Netflix Adventures 03: “Evolver”

18Dec13

Evolver

Title: Evolver

Genre: Science Fiction

Subgenre: Killer Robot

Vintage: 1995

Director: Mark Rosman

Netflix’s Lying Description: “In this engrossing sci-fi tale, teen computer genius Kyle Baxter is thrilled when he wins the chance to play a live version of his favorite video game. But Kyle doesn’t realize that he’s pitted against a robot programmed to kill.”

What I expected: Chopping Mall.

What I got: Lawnmower Man 2: Job’s War. There were a surprising number of those trippy, computer-generated virtual reality sequences that were all the rage in the early Nineties. The movie also features some delightfully suspenseful sequences as the killer robot upgrades its programming and quietly rearms itself, transforming everyday tools (ball bearings, kitchen knives, gasoline) into deadly weapons. It was also fun to see John de Lancie (Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Discord from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic) as a slightly befuddled scientist who seems genuinely surprised when his repurposed kill-bot goes haywire and embarks on a murderous rampage, even though he left the original “seek and destroy” programming intact. Gee, what could have possibly gone wrong?

What’s the best part: By far the standout feature of this film is the design, puppetry, and voice-acting that combine to create the character of Evolver, the titular military-robot-turned-children’s-toy. Jim Salvati is credited with the conceptual design of the robot, which adapts and changes as its programming evolves, becoming more visually menacing as the movie progresses. Steve Johnson and Eric Fiedler bring Evolver to life as the robot special effects artist and lead puppeteer, respectively. And William H. Macy provides Evolver’s warm, friendly voice, a detail which makes the automaton antagonist all the more unsettling as the violence escalates. All things considered, the Evolver robot is way more charming than the sneering meat-bags who mock and torment it with their continued, carbon-based existence.

What I learned:

  • The cyberpunk future is gangs of hooligans with New Wave haircuts placing bets while some goober flails around with a clunky, VR helmet on his head.
  • Every teenager’s bedroom is invariably decorated from floor to ceiling with crazy movie posters.
  • The girls’ locker room of any high school is conveniently and clearly labeled.
  • For meathead jocks, the preferred choice of undergarment is ‘commando’.
  • Marijuana and virtual reality are a DEADLY COMBINATION.
  • Rubber alligators are not intended for use as a flotation device.
  • Even if you’re an unlikeable, computer-obsessed, anti-social shit, if you’re the protagonist, you’ll get the girl in the end.

What’s coming next: The gods of the random number generator decree that the next adventure shall be…

night

Night of the Cobra Woman.

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