Review: Robot Overlords
Robot Overlords is a sci-fi film set in Britain that stars young actors Callan McAuliffe (The Great Gatsby), Milo Parker (Mr Holmes), Ella Hunt (Intruders) and James Tarpey (The World’s End) along side acclaimed veterans of the screen Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3) and Gillian Anderson (The X-Files).
The film is set after the successful invasion of Earth by a race of alien robots who say they have come to learn about humans, and intend to leave once they have all the information they need. The only rule they impose on humanity is this – that everyone is to stay in their homes. Anyone who does leave their house is detected via an implant in the side of their head, and is given only a few minutes to return before being blasted by huge robotic sentries. The only people allowed outside are volunteers who work with the robots.
When Sean, a young lad living in a seaside town with his mother and three young refugees – sister and brother Nathan and Alexandra, and young Connor – discovers that a brief electric shock temporarily shuts off the implant, he decides to use the opportunity to find out if his missing RAF father is really dead. However, his search for the truth ends up pitting Sean and his friends not only against the robots, but against the slimy Mr Smythe, a robot collaborator who used to work as a teacher with Sean’s mother.
I thought this film was alright. I enjoyed the British sea-side town setting, and I thought the robot effects were very good, especially the ships and the sentries. Whilst the idea of the country being under house arrest is brilliant – giving you a creepy, but intriguing look at what everyday Britain might be like under occupation. With Ben Kingsley’s great performance as Mr Smythe, an orange arm band wearing volunteer who’s obviously started abusing his power, adding to that feeling.
Nonetheless, despite the film having a load of nice ideas and a good sense of adventure to it, I think it could have done with a tighter plot and a bit more world-building. The whole thing was rather too episodic, with several things thrown in, some of which were never explored to their full potential. Whilst I felt other things could’ve have been explained more clearly or earlier.
For example, the film doesn’t really bother to explain what technology humans can use. Sean and his family can watch a broadcast by the robots on television, but none of the teens have mobile phones and there seem to be no computers – instead Sean has communicate by stuffing messages into tennis balls and launching them to other houses. I think it would’ve been nice to dug deeper into the idea of thousands of people stuck in their homes a little more before diving straight into the plot.
Robot Overlords is a fun sci-fi with an interesting concept that will keep you entertained. However, the film doesn’t manage to use everything it has to its full potential, and feels rather like its rambling along. Still, definitely worth a watch for its central concept and the excellent Ben Kingsley. All in all the whole thing felt like an excellent episode of Doctor Who with its young cast and its subject matter.
Robot Overlords will be available on DVD and Blu-ray on 10 August.