A world where machines do all the menial tasks while we get to sit back, relax and drink cocktails. That’s what we all want isn’t it?
A not to distant future where robots walk alongside man and take care of the stuff that we don’t like doing is a common theme in film and literature. More often than not, the unfortunate end result is that the robots get bored and start killing off the humans – and who can blame them?
Surely Robotropolis would have something different to offer though, perhaps a glimmer of hope that we really can live in harmony and eventually drink cocktails together (although the robots are only allowed a cocktail when all of their chores are done).
A place called New Town is built somewhere in the south China sea and on the surface, it’s a futuristic utopia. A global corporation has built a huge oil platform there along with a giant city for the workers to inhabit, and the more mundane tasks are carried out by a league of robots who have have integrated nicely with the humans. Everything looks to be going really well.
A TV crew comes to visit the place and report on just how perfect it all is, but as the cameras roll things go wrong, and for no apparent reason the robots decide to start killing people.
The first thing that you’ll probably notice about Robotropolis is how good it looks, given its small budget and low profile. Images are crisp and clean and the high contrast, and dreamy, heavily stylised look of the film is immediately noticeable. Most importantly, the CGI robots are pretty good too, and aside from one or two dodgy scenes they integrate well with the live action footage.
The cast – a fusion of Australian, US and British talent – are reasonable enough, delivering their generic script with enthusiasm. However, making a convincing documentary style film (Robotropolis attempts this) with anything other than an excellent cast is always going to seem clunky and obviously scripted in places.
For the most part, the film is shot from the perspective of the news cameraman, which gives the viewer the impression that they are watching a live news report. Nothing overly original about that. And to pile on the disappointment, there is far too much emphasis on this aspect of things meaning that eventually you really do just feel like you’re watching the news. And not really in a good way.
“An action replay of the first robot murder for a fourth time?! Where are the football scores? Or the weather? Oh that’s right, it’s film.”
Things unravel further when lacklustre performances by the extras become more noticeable. And those robots that initially looked so good just don’t look menacing enough, even when covered in human entrails. No wonder the human population are slow to respond to the threat.
The ultimate flaw of Robotropolis is that the idea of ‘the machines turning against us’ really has been done to exhaustion.
From I Robot to Terminator we have be warned about this thing for a LONG time, and so Robotropolis just doesn’t offer us anything new. This begs the question ‘why did they think it would be a good idea to make Robotropolis?’ and this, horror lover, is what just does not compute.
By the time the main characters are actually acting scared (it takes a while for it to sink in) your enthusiasm will most likely have waned.
And with only one ‘man vs robot’ action scene to speak of, Robotropolis just lacks the excitement needed to keep your interest, meaning that your dishwasher is more likely to cause you nightmares than the bots in New Town.