More fun than the title suggests
by Nav Qateel
The Earth has been invaded by aliens from another world, and completely unprepared, defenders held out for only 11 days before the world was taken over. After the Earth’s entire population was subdued, they were fitted with brain implants that stick externally to the head and glows blue. The entire human race are told by the aliens that they ask only one thing of them. The populace must stay indoors until the invaders have completed running all their alleged tests. (Not sure how that works for the homeless…)
3 years have now past, and we open on a cluttered British street, where a man who’s had enough of being a prisoner in his own home, defies them by walking into the middle of the road to shout up at the sky. An alien craft flies overhead emanating a disjointed voice that warns him he has 10 seconds to return to his home. As his young son Connor (Milo Parker) and a group of neighbors watch on in horror, the man is disintegrated.
Former schoolteacher Kate Flynn (Gillian Anderson), decides to let Conner move in with her and her son Sean (Callan McAuliffe). Also living with Kate are siblings Nathan (James Tarpey) and Alexandra (Ella Hunt). It’s clear that being forced to stay indoors for years, with the only food and other basic items a luxury, is starting to wear everyone down, and the opening scene was a perfect example of cabin fever setting in. There’s also the fact that they have no way to contact other people, relying on shoving notes into tennis balls and throwing them out in the street.
Kate’s husband, a fighter pilot, has been missing since the invasion, but Sean refuses to believe his father is dead. After one of the kids is accidentally electrocuted, they spot that the monitor has stopped glowing blue. They’ve figured out how to turn it off, allowing them to go outside for the first time in 3 years. They do what any kid would do, and their first stop is to raid the candy shop.
Like with all invading armies, collaborators thrive in the chaos that ensues, and the aliens are no exception when it comes to putting these dishonorable people to good use. The local Volunteer Coordinator (the collaborator’s official title) Robin Smythe (played to perfection by Ben Kingsley), has taken a liking to the attractive Kate, but Smythe is utterly hated by everyone, not least of all Sean, who believes Smythe knows the whereabouts of his missing father. When the kids are spotted outside by an alien robot, the alarm is raised and Smythe takes the opportunity to try to win Kate over. The race is now on to find Sean’s dad.
The first thing that has to be brought up with Jon Wright’s follow-up to the surprise hit of 2012 Grabbers, is the generic, poorly-chosen, cheesy Robot Overlords title. The title immediately invokes other cheesy titles from mockbuster champs, The Asylum. But the fact that the film was graced with genuine talent, like Dana Scully and Mahatma Ghandi… I mean, Gillian Anderson and Ben Kingsley, it through me off a little. It also boasts the likes of Steven Mackintosh, Geraldine James and ‘im what is a big geeza, Tamer Hassan.
The young cast, led by Callan McAuliffe (The Great Gatsby), each do good work, and even though a couple of the characters are borderline cliche, they have enough depth, helped by snappy dialogue, to prevent them being anything less than likeable in their own way.
Technically, Robot Overlords is a fairly well put together film, and while the graphics aren’t of the highest standard, they’re way better than the CGI on any other B-movie you’re likely to see. The cinematography is always well framed, and the Irish backdrop always stunning.
While Grabbers had a better story, coupled with fantastic dialogue, and Robot Overlords has a better cast. But it doesn’t balance them out equally, meaning this effort is the lesser of the two, if only just. Even so, Robot Overlords is still well worth watching. It’s a fun movie that entertains from start to finish.