Sunday 23 August 2015

Robot Overlords

Everybody loves an invasion film. Whether it be zombies, aliens, machines or some weird hybrid of the 3 – we eat it up. The Mist, War of the Worlds, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Mars Attacks are just a handful of a genre that is simply bursting with classics. Writers Jon Wright and Mark Stay realised something. There’s not a huge amount in this genre for a younger audience. What did they do? They wrote Robot Overlords.

One half of the writing team, Wright, directs Robot Overlords, out now on DVD & Blu-Ray. After big robots invaded Earth, an 11 day war ensued – and the robots won. Earth has been completely conquered by these mechanical bastards from a distant galaxy, and any human survivors are confined to their houses wearing electronic implants, risking incineration by robot sentries if they venture outside. It’s all a little cliché, right? Throw in some young heroes and family drama and, evidently, that’s all you need to fill up the 85 minute run time. It’s not a film that anyone is going to watch for the plot. The young target audience will delight in seeing the robots, while the older audience will most likely sleep through it while their kids enjoy themselves. When I review a film aimed at a younger audience, I usually let the child inside me watch the film and assess whether the film succeeds in entertaining its target viewer. But with this, I can’t even find much to recommend for the younger crowd.

Firstly, Robot Overlords feels like it was made for TV. If this was a TV movie then that would arguably be okay, but Robot Overlords is masquerading as a theatrical film – even having a cinema release back in March. But with its mediocre special effects and general low budget feel, it would not feel out of place on the Syfy Channel beside Sharknado. Sometimes this is a good thing – hell, most of the films produced by The Asylum have become (unintentional) comedy classics – but Robot Overlords feels like it’s really trying, and it’s just bloody uncomfortable to watch. The most uncomfortable thing about it? The Academy Award-winning Sir Ben Kingsley being involved. Gillian Anderson appearing in the film is one thing, but Kingsley?! You’re a classically trained thespian! I was willing to forgive you for Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb and Dragonheart 3: The Sorcerer's Curse but this….this is too much. I’m not angry with you, Sir Ben. I’m just disappointed.

Robot Overlords is quite forcefully aimed at younger viewers, to the point where I couldn’t even begin to enjoy it. The juvenile use of mild language (a character exclaims “Oh tits!” in one of the many robot attack sequences) and general lack of any serious threat just made it feel a little too family-friendly for a film of this nature – when I watch an invasion film, even if the invaders say “we mean you no harm”, I expect to see shit kick off and people die. I’m only human! But this was just far too tame. Like a recent episode of Doctor Who, it all felt a bit BBC and a bit too clean cut.

In conclusion, Robot Overlords really tries. And I don’t know, maybe the younger audience will enjoy it. But the child in me – who isn’t a complete cynic, he enjoyed the recent SpongeBob movie – just could not get on with this at all. It is one big exercise in mediocrity; the acting, writing, special effects, editing and, well, everything…it just felt desperate. Robot Overlords had a reported budget of $20 million. It doesn’t show. If this figure is correct, I can think of a hell of a lot of places that money could’ve gone to better use. I shall wipe this viewing experience from my memory, as I’m sure a majority of those involved will. And Sir Ben Kingsley, I can’t stay mad at you...You are forgiven.

Robot Overlords earns 1/5 for effort alone, but the poor execution stops it from getting any more.


Sam Love

Robot Overlords at CeX

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