Robotropolis (2011)

Domo arigato, killer robotos


Over the past decade, we have witnessed some incredible technological breakthroughs. Smartphones. iPads. HDTV. Yet the vast majority of the population does not have their own robot butler.

Is it just me, or does that seem wrong? Weren’t we all promised robot servants would be a part of our lives sometime after the year 2000? Yet now we’re 13 years into this millennium, and I’m still pouring my own bowl of Count Chocula and bathing my own children in a completely robot-free home.

Thankfully, Hollywood is here to give us a glimpse of what we are missing. In the glorious tradition of RoboCop 3 and Short Circuit 2 comes Robotropolis, an instant science fiction classic that envisions a scenario where more robots would actually be a bad thing.

Robotropolis takes place in New Town, a private community where robots have become commonplace. They work in factories and interact with the locals. A television news crew has come to New Town to file reports on how perfectly everything is going. However – brace yourselves – a stunning turn of events changes everything.

While the GNN crew is in the midst of a live broadcast, a robot wanders into a soccer game. This game certainly could not be called a “friendly,” as the robot inexplicably shoots and kills one of the human participants. There have only been two exciting moments in soccer history: when Brandi Chastain ripped off her jersey during a World Cup victory celebration, and when France’s Zinedine Zidane head-butted someone back in 2006. Well, we now have a third thrilling soccer moment to remember.

Now, the simple solution would be to find the killer robot and destroy it. However, it is not that easy. At the risk of sounding racist, all these robots look alike. That’s not the only issue, though. The bad behaviour is spreading, and before long, the robots are preying on the townsfolk like a family of guinea pigs attacking a Dairy Queen ice cream cake. Have you ever seen guinea pigs eating a cake? It is not a pretty site, and neither are these vicious robot assaults. And no, I am not getting any kickback from Dairy Queen for mentioning them in this review.

The story is mostly told through the point of view of the GNN crew, so it is almost like the viewer is watching an actual news broadcast. Except in this case the news is interesting, and there is no awkward banter between the anchorman and weather girl.

Robotropolis is a stylish tale that not only delivers plenty of action and drama, but also gives viewers plenty to think about. How much do you trust that microwave in your kitchen? What about that electric toothbrush in your bathroom? How well do you really know your iPod Nano? I’m not suggesting that these devices are going to rebel and murder you while you sleep. Just to be on the safe side though, you might want to see if you are able to sleep with one eye open.



Willow (1988)

Over $4 billion for Willow? Worth every penny


Shockwaves were felt recently when it was announced that George Lucas sold his Lucasfilm empire to Disney for $4.05 billion. There were many upset Star Wars fans who took to social media to express their displeasure with the deal, upset that billionaire George Lucas had sold out, calling this the final nail in the Star Wars coffin.

Here is a newsflash for those fans – this deal has nothing to do with Star Wars, so there is no need to get your Wookie bent out of shape about it. The Star Wars well has been tapped dry – that galaxy is staying far, far away. The deal isn’t even about the Indiana Jones franchise, which also falls under the Lucasfilm banner.

No, this deal clearly took place because Walt Disney (who still runs the company despite being cryogenically frozen 40 years ago) saw great potential in a little 1988 film called Willow.

Willow, a George Lucas story directed by Ron Howard, is a mythical adventure in which farmer/amateur magician Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis) finds a newborn baby girl that has been sent away to protect her from an evil queen. Along with some other town folk, Willow embarks on a Tolkienesque journey to bring the child to safety in the land of “large people.” Willow and all of the residents of his village are Nelwyns, a form of dwarf.

Along the way they face obstacle after obstacle that tests Willow’s heart and also his magical ability. Before taking on this quest, Willow was always mocked by the other Nelwyns for his lack of magical ability. The band of Nelwyns are up against some incredible sorcerers – people are being turned into goats, pigs, and possums left right and centre. If Willow is to succeed in this mission, he is going to need to really believe in himself and conjure up so much magic that The Amazing Kreskin would look like The Merely Adequate Kreskin by comparison.

Warwick Davis is fantastic in the lead role. Though he may only be half the size of other Lucas leading men Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford, he has twice the charisma and talent. He has shown he can do horror by appearing in six Leprechaun films. He has also displayed his comedic chops in the hilarious Ricky Gervais program Life’s Too Short. In Willow he shows he has what it takes to be an action-adventure superstar, and something tells me his phone has been ringing off the hook since this deal was first announced.

These are exciting times for those of us who have been waiting 24 years for a Willow prequel or sequel. We will all know more when Disney holds their next quarterly shareholders meeting, where I’m sure the first order of business will be to discuss how they plan to monetize the Willow franchise. That means film releases, theme parks and merchandise. I cannot wait to send my daughter to school with a Willow backpack and lunchbox. I mean, I already do, but I had to make them myself by printing off images from the web and gluing them on top of Disney Princesses. It will be nice to get some official stuff. It may seem like a tall task now, but in short order I see the Willow fan base dwarfing that of Star Wars.