is easy to see why Steven Spielberg wants to make a movie out of this
novel about a future revolt by robots . . .
After all, the book - by robotics engineer Daniel H.
Wilson - comes across as 28 Days Later
meets Terminator Salvation;
or World War Z rewritten with robots instead of zombies.
When the world’s first genuine AI named Archos becomes
sentient in the near future, it decides within mere minutes to save the
Earth . . . by wiping out humanity.
Unlike SkyNet it however doesn’t cause a full-scale
nuclear war, but uses robots of all sorts – house servants, sentient cars,
etc. – to kill off humanity without harming any of the other animal
species on the planet, all of which makes Archos the ultimate eco-warrior
Wiping out humanity isn’t as easy though and
Robopocalypse tells the two-year war that ensues as human resistance
fighters battle Archos and its robotic minions. Along the way the humans
are helped by “Freeborn” robots – robots which become sentient and wishes
to be free of Archos’ control.
That humanity ultimately wins the fight shouldn’t come
as much of a spoiler here. After all, the book gives away as much within
its first few pages! Like Max Brooks’ (superior)
World War Z novel about humanity fighting a
planet-wide zombie plague, Wilson’s book is recounted as a piece of
“future history.” Like the Brooks novel, it follows several stories and
characters shifting perspective all the time.
"It has some pure cornball moments that'll make you want to roll your
eyes. . ."
Wilson’s book is more focused as many of the characters
make repeat appearances, which should make it easier for any screenwriter
However this literary device, which is central to the
book, is Robopocalypse’s weakest point. For starters it invites
comparisons to Brooks’ much-better World War Z and in the process
comes across a rip-off. Second, it gives away the ending far too early on
in the book. Third, it comes across as lazy, as if Wilson couldn’t be
bothered filling in some of the blanks between the narrative, leaving out
the kind of details that a more skilled – and patient – writer would put
Finally the book has some pure cornball moments that’ll
make you want to roll your eyes and groan aloud. For a skilled
screenwriter none of these issues should present a major problem however.
(One can only hope though that Spielberg isn’t too attracted to those very
same cornball moments as he is wont to do and leaves them in.)
Robopocalypse’s biggest problem is however that
there isn’t much in it that is particularly original or which audiences
haven’t seen before in the likes of the various
Terminator or other post-apocalypse movies with human resistance
groups fighting aliens or whatever.
Still, Robopocalypse is an okay airport read and
at worst should make for an okay popcorn movie. After all, this is
Spielberg we’re talking about here and even his lesser sci-fi efforts (AI,
the War of the Worlds remake) are
worthwhile even though flawed.
Point is one expected more of a guy who has a Ph.D. in
Robotics. After all, even as far back as the 1950s Isaac Asimov grew so
tired of all the robot revolt stories that he wrote his classic
I, Robot in response to them . . .