Kill Command (2016)
You can't fight the future.
Robots have been a staple of science fiction forever. Good robots, bad robots, weird robots. I feel that, more so than others, the "robot controlled by an AI that wants to kill humans" is probably one of the most ventured ones - and really, why not? We humans are so squishy and destructive and annoying, what robot wouldn't think it great to wipe us out like Skynet, or enslave us for batteries? Today's entry offers more of them evil robots, and it asks us from it's retail box to please find out if Yoshimi will save us. I don't care if you didn't get the reference, we're moving on.
You can call it lame that this plot is so done-before, but I actually find myself appreciating it this time around. Maybe it's that it doesn't feel preachy, or like some mega deep thought is supposed to be gleaned from it. It's simple - more so than even Terminator. Army guys get sent in to test out some new robots, turns out the robots AI has gone supernova and wants to keep killing people till there's no people left to adapt to. Every step of the way after the initial build up is nothing but that premise, with an encounter and an adaption, rinse-repeat until the final battle. There is no "what's it to be alive" or "what is a human," no eloquent deconstruction of anything really. A robot got made, it's programming went haywire, and now a group of soldiers and the robot's creator are in deep fighting to survive.
This in turn feels very familiar for more reasons than just it's premise of bad robot. We have a group of soldiers - something similar to many movies of action past, such as Predator or even Aliens - caught up in a situation they weren't properly expecting. We have the "rouge AI" - which we've seen in everything from Terminator to HAL 9000 - except this time it's not even outside the parameters of it's actual programming. Heck, we even have a company representative along for the ride, just as lost as the soldiers as to why things are going down as they are. Although this could be perceived as a bad thing - one frequently can find themselves wanting to watch a better movie that is being reminded of when this happens - here, it just seems charming. It doesn't cease the feeling of "man, I should go watch Terminator 2 or Aliens" but it also doesn't ever feel poorly done enough to make you actually go and do so during the watching.
The actors do a pretty decent job. There are moments when these hot-and-heavy soldier types seem like the act a little out of role when panic sets in, but that's probably just because the info you are presented with sets these individuals as highly trained professionals - and you just don't often imagine that kind of person loosing face when it hits the fan, even though it's probably the perfectly reasonable reaction to things and how they play out. The company figure seems a bit less intelligent in some of her earlier actions - not sharing some things, not being able to figure out some things - than most of the soldiers, but I'm not entirely sure how much of that is just "relayed so the audience can easily see whats going on but the character's aren't supposed to know this easy" script writing. The robots, needless to say, don't really act. They walk, they shoot, and sometimes they burn or stab - I mean, one of them speaks for a little bit, and I guess "sounds like a computer" could be a compliment towards a robot's acting?
The effects are interesting. I really enjoy some of the effects work - the augmented human shots, with the Heads-up overlays for the various different tasks like messages or picture-in-picture of their guns. The costume design is pretty basic - soldiers who look like soldiers, company person who does not. It works for what it's intended - they look like soldiers - but they look incredibly... modern for something that takes place alongside self-learning robots with guns. Their weaponry is also into this category - I know a SCAR when I see one, and maybe to some extent that can limit the futuristic perception since I know so well it's a modern weapon. The two marksman weapons look slightly more advanced thanks to some barrel-end additions, but still look quite at home in someones current gun safe. Of the human costumes, the company woman has the fanciest - as she's got a little glowing chip in the back of her neck.
On the other side of the coin is the robots. Some of them look quite good - I wouldn't go as far as to say that I ever really thought "oh hey, those are some real robots driving around" or anything like that, but some of them do still look quite good. The title robot - as seen on the cover art - look very much like it does on the cover. Sometimes it's worked into a scene and look quite stunning - for such a large robot it's rather sneaky, hiding in the background at times like some sort of robo-Slenderman. Considering how much the robots are in the movie, it would have been a bit nicer to see them looking a little more real than they do, even if it isn't too distracting as they currently are.
Although it's nice to have a plot so simple, the characters mostly suffer this as well. I don't need every character to have a complex story or anything of that sort, but the most character development it feels like you get is from the lead soldier going from "I don't like this woman" to "she's not bad, we all gotta make it through this." The majority of the soldiers consist of nothing more than a few lines of banter and joking around to give you the impression they've been together for a while, and really for the most part feel like something you'd expect from a slasher movie and it's victim list. It's like their destiny is to just get picked off one by one, so we couldn't really take the time to add to them any real personality. It helps keep the run time down - which I appreciate - but it also means that you only care if maybe three of the entire cast gets killed, which isn't as good.
For something that I wanted to watch because of a trailer that I then forgot about until I saw the movie sitting on the shelves of Walmart, I'm not really disappointed. This would feel right at home as a SyFy channel movie showing (although admittedly the effects work is better than most of those). It's nothing extremely new, but manages to stay relatively not boring through some steady pacing and decent action. Certainly something worth renting before buying, but otherwise it's a lot better than I would have thought at first glance - just don't go in expecting much.