Jon Wright follows the deliriously enjoyable Grabbers with another cheeky genre offering. This time, Wright explores the world of sci-fi family-friendly (ish) adventure with the same wry sense of humour that made Grabbers so effective.
The alien invasion is over, and our new robot overlords have conquered the Earth. Those who survive have been fitted with tracking devices and spend most of their time as prisoners within their own homes.
Set in England, our story centres on a plucky bunch of youngsters who accidentally find a way to disarm the tracking devices and mount a resistance against the robot invaders. To save the planet, they will need to overcome the human collaborators (including Ben Kingsley) and rally the support of a few responsible grown-ups (led by Gillian Anderson). Unlike other ‘world enslaved by aliens’ type movies, Robot Overlords keeps its point of view limited and we see how this effects the average person.
As the title suggest, there are an array of towering robot overlords laying waste to the cities below. Considering the production budget was little more than $21 million, the digital effects are impressive and are used economically. That is perhaps the best way to describe Robot Overlords as a whole; the plot moves efficiently from the get-go and we get no more or less than we need. Wright used this breakneck pace to great effect with Grabbers, a movie deeply deserving of a bigger following, and he shows what he can do with a little more resources.
Ben Kingsley has a ball as Mr Smythe, one time shunned teacher who volunteered to work for our Robot Overlords. Harbouring an unrequited crush on Kate (Anderson), Smythe gleefully enjoying his new modicum of power over those who disrespected him. There’s some great support from Geraldine James and a fun cameo from Roy Hudd, but the stars of the movie are the band of kids and the barmy premise.
One of the many things I loved about Grabbers was that it doesn’t try to be anything more than a good time. A hilarious spin on the monster movie that was impossible not to enjoy. Robot Overlords isn’t quite as satisfying as the darker edges have been lightened (owing to the 12 certificate). Robot Overlords has moulded itself on the likes of The Goonies, The Explorers with a dash of The War of the Worlds thrown in for good measure. These are fine examples to draw on and for the most part Robot Overlords retains the same sense of fun.
Perhaps not as comedic as it could have been, Robot Overlords still delivers on the promise of its title for an entertaining 90 minutes. Forget the hollow thrills of Transformers, Jon Wright’s movie is far more enjoyable and about half the running time. In addition to the movie, the home entertainment release comes with some neat bonus material including a behind the scenes look, VFX breakdown and the music video for ‘Robots Never Lie’ by Matt Zo.