The Great Villain Blogathon is a tribute to the greatest, most sinister and most memorable antagonists in film history, presented by Speakeasy, Shadows & Satin and Silver Screenings. For a complete list of participating bloggers, visit the links at any of these sites.
As cinematic villains go, Ro-Man, the antagonist of Robot Monster, starts out pretty successfully. Single-handed, he accomplishes what the combined alien armadas of War of the Worlds, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers and Independence Day failed to do: wipe out almost the entire human species! From what we see of his mass genocide, he caught us flatfooted and unprepared. Plus, it looked like he did it without major damage to the ecosystem, if the mountainous terrain where the movie is set is any indication. There were no signs of radiation fallout or environmental decay. Impressive!
How exactly he did it is a little vague. The only visible signs of his technological might are a viewscreen with which he communicates with the last surviving human family, as well as his superior (from somewhere in space, I guess), and some manner of device which produces... soap bubbles.
Folks, let me tell you something: the last time I found soap bubbles scary was when I was three years old. I have this vague memory of being... disturbed, I guess, at the sight and touch of them during bath time. Don't ask me why! Most kids love playing with soap suds and bubbles in the tub, but I have no memories as a tot of enjoying that sort of thing. The baths I took were without bubbles. (I liked blowing soap bubbles, though.) My point is, who would consider soap bubbles threatening? Was Ro-Man actually Lawrence Welk in disguise?
Then there's Ro-Man himself. He may be monstrous, but is he a robot? Possible, but we never find out for certain. If he is, that might explain what he and his boss say about how their species (?), also called Ro-Man, is supposed to be emotionless. And yeah, any supervillain who can murder a little girl with his bare hands definitely comes up short in the emotion department.
So why does our furry alien get weak-kneed in the presence of the film's young, nubile female lead? Because the screenplay requires him to have a weakness? Could be! Ro-Man must kill her and her family... but he cannot! Instead he grabs her and carries her back to his cave. The chick gets carried a lot in this movie, but then, chicks getting carried is kind of a recurring theme throughout genre film and literature.
So what else? Ro-Man and his boss have some kinda zap ray thingie - the boss can use it from outer space or wherever he is - but the humans synthesize an immunity to it. I assume Ro-Man can't breathe the Earth's atmosphere, hence the helmet, yet the rest of his body is so resistant he doesn't need a spacesuit? Odd, but maybe his species is just built that way. (Although if he's a robot, he wouldn't need to breathe...) And of course, because he has no visible face, his hand gestures are humorously exaggerated, like he was a furry Power Ranger. Also, Ro-Man should be a lot better at hunting down a small band of humans after annihilating everybody else on the planet...
...but in the end, it doesn't matter because, spoiler alert, IT'S ALL A DREAM! The bratty little boy imagines Ro-Man and the earth's destruction, and yes, when this is revealed, it feels exactly like a ripoff, as it always does whenever this tiresome cliche is used. I knew this was a legendarily crappy movie going in, but it's worse than I thought: minimal action, with a ridiculous and unbelievable romantic subplot that slows the action down, and a cop-out ending. And what were those dinosaurs all about?
Creative visual appearance aside - and you have to admit, a space helmet on a gorilla-suited body is pretty memorable - Ro-Man could've been a great supervillain with a little more thought. As a genocidal conqueror, he could've been frightening; as a bumbling incompetent who can't find one human family, he could've been funny; as an alien who learns about love, he could've been tragic. In the end, he's none of the above, and the movie is the poorer for it, which is a shame.