ROBOT OVERLORDS

3 out of 10

Release Date: 27th March 2015

Director: Jon Wright (Grabbers / Tormented)

Cast: Ben Kingsley, Gillian Anderson, Callan McAuliffe, Milo Parker, Ella Hunt, James Tarpey, Geraldine James, Lalor Roddy, with Tamer Hassan, Roy Hudd and Steven Mackintosh

Writer: Mark Stay & Jon Wright

Trailer: ROBOT OVERLORDS

iuykjyidntxc2ivu36sdThe tone is all wrong for Robot Overlords. What could have been effortless and full of charm feels like it’s been made by a government youth committee. Everything about it is too on the nose, so sadly this attempt by the Brits to cash-in on the Young Adult Sci-Fi wave comes across as an uncool cousin. No teenager worth who knows shit from strawberry flavouring would be seen dead cheering this on. In a word, it’s naff.

Earth was invaded three years ago by a race of giant robots that want to study the human race. It has promised to leave the planet forever once the job is done on one condition, everybody stays under house arrest. We pick up and follow a bunch of kids from coastal Northern Ireland (with English accents, despite the international cast) who accidentally stumble on a way to de-activate on the implants that the robot enforcers have fitted behind their ears.  They set about finding ways to overthrow their opressors. One of the kids, Sean (CALLAN MCAULIFFE – I AM NUMBER FOUR) is captured then rescued halfway through being ‘deep-scanned’, so is somehow embued with Neo (from The Matrix) style powers to shutdown and / or control individual robots. As time goes on his power grows. Can he be the ‘one’ to save the human race from the robot aliens? In the meantime, can he find his father (STEVEN MACKINTOSH – BLUE JUICE)?

Ben Kingsley (GANDHI) puts in a weird performance as a creepy baddie who has made a deal with the robots to be a human ‘collaborator’. His thin character has the hots for Sean’s mum, a tired and baffled looking Gillian Anderson (THE X-FILES) and tries to give the family special protection in the absence of the real father. Tamer Hassan (THE FOOTBALL FACTORY) pops up as a tough mr fix-it character that helps the kids in their quest. Strangely, it’s one of his very best and warm performances, because even though he plays a tough guy, he does this with aplomb and the right amount of ‘weight’ for the material. He’s the sole reason for watching the film, a strange draw if ever there was one. (Here watch this kid’s film, it’s got a great Tamer Hassan role in it). Elsewhere, Roy Hudd (HUDDLINES) turns up to be tortured (by electric blue light) as aninsurgent known as Morse Code Martin!

The kids are OK for the most part, but the smarty pants (JAMES TARPEY – THE BEAT BENEATH MY FEET) gets saddled with some bloody dreadful and cringeworthy dialogue and ‘things’ to do. He’s not awful but he’s the film’s equivalent of Jar-Jar Binks.  The special-effects are strictly mid-range too. Not bad but not great. The close-ups of the robots are superb, but it’s the battle scenes where the cracks show.

On the whole, there aren’t enough quirks to make this into the event movie it so clearly wanted to be. Besides a weird boxing match in Tamer Hassan‘s hotel, the plot is as predictable as a trip to the toilet. It’s slick, but it moves without a beating heart, so it loses a lot of points. Jon Wright has two better films under his belt. both of which piggy-backed good ideas on to standard plots. Here the beast is too slippery to be even a little bit adventurous. It reminded me of The Adventurer – Curse of the Midas Box in tone, and it only scores higher because of the odd committed performance and I prefer sci-fi to boys-own frolics.

3 out of 10 – Soulless kids film made by adults who may have distant friends with children. Scripted and produced in a boardroom by robot overlords. More ‘deep scanning’ required on the creative team. A disappointing entry to the ‘YA’ cannon of sci-fi films that are currently in vogue and done way better by the Americans. (See Ender’s Game / Maze Runner / Hunger Games etc.)

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Ben Kingsley: Jungle Book – Origins (voice), The Walk, Self/Less, Dragonheart 3 (voice), Stonehearst Asylum, Exodus – Gods and Kings, The Boxtrolls (voice) , Ender’s Game, Iron Man 3, The Dictator, Hugo, Prince of Persia, Shutter Island, Fifty Dead Mean Walking, The Love Guru, Elegy, The Wackness, The Last Legion, Oliver Twist (2005), Thunderbirds (2004), House of Sand and Fog, AI – Artificial Intelligence (voice), Sexy Beast, Rules of Engagement, Parting Shots, Photographing Fairies, Species, Death and the Maiden, Schindler’s List, Searching For Bobby Fischer, Dave (1994), Sneakers, Freddie as FRO7 (voice), Bugsy, Slipstream, Maurice, Gandhi, Coronation Street (TV)
  • Gillian Anderson: The X-Files (TV), The Fall (TV), Hannibal (TV),  Mr Morgan’s Last Love, Shadow DancerJohnny English 2, How To Lose Friends and Alienate People, A  Cock and Bull Story, Straightheads, The Last King Of Scotland, The House Of Mirth, The X-Files 2, Playing By Heart, The Mighty, The X-Files
  • Callan McAuliffe: Kite, I Am Number Four
  • Milo Parker: Mr Holmes
  • James Tarpey: Hector, The Beat Beneath My Feet
  • Geraldine James: 45 Years, Diana, Utopia (TV), The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2012), Sherlock Holmes 2, Made In Dagenham, Arthur (2011), Alice In Wonderland (2010), Sherlock Holmes (2009), Calendar Girls, The Luzhin Defence, Band Of Gold (TV), The Man Who Knew Too Little, Moll Flanders (1996), The Bridge (1992), Teen Agent, The Tall Guy, The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase, Gandhi
  • Lalor Roddy: Grabbers, Cherrybomb
  • Tamer Hassan: Bitter Harvest, Breakdown (2015), Diamond Heist, The Double (2012), Freerunner The Reverend (2012), Bonded By Blood, Kick Ass, The HikeDead Man Running, Goal 3, The Last SevenJack Falls, Sucker Punch (2008), City RatsCass, Beyond The Rave, Eastern Promises, The Business, The Football Factory, The Calcium Kid
  • Roy Hudd: Coronation Street (TV), Purely Belter, Common As Muck (TV), Cold Lazarus / Karaoke (TV), Lipstick On Your Collar (TV), Blankety Blank (TV), Movie Memories (TV), Huddlines (radio), Up Pompeii, The Illustrated Weekly Hudd
  • Steven Mackintosh: A Hundred Streets, Bone In The Throat, Set Fire To The Stars, Gold, The Sweeney, Elfie Hopkins, The Scouting Book For Boys, Luther (TV), Underworld 2 & 3, The Escapist, Land Girls, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, House Of America, The Grotesque, Muppets Christmas Carol, Blue Juice, Princess Caraboo, The Buddha Of Suburbia (TV), London Kills Me
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