Robot Overlords is a sci-fi action thriller set in a seaside town in Britain years after an alien robot invasion that has left humanity overruled and incarcerated in their own homes. A group of kids discover a way to sneak around their town without detection and begin to have a small vestige of childlike fun, before beginning to take on the mantle of human uprising, gathering the adults and working together to take down the big enemy, in the form of big metal clanking behemoths. Throw in Gillian Anderson as the kids' foster mother, Sir Ben Kigsley as a bitter, menacing human collaborator and Tamar Hussan as a ridiculously entertaining hard man with a heart and you get a cracking piece of 80s throwback meets modern action adventure.
Grabbers director Jon Wright brings the light touch of his previous work to what transpires to be a fun, if at times intense, family adventure that harkens back to the days of E.T., Jurassic Park and The Goonies, where kids were portrayed with rough edges, put into jeopardy at times, and all because they want to do what they feel is right. Robot Overlords always knows that the four kids, Callan McAuliffe, Ella Hunt, James Tarpey and Milo Parker, are where the story needs to focus to keep the engagement clear and not just have the film become a tory of cool giant robots smashing buildings and masses of faceless people fighting back. These four have lots of great dynamics with one another, the kind of talking-over-one-another moments that The Goonies certainly offered, which leads to story reveals and big moments of realisation more effective because they happen in a much more realistic manner than simply being stated in clean, obvious dialogue.
Then there's the big final act of the film, which feels grand, big, heavy, but once more makes sure to focus on the characters doing the action, not simply the visuals, and with that Robot Overlords reminds us of the good ol' days, when a third act simply wasn't skyscrapers being smashed for 45 minutes without focussing on the human casualties. Peril is constant, and sometimes intense in nature, but there's also the moments you clap and smile along with the film, feeling happy to be witnessing some utterly bizarre and inspired moments. Let's just say that some big geeky robot action sequences occur before the end of Robot Overlords that, in 90 minutes, put to shame the entire Transformers series for not even bothering to consider.
A joy to watch, fun as anything, genuinely funny, tense, brilliantly made and with such grand spectacle at times it is hard to believe it is a British film, a proper British film. Your next big family favourite film.