Do not let the title fool you, this is not another film from the Sci-Fi Channel.
“Robot Overlords” is a British sci-fi young adult movie about a dystopian future where alien robots have successfully taken over the planet and are now “studying” the human race. The humans are not allowed out of their houses unless instructed to do so by the robots. All humans have devices implanted in their heads that help the robots track their every movement and are used for discipline. The story follows Sean Flynn, a boy who is still searching for his father though everyone else says his dad died at the hands of the robots. His mother Kate (Gillian Anderson) believes Sean’s father to be dead. Robin Smythe (Ben Kingsley) is a member of a type of human police force that works with the robots. He is enamored with Sean’s mother and is constantly trying to win her over. While investigating his father’s disappearance, Sean and his friends are caught outside of their houses and taken to be disciplined. Something happens while they are being processed that gives Sean an ability that could help change the world and rescue humanity from the robots.
Director Jon Wright, who brought us the fun original Irish themed monster film “Grabbers”, has once again created a roller coaster ride of a sci-fi film that is filled with as much heart as it is filled with special effects. This story, at its core, is about a son’s love for his dad that gives him the strength to never give up and the courage to stand up to the robots and their human “collaborators”. Wright co-wrote the movie with Mark Stay, the author of the book the movie is based on. The characters have elements of your stereotypical young adult heros but they also have enough original characteristics to keep them fresh.
Callan McAuliffe (I AM NUMBER FOUR, KITE) brings sincerity and strength to his role as Sean. You believe in his determination in finding his father and can see the quality of a future leader in him. Callan really threw himself into this role and it shows. It was great seeing Gillian Anderson in the role as Sean’s mother, Kate. Gillian brought a perfect mixture of strength and vulnerability in the same way that she did to her Scully character in The X-Files. Sir Ben Kingsley’s Smythe was a calm, scheming character that Kingsley played with a great balance. There is a scene between Anderson and Kingsley that I particularly loved. The two are in a dining room and Smythe is trying to win Kate over but Kate stands up to him. These two actors helped bring added depth to the film. Everyone had great onscreen chemistry and their sincerity in their roles helps the audience connect with them. You will want them to succeed.
The special effects look fantastic for a film of this budget. The same company that worked on Grabbers did all of the effects in Robot Overlords and it shows. From the flying robots, to the ones that patrolled the city streets, to the creepy looking “mediator” all were top notch in quality. I particularly liked how the robots were not overly complicated in their design yet still intimidating and very alien. You can tell there was thought put into the design and they weren’t just going for something flashy on screen.
Robot Overlords is intended for younger audiences though it does have a few darker moments. You also get a number of your standard tropes for the genre such as the young heroes being smarter than the rest of the world, and the budding love between Sean hero and the female character of the group, though the latter was not nearly as predominate as you might expect. With the talented direction of Jon Wright, the heart filled story of Mark Stay, the great performances by the cast, and the excellent special effects, Robot Overlords takes you on a roller coaster ride of excitement and emotions. This is not a flawless film by any means but is a very entertaining one that I think will strike the right cord with it’s target audience. I, for one, welcome our Robot Overlords with 4 out of 5 stubs.
Robot Overlords is out in Great Britain March 27th and will get a U.S. release later this year.