Eyeborgs invade DVD

Monday, 20 June 2011 10:18

‘'Those who choose safety over freedom deserve neither’. So exclaims one of the characters in this conspiracy theory-cum-robot terror movie, paraphrasing the great Benjamin Franklin. Set in the very near future after the passing of the ironically-named ‘Freedom of Observation Act’, “Eyeborgs” would have you believe that a terrifying network of animal-like robotic surveillance cameras is watching our every move.

Benign little surveillance droids patrol every rooftop and hang from every ceiling; at street-level, larger crab-like robots lurk, recording every movement and conversation. One man apparently at ease with this scenario is Homeland Security Agent ‘Gunner’ Reynolds (Adrian Paul - Highlander), who is investigating a series of suspicious deaths. Years earlier, a CCTV camera was instrumental in the conviction of the murderer of his son and wife.

Eyeborgs come to DVDWhen Gunner helps save the life of Jarett (Luke Eberl - the 2001 remake of “Planet of the Apes”), nephew of the elusive President, and disables a berserk Eyeborg, he begins to formulate a theory that terrorists are somehow taking control of the robots and turning them on US citizens. Meanwhile, eager TV reporter Barbara Hawkins (Megan Blake – “The Opposite of Sex”) and her tech-savvy cameraman are not far behind, piecing together their own interpretation of what is going on. They suspect foul play, but who will believe them without sufficient evidence?

“Eyeborgs” is sadly one of those relatively low-budget movies that gets almost as much wrong as it gets right. On the plus side, the premise is interesting and chillingly believable in the context of our CCTV-obsessed society. Much of the action is intelligently constructed, such as when a robot occupies a car and not only takes control of the steering wheel to make the vehicle veer uncontrollably and then crash, but also pumps alcohol into the driver's mouth to make it look like he has been drink-driving.

The robot designs are hardly innovative but they are brilliantly animated and in the case of the 'Little Brother' walking sphere cameras, remarkably cute. Cute, that is until their 'eyes' turn red (Doctor Who's “Robots of Death”, anyone?!) and they sprout tiny but collectively very deadly weapons such as Tazers, blowtorches and whirring blades. On their own they are a minor menace. In groups and in enclosed spaces they present a terrifying prospect! The larger robots (of which there are several different designs) typically move with a more threatening, muscular sense of purpose and their thudding feet and ED-209-style growling is sure to intimidate.

The special effects are superb for a movie of this scale, and the lighting and compositing of the CGI elements is good. Unfortunately this is also where the list of deficiencies begins. Too many of the action sequences play out the same scene over and over again, and with little variety. The worst example is when a bunch of tank-like armed robots engages the police in a tedious shootout where they exchange fire for an eternity, with precious little excitement or sense of danger or urgency, despite some of the humans being taken down.

Lots of hand-held camerawork is employed, and sometimes it helps to keep the film feel naturalistic, but it also appears to limit director Richard Clabaugh's options when it comes to dramatic movements. If I was being chased by a massive, armour-plated Terminator (for that's effectively what many of these robots are), I would run like Hell, perhaps letting off a few shots as I went. The characters in this movie semi-casually stand there emptying their clips with little sense of danger or impending death.

The cast and characters are also a mixed bag. Adrian Paul lends the leading role of Gunner a sense of realism but at the same time he is a bit too bland for my taste. Eberl's Jarett is annoying and unlikeable, so it falls to Blake's reporter to present a character we can truly get behind. The legend that is Danny Trejo (“Machete”, “Predators”) also turns up as G-Man, a crippled guitar salesman with more than a passing interest in conspiracy theories; for once he gets to tone his performance down a little, with great effect.

The movie partially saves itself as it nears its overdue conclusion, tossing a twist or two into the bargain and doing its best to pull the rug from under its audience. Whilst it could do with an injection or three of adrenaline, and some more moments of levity to add to the occasional chuckle, fans of the aforementioned "The Terminator", "I Robot", "Eagle Eye" and even "Transformers" will doubtless find something to slightly tickle their interest here.

Special Features on the disc include:

  • Deleted Scenes (x 6)
  • Behind The Scenes Featurettes (Making “Eyeborgs”, Stunts, Visual Effects, How To Make A Robot In 3 Minutes)
  • Blooper Reel
  • Trailer

All-in, these run for about 30 minutes, and are well constructed. The crew were obviously dedicated and very experienced, which makes it all the more frustrating that the end result is so lacking in excitement.

“Eyeborgs” (2009) is out now on DVD, courtesy of Momentum Pictures. The main feature has a running time of 102 minutes approx, carries a ‘15’ certificate and retails for £15.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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