Robot Overlords, 2015.
Directed by Jon Wright.
Starring Gillian Anderson, Ben Kingsley, Callan McAuliffe, Milo Parker, Geraldine James, Tamer Hassan and James Tarpey.
Earth has been conquered by robots from a distant galaxy. Survivors are confined to their houses and must wear electronic implants, risking incineration by robot sentries if they venture outside.
The first thing that strikes you watching director Jon Wright’s film is its size. Coming off a very successful run on the festival circuit, Robot Overlords has won many fans during that time for a mixture of action and adventure that made films like Super 8 and The Goonies such massive successes. But while it certainly has its heart set on trying to replicate the magic of those films, particularly the latter with its echoes of heroic young teenagers, it never quite fulfils its ambitions.
The ambition of the film is massive and has to be admired considering the budgetary constraints upon it: such films, like Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise, have spent millions trying to recreate the massive robot characters and sci-fi elements that would make a spectacular experience for the audience. To that end, there are many echoes of Gareth Edwards’ Monsters evident throughout in terms of the scope and as with that film, if a director has a vision, however big or small, that amazing things can be achieved despite such obvious constraints.
Set in a small seaside town for the majority, the film feels much grander than the settings suggests, fully immersing you in the world it creates as robots from another time and place descend on Earth to “study” but not kill. Lofty ambitions indeed, but thematically it all works rather well. There is much fun to be had in seeing such huge robot machines walk the streets of the small English village, it really is unlike anything that you have seen before.
What lets the film down ultimately is that once the robots and their intentions are revealed, there isn’t really anything much to write home about. The opening 15 minutes brims with excitement and the impending sense of adventure as we are welcomed to Earth three years after the initial occupation by the new overlords. But quite quickly proceedings become somewhat tedious and dull, with the energy quickly zapped by underwhelming story. The kids at the heart of the film do well and look like they are having a great time, but the human connections and loss of live elements never really connect.
You can’t fault director Jon Wright’s ambition for at least aesthetically he hits a home run, and in that respect finds the kind of success that will no doubt see him follow in the footsteps of many other small-budget directors who have moved onto the Hollywood ladder. But despite the technical excellence of the film, the script that surrounds it is only decent at best and though it immerses you somewhat in the world, Robot Overlords never truly excites nor has any real emotional pull to send it truly soaring.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★