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American films

A. X. L. film review: robotic military dog in sci-fi thriller for teenagers

There’s a much better film struggling to emerge from A.X.L., which is good on science but bad on human characters and story

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 September, 2018, 12:51pm
UPDATED : Monday, 10 September, 2018, 12:51pm

2.5/5 stars

Similar to Monster Trucks in tone and storyline but not as satisfying, A.X.L. approaches the idea of artificial intelligence and robotics in a contemporary way. It follows the predictable course of young teen thrillers, with romance, gentle action, and a healthy dose of mistrust for authority figures.

Boy in a balaclava with alien ray gun does hold-up? This isn’t funny

In a nondescript factory town, Miles (Alex Neustaedter) is trying to escape a future on the production line by succeeding as an off-road motorcycle racer. After falling for the local cool guy’s girl Sara (singer Becky G), Miles is stranded in the desert after his bike is sabotaged.

Miles accidentally runs into a giant mechanical dog, A.X.L., a killer robot which has escaped from a military lab. He tames the dog and, with Sara, tries to save it from the government forces trying to track it down.

The AI aspects of the story will give kids a basic idea of what the process of creating an artificial intelligence entails. Likewise, the film’s take on the idea of computers becoming intelligent enough to turn into living beings is surprisingly mature.

The problem is the human characters, who do not act believably – they’re never scared of the massive dog, which is monstrous rather than cute. Another misstep is that the armoured robot is continually defeated by kids with improvised weapons.

Ultimately, A.X.L. is let down by a script that’s good on science yet bad on characters and story. That’s a shame, as the building blocks of a much better film are in place. Still, youngsters who aren’t too concerned with believability will enjoy it.

A.X.L. opens on September 13

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