Robot Overlords

Dir: Jon Wright
Star: Callan McAuliffe, James Tarpey, Ben Kingsley, Gillian Anderson

Playing like a young-adult version of Doctor Who - mostly in that the focus is more on the teenage characters, rather than the grown-ups - this is a respectable enough stab at large-scale (if not, necessarily, large-budget), British SF. It's set after the invasion and swift (11-day) occupation of Earth by an alien robotic race, who claim to be "studying" humanity and, as such, have confined us to our homes, safe for certain collaborators, such as Robin Smythe (Kingsley). To enforce this, everyone has been implanted with a tracker, but after getting an electric shock, Sean Flynn (McAuliffe) discovers his has been de-activated, allowing him and his teenage pals to roam freely. Sean also discovers a unique hidden ability to enter the invaders' network and control the robots, which could open the door for human resistance. However, Smythe and his masters have no intention of letting that happen, and will use any leverage they can obtain against Sean, to ensure their domination is not threatened.

Competent enough, this surpassed expectations, though it has to be admitted, they were extremely low, based on a cheesy title which sounds like some kind of mockbuster. Fortunately, Transmorphers, this is not, with Kingsley in particular treating the material with more seriousness than it deserves, I suspect. Some aspects are certainly more than a bit juvenile, such as the convenient way the hero is miraculously able to interface with an extraterrestrial computer system with the power of his mind - this is right up there with the ridiculous virus from Independence Day, in terms of dubious ways to defeat an alien enemy. Yet if you can put the more analytical side of brain to sleep for a bit, you'll find this decently entertaining, with an enjoyably British approach, surprisingly-good FX and child characters that grate on the nerves a good deal less than, say, Shia LeBeouf.

[November 2015]

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