Arena – 1989 – Sci-fi monster classic


Maybe you haven’t heard about this movie Arena? I think it’s quite forgotten and it’s certainly acquired taste. For me it was entertaining to watch, I didn’t find it amazing but I would conclude that this type of movie couldn’t have been made today. The effects and monsters are practical, no CGI. For me, that’s a huge plus. I don’t really mind CGI when it’s well done for that matter but the computer-generated effects seldom are when it comes to low-budget movies. Of course, practical effects are usually better with a high budget as well but even on a small budget, it has something that CGI never will – charm!

For most people, the actors might not be that famous but if you’re a sci-fi buff you will at least recognize a few of them. Claudia Christian might be most known for her role in the Babylon 5 series, at least that’s true for me. From another space station series – Star Treks Deep Space Nine there is Marc Alaimo and Armin Shirmerman. As I said, maybe not huge stars in the general public eye but for sci-fi- and cult-film fans they are well-known names. Do they do a great job? well, they play their parts and they are believable. There are no extraordinary skills required either for that matter.

The plot more or less revolves around this competition called Arena where people and aliens fight each other. I’m uncertain about the rules but there is some kind of technology that equalizes the opponent’s natural strength to some kind of handicap level. Other than that it seems like a combination of boxing and sumo-wrestling. It doesn’t really matter. What is entertaining is the very simple storyline which is by no means made too complicated. It’s very straight forward which is a real strength for a movie like this. And that’s also something that wouldn’t have been possible today. If Arena were made today I bet that there would be lots of loose ends and overcomplicated plot elements.

It’s simply about this guy having a dream to fight in The Arena and getting the chance to do so. He follows his dream and there are other people trying to stop his of course. There’s money and power involved that some people are not ready to let go of in favor of sportsmanship. There is also the premise that no human had a chance in the game for 50 years. So the main character quickly becomes a hero among his peers. Funny thing though. There are a lot of alien fighters participating in the tournament, but almost the entire audience is human. Pretty strange that the fighter’s own species aren’t there to cheer for their champion?

Just relax and let this film entertain you. The makeup is great and the aliens are made with a lot of imagination. Don’t make it too complicated and just feel enjoyed by the simplicity

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Tommy Snöberg Söderberg

Autodidact film scholar and music-loving thinker who reads the occasional book.

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