From The Bargain Bin: ‘Robot Overlords’ and ‘The Wizard Of Oz’

Films can be a very worthy way to spend your recreational time and can often be found for very little outlay. In this edition of “From The Bargain Bin”, we examine and analyse 2014’s low budget, British-made Robot Overlords (Blu-Ray) and a famous book to film adaption from 1939 entitled The Wizard Of Oz (DVD). Are they any good? Read on for more…

1. Robot Overlords (2014)

Robots and films are a bit like fish and chips: a potentially profitable combination that has endured throughout the decades with a seemingly guaranteed audience in many cases. Some of the most memorable and well thought of movies to ever grace the silver screen feature robots or robotics in one form or another and there seems to be all manner of possibilities with those elements. Particularly, when we look to the future and ponder what it might bring in terms of change. Robot Overlords does have the inevitable robots, a number of big-name thespians and noticeable Doctor Who vibes, but is it a spectacular success or more so-so quality-wise?

The plot focuses on a seemingly unstoppable robot race invading and then occupying Planet Earth after an unfortunate (and relatively brief) war. Humanity has experienced a large degree of defeat, with many people living in fear of their towering new masters, only allowed outdoors if permission has been granted in advance. Tracking devices have been fitted to everyone, stripping people of their independence under this unpleasant regime. Although the future looks grim, a number of young people begin to explore things further, triggering some rather grisly findings and ultimately learning more about what really is going on.

At first, this film was quite predictable and lacked charm, with a fair amount of it being seen and done better elsewhere. This is in terms of the humans against the overwhelming opposition premise, the characters themselves and just how the production did things and progressed. It was looking decidedly average, but things began to pick up later on in the storyline, with that spirited fightback materialising as the scales begin to shift in favour of humanity and away from the deadly decimators and their main ally. The ending was good too, wrapping up things very nicely, even if it wasn’t entirely unexpected.

And what about those Doctor Who vibes? You could indeed say they’re evident when comparing it to at least the modern iteration of the programme. For a start, Robot Overlords is a slice of British-made sci-fi with an air of mystery and adventure, some dodgy villains and a soap opera element in proceedings as well (with more bad language than you may have expected). The titular “Robot Overlords” are also similar to Who’s Cybermen, in that they come in different forms, as well as being imposing and emotionless in their actions. They seem to be a united force and appear to wield great power when times are tough. The robotic stomping noise used by the film’s walking weaponry also has echoes of the Cybus Cybermen’s marching sounds, adding a little extra to the fear factor.

Will these things ultimately add to or detract from the overall viewing experience? That would be down to personal tastes and preferences, although I would say that when Doctor Who is at its strongest, it really does deliver. For me personally, Robot Overlords isn’t on the same level as the Doc’s best escapades, for the most part.

The Verdict

Robot Overlords really isn’t a bad film, but not quite what you’d call the best of its breed either. That said, it’s reasonably entertaining. The addition of some big-name actors and some creative flair in places does strengthen the case for purchasing a copy. Things did get more compelling later on and the Blu-Ray edition I’m reviewing has the benefit of High Definition picture quality and enhanced sound. There’s a number of special features in there as well. From me, Robot Overlords merits a good enough 3/5.

2. The Wizard Of Oz (1939)

Where would many characters of fiction be if they had never undergone a journey of some sort to accomplish a desired outcome? 1939’sThe Wizard Of Oz film adaption is all about such a thing and has made for one of the most famous trips ever taken in the history of cinema. Essentially a story about friendship and good versus evil, it offers pretty wholesome fun for (most) of the family and still feels remarkably fresh despite its age.

The unashamedly fantastical plot is built around a girl called Dorothy and her dog Toto, who get caught up in a tornado which whisks them away from home in Kansas. They land in a place called Munchkinland, which is located in the fictional country referred to as Oz. After getting information and meeting with the locals, it is decided Dorothy (and Toto) will travel via the Yellow Brick Road to Oz to seek a wizard there who could help them be at home once more. Songs are sung, foes are fought and friendships are forged in a tale where desire is a shared feature held by the main characters.

The Verdict

After revisiting the film for the first time in yonks, I’d say The Wizard Of Oz is worth sticking with and deserving of its stellar status. The characters are memorable, the music charming and its a standout example of how colour (when used well), can breathe life into and improve footage, ultimately making for a more enriched and dynamic viewing experience. Some may find the special features contained in this 2014 2 disc DVD edition to be of interest too. It’s perhaps worth a mention that the movie has some darker moments alongside the lightness at times, so this maybe isn’t a movie for the very youngest of audiences. 1939’s The Wizard Of Oz on DVD attains (at least) a 4/5 from me.

Words by James Gillespie


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