ROBOT OVERLORDS

PrintE-mail Written by Ryan Pollard

MOVIE REVIEW: ROBOT OVERLORDS / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: JON WRIGHT / SCREENPLAY: JON WRIGHT, MARK STAY / STARRING: GILLIAN ANDERSON, BEN KINGSLEY, CALLAN MCAULIFFE, ELLA HUNT, MILO PARKER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

Three years ago, a force of robots from a distant world conquered Earth and gave humanity one rule to survive: stay in your homes or be vaporised. But Sean Flynn (McAuliffe) is convinced that his father, who was an RAF pilot who fought in the war, is still alive. One day, when he and his gang figure out a way to break the robots' curfew, they begin an adventure that will pit them against the might of the Robot Overlords.

On paper, it sounds like something in the mould of Ender’s Game, which was about children up against an alien invasion. Yet there’s also the fun and energetic vibe of Doctor Who about it, and the kids themselves wouldn’t look too out of place in the equally fun Who spin-off, The Sarah Jane Adventures, which is no mean feat. Like The Sarah Jane Adventures, the kids portrayed here have rough edges, are put in jeopardy a lot, and all because they want to do what’s right, which also harkens back to films like E.T., Jurassic Park and The Goonies.

What makes Robot Overlords stand apart from something like the god-awful Transformers: Age of Extinction is that it always knows that the four kids (Callan McAuliffe, Ella Hunt, James Tarpey and Milo Parker) are the centre of the story and where it needs to focus on to maintain a strong human emotional engagement with the audience and not just have the film become a dreary mosh pit of giant robots smashing buildings with huge explosions.

The four child actors give solid performances (plaudits to Ella Hunt) and have great chemistry and lots of great dynamics with one another, which results in some moments being presented to us in a somewhat naturalistic manner. Ben Kingsley gets to dust off his pantomime villain shtick that worked so well for him in Thunderbirds and Iron Man 3, and the great Gillian Anderson is always watchable.

Director Jon Wright is determined to make this a fun, if at times intense, family adventure movie, and does bring a light touch to it whenever he can. The visuals are consistently eye-catching, and whilst the special effects are not revolutionary in any way, they are on that same level of effects quality as seen in some of Doctor Who.

The only area where the film goes awry is with some of its humour and dialogue, because occasionally it becomes a little confused if it wants to be a family film or a teen adventure (some of the language may challenge ratings for small youngsters) though there are some nice gags, particularly the scene where Sean, in control of one of the giant robots, gets it to scratch its metallic groin. Plus, towards the end of the movie, there is a possible romance subplot going on between two of the main characters that is brought in far too late and isn’t properly developed.

Overall, Robot Overlords isn’t ground-breaking or up there with the all-time greats, but whereas Michael Bay treats his audiences like cattle with his trashy Transformers movies, the filmmakers and actors of this movie respects them and wants them to join in with the fun. Ultimately, it’s Doctor Who or The Sarah Jane Adventures meets The Goonies, which is nothing to be ashamed of.

Expected Rating: 6 out of 10

Actual Rating:
 

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