Robot Overlords
dir Jon Wright
scr Jon Wright, Mark Stay
prd Ian Flooks, Justin Garak, Steve Milne, Piers Tempest
with Callan McAuliffe, Ella Hunt, James Tarpey, Milo Parker, Gillian Anderson, Ben Kingsley, Geraldine James, Steven Mackintosh, Tamer Hassan, Roy Hudd, Craig Garner, David McSavage
release UK 27.Mar.15
14/UK BFI 1h30
Robot Overlords
Big Hero 4: McAuliffe, Parker, Hunt and Tarpey

anderson kingsley james
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Robot Overlords An old-style kids' adventure, this low-budget British sci-fi movie benefits from a sharp cast and special effects that never look too cheap. There's also a dark edge to the film that puts characters genuinely in peril. So even if the premise doesn't quite hold water, and the filmmakers struggle to maintain the plot's momentum, the journey is entertaining.

The robots invaded Earth three years ago, winning the war in just 11 days. Their only rule, that humans must stay indoors, is enforced by local collaborators. In a seaside English town, the lead collaborator is Smythe (Kingsley), who is taunting Kate (Anderson) about taking in orphaned kids like preteen Connor (Parker) or siblings Alexandra and Nathan (Hunt and Tarpey) alongside her own son Sean (McAuliffe). When the four kids discover how to switch off their monitoring implants, suddenly they have a chance to rebel. And maybe find Sean's lost pilot dad (Mackintosh).

The film keeps its focus on the three teens and young Connor, building up some rivalry and camaraderie, as well as a touch of romance between Sean and Alex. This makes the action-adventure plot feel rather a lot more exciting than its fairly formulaic structure. And it also means that the grown-ups stay pleasingly on the fringes, with Kingsley providing some arch menace and the others helping the kids on their quest.

Director-cowriter Wright also adds a touch of Monty Python humour, with some rather random mayhem and absurd moments of black comedy. The collaborators call themselves the Volunteer Corps and wear Nazi-like red armbands. A sparky gang of rebels parties in an abandoned hotel. The robot mediator (Garner) looks like a demonic little boy. These wackier elements help undermine the rather pushy sentiment that swells up from time to time. And they help make up for a sound mix that muddles a lot of the important dialog.

While the film looks cool, the production values are more on par with TV shows than movies, but they're superbly rendered to look realistic and uncomplicated. And even if the plot drags a bit, mainly due to its predictability, the film moves at a brisk pace with nonstop action and several nice twists. But the best aspect is that these teens feel like real kids. Even when Sean threatens to turn into a superhero, McAuliffe grounds him with childlike wonder and a hint of uncertainty.

cert 12 themes, violence, language 5.Feb.15

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