Written and directed by Christopher Hatton
A robot uprising for reasons unknown. Rampaging robots running through the streets terminating every human they come across, blowing up oil refineries, and forcing citizens to fight for their lives using whatever means at their disposal. Mass extermination. A city in flames. Chaos.
Bet you’d like to see that? As would I. Unfortunately, we only hear about this epic death and destruction via a TV reporter’s hearsay amid footage of a flaming city skyline. You’ll get people getting chased and killed by robots, just not on the grand scale the film keeps promising.
Nothing quite sucks the life out of a movie faster than not having the budget to deliver on the total mayhem you’re continually teasing, and this was a movie with a low battery life to begin with.
The setting of Robotropolis is New Town, a small city on a tiny island in Southeast Asia that a multinational oil company has turned into the city of tomorrow through the use of state-of-the-art robots: security robots, cleaning robots, factory robots, friendly neighborhood robots, etc. The GNN cable news outlet’s Christiane Nouveau has scored the world exclusive interview with the media shy genius business tycoon behind this burgeoning robot revolution. As luck would have it, this also turns out to be the day the robots have decided to stage an actual revolution.
The carnage begins when a robot playing soccer casually murders a human player with the firearm they all seem to have built into the palms of their hands and then just stands there motionless over the dead body while Miss Nouveau is using the game as a backdrop for part of her story.
Christian Nouveau has got to be one the worst TV reporters I’ve ever seen depicted on film. She’s supposed to be a serious, seasoned TV news investigative journalist for one of the top 24-hour news channels in the world, and yet, she repeatedly asks the most insipid questions and explains the facts with an almost child-like simplicity, inappropriately giggles like a schoolgirl during interviews, and when the robot commits the murder right behind her, her aloof detachment from the situation, the inanity of her reporting, and the robotic voice with which she speaks might have you believing you’re watching an Onion News Network spoof. I almost want to recommend you watch this movie just to see how unrealistically awkward this entire scene plays.
Much of writer-director Christopher Hatton’s more admirably ambitious than actually entertaining robots run amok flick plays on that level of awkward unbelievability. The actors are more robotic than the robots, none more so than The Reef’s Zoe Naylor as the leaden lead heroine, and what wants to be a taut science fiction thriller plays out too inertly to be exciting and too unintentionally laughable to be taken seriously. Even what little cheese factor bolstering it runs out well before the anticlimactic conclusion.
Robotropolis amounts to a zombie movie except with berserk robots in lieu of the living dead. Not a bad idea if you have enough of a budget to make it work or enough going for it to compensate for the lack of budget. With a bigger budget this could have at worst been the Skyline of renegade robot movies. Instead it will have to settle for feeling like the I, Robot mockbuster The Asylum never made seven years ago.
2 out of 5