Lionsgate // 2006 // 94 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // December 22nd, 2006
Programmed to think. Wired to destroy.
Take one of those killer mutant reptile movies that the Sci-Fi Channel runs, replace the raptors or boas or cobras with robots that don't look like the tripods from War of the Worlds just enough to avoid a lawsuit and you have Shockwave.
You know the drill. The government has developed a secret weapon. They underestimate its intelligence. The weapon gets loose, runs amok, kills lots of people and eventually meets its end at the hands of an unlikely combination of a battle-hardened soldier, an attractive doctor and a criminal with a heart of gold.
Joe Lando, who tends to show up in a lot of these movies, is Major Richard Tunney, assigned to lead a crack squad of commandos onto an island battlefield, to capture some killer army robots that shoot lasers and have grappling claws. The squad is accompanied by comely robotics scientist Susan Foster (Lisa Lo Cicero), whose father recently disappeared in a plane crash on the very same island.
When they reach the island where these things are stirring up trouble, they run into a gang of thieves, and soon, these unlikely teammates must battle against the seemingly indestructible robot killers. This usually takes the form of some idiot standing motionless and firing a pistol over and over again with no effect.
I had some marginal fun with this lame killer robot movie, but purely because of said lameness. There is nothing present in this goofy fair to differentiate it from the endless parade of wannabe sci-fi thrillers, which, in fact, employ a self-cannibalizing approach to storytelling by just swapping interchangeable parts of the script. So instead of raptors or cobras, you get robots that shoot lasers. Instead of an attractive, blonde female scientist, you get an attractive, brunette female scientist. Instead of Michael Pare you get Joe Lando.
With movies like these, it's all about the designated creatures and I can say without any doubt, compared to the various dinosaurs and reptiles that have served in the robots' capacity in other films, these baddies are best-rendered I've seen. The CGI is still largely pathetic, but given the diminutive budget the visual effects department had to work with, the robots turned out pretty good. The designs are derivative of H.G. Wells's Martian invaders, and the laser beams that these things fir out of their eye socket look absolutely ridiculous, but on the whole the effects aren't nearly as sub-par and distracting as some other low-budget sci-fi hooligans.
The flick really gets moronic when the humans show up. Lando's Navy SEAL badass is the stereotypical alpha male grunt and Susan Foster is just another generic scientist with an impressive figure. Everyone else? Idiots. Complete idiots. All of the army guys that populate these sci-fi action movies must have attended the same academy because, apparently, the communal handbook states that when faced with a gigantic, murderous, indestructible predator, one should always stand still and uselessly fire one's pistol until the creature tires of the annoyance and steps on one's head. This happens repeatedly, even after soldiers witness their comrades' demise.
So yeah the movie's bad, but not in a malicious way. You won't be left with a brain aneurism when the end credits roll. Except for that one plot point involving the robots stealing a helicopter to fashion it as an escape plane from the island so they can go wipe out the mainland. That should fry a few neurons.
This movie is dumb as hell, but not entirely without its charms.
It's cheesy and ripe for derision and the robot laser action is abundant.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated R