Wednesday, 8 April 2015

SHORT REVIEW: Robot Overlords (2015)

This short review appeared on The Upcoming website here.

Jon Wright’s Robot Overlords is the latest in a string of science-fiction films that attempt to beat the Hollywood tentpoles at their own game with a lot less cash.

Robot Overlords is set in an England in which robots have taken over and confined everyone to their homes while they conduct some shady experiment. After having accidentally discovered a way to overcome the robots’ tracking devices, four kids escape and embark on a journey to find one of their fathers (Steven Mackintosh). They are pursued by human collaborator Robin Smythe (Ben Kingsley) and head robot Mediator 452 (Craig Garner).

The film aims at being an adventure story for kids and adults alike with a whole load of CGI thrown in. It could have worked, but the film has too many bothersome flaws that get in the way. The film isn’t really sure what audience it is going for – a dark opening and some dirty jokes suggest that it is for teens rather than the whole family but these moments are generally few and stick out rather badly. The film also lurches from scene to scene with little motivation or forward momentum. Like Wright’s previous Grabbers, the characters and the humour are not properly thought out, leaving the film never as likable or as funny as it could be. The filmmakers seem more interested in getting to the next CGI spectacle in order to illustrate what they have done with their tiny budgets. The film ends up feeling only like an extended showreel rather than a completed film.

Robot Overlords would not have been an easy film to make and it is certainly an achievement, but it is a film that focuses on giant CGI robots and battle scenes at the expense of believable characters or a convincing story. Gillian Anderson suffers most, saddled with a character, who seems like an idiot for most of the running time before suddenly finding all sorts of strengths that the script never alluded to before. The script is very shallow with only a few moments of depth, which usually last a very short time before another robot lunges into view. The robots aren’t particularly convincing either despite the near total focus on the part of the filmmakers, but then the monsters in the recent Godzilla weren’t either. Robot Overlords may beat Hollywood at their own game but it is just as shallow.

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