enjoyable than the full length event. The Arena
Floor Testing is a short bit where a robot with a large pick-axe attachment
tries to dent the floor. Ohhhh-kayyy. There was also a music
video where electronic music was played over scenes of the battles.
AnimEigo is a great company that has put out a lot of good anime DVDs.
Unfortunately they really mistepped with this one. If you are really
into building and fighting robots, you might find this enjoyable, but otherwise
this isn't worth watching. Skip it.