A.I. Assault (2005)

SciFi Channel LogoA.I. Assault (2005)

Starring Joe Lando, Joshua Cox, Alexandra Paul, Bill Mumy, George Takei, Michael Dorn, Robert Picardo, Hudson Leick, Lisa Lo Cicero, and Jack Deth.

Directed by Jay Andrews.

Jay Andrews (whose real name is apparently Jim Wynorski, and who directs under a host of pseudonyms including Thaddeus Wickwire, Bob E. Brown and H.R. Blueberry ((No, seriously.))) has an interesting filmography, one glance at which should be enough to set proper expectations for A.I. Assault; and by “proper” I mean “low.”

To his credit, Andrews/Wynorski directed The Return of Swamp Thing, which is a campy, fun super-hero movie. He also directed The Bare Wench Project, ((I’ve not seen The Bare Wench Project or any of the four sequels Wynorski also directed, and I don’t know that I could bring myself to write a review if I had.)) Alabama Jones and the Busty Crusade, Busty Cops, Raptor, Gargoyle: Wings of Darkness and The Curse of the Komodo. Sometimes referred to as a modern day Ed Wood, Wynorski seems to have made a career bouncing between sci-fi/horror schlock and T&A.

Good work, if you can get it.

A.I. Assault features some fairly well-known names from science-fiction and fantasy, all of whom were apparently unfamiliar with the director’s previous works. George Takei was Sulu in the original Star Trek series, Michael Dorn played Lt. Worf on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Robert Picardo was the holographic doctor in Star Trek: Voyager, Hudson Leick was in Xena: Warrior Princess and Bill Mumy played young Will Robinson (“Danger! Danger!”) on Lost in Space. Tim Thomerson played the title role in Dollman and its sequel, Dollman vs. The Demonic Toys, not to mention five movies in the Trancers franchise. ((I met Tim Thomerson a couple of years ago at Cleveland-Hopkins International airport, and we had a very nice chat on our way to baggage claim. I had recognized him when I boarded the plane in Phoenix, but the seating arrangements did not allow for conversation during the flight; he was in first class and I was in steerage.))

The cast is divided into five groups: those who are killed in the first five minutes, a separate group killed in the second five minutes, a group of thieves who take their sweet time dying throughout the remainder of the movie, a group of military-types who do the same, and a second group of more important military-types who stay the hell away from whatever is killing everyone else.

Most of the killing is handled by the titular artificial intelligence; multi-limbed, heavily-armored combat platforms created by the military. The military has lost control of their new toys, which proceed to do what every other uncontrollable artificial intelligence in the history of uncontrollable artificial intelligence has done: kill everyone.

The movie begins with one of the rampaging Assaulticons ((The official military code name was something just as silly, but I can’t recall it at the moment.)) chasing folks through the desert. After the chrome-plated critter tracks down and kills everything with a pulse, the credits roll and the movie continues on a government charter plane bound for Australia. The Assaulticon has apparently been subdued, but not for long. Mother Nature intervenes, the plane crashes, and the Assaulticons (now numbering four) are let loose on an island in the South Pacific.

A group of survivors takes a radio and heads to high ground, hoping to call for help. They intercept a looping message in French, which Shannon is able to translate. Doing some calculations based on and automated counter in the message, Sayid is able to determine that it has been looping for–

Whoops, wrong island in the South Pacific.

After robbing a cruise ship, a group of thieves boards a helicopter piloted by Jack (Joshua Cox, AKA Josh Coxx) and flies into the same nasty storm that downed the plane. As (bad) luck would have it, Jack is able to land the helicopter on the very same South Pacific island on which the Assaulticons have recently taken up residence.

The military, eager to have their expensive killing machines back, sends an elite squad of commandoes to the island on a search-and-destroy-or-maybe-retrieve (but probably just destroy) mission. The commandoes are briefed by Susan Foster (Lisa Lo Cicero), the daughter of one of the scientists who designed the Assaulticons. Ms. Foster accompanies the commandoes to the island, because it wouldn’t make much of a luau without a few hula-honies.

During the briefing, Susan Foster informs the commandoes that the Assaulticons’ armor is made of a new titanium alloy matrix, rendering the metal monstrosities impervious to anything short of a 5,000 pound bomb. Despite this, the commandoes fire away with everything from pistols to machine guns and rocket launchers every time they come into contact with the Assaulticons. This is most likely because Ms. Foster failed to yell, “Listen up, maggots!” before she began the briefing. Those protocols are in place for a reason, lady.

The commandoes have one weapon that could destroy the Assaulticons, an experimental LASER rifle. Unfortunately, they give it to a guy who can’t shoot straight. With a LASER. Thanks to Joe Shaky, the Assaulticons are able to steal the weapon and whisk it away to Jack’s helicopter, which they’ve stolen and are in the process of repairing. Seems the Assaulticons don’t like it on the island, and they want to spread their robot loving far and wide across the globe.

The commandoes are in a race against time. The military plans to nuke the island if the Assaulticons aren’t neutralized by 0700, but the rogue robots may well be long gone by then if they can repair Jack’s whirlybird; their LASER in the hole is gone, they have no way to communicate with their superiors, and half of the squad has been chopped up zapped or crushed by the Assaulticons.

The thieves are pretty much hosed, too. They’ve been sliced and diced, tossed around like ragdolls and generally mistreated by their robot overlords. ((Did I say overlords? I meant protectors.)) Joining up with the commandoes hasn’t helped much, either.

I don’t want to give away the ending, but I will say that—mercifully—A.I. Assault has one. It’s not especially satisfying, and there’s a little more denouement than is necessary. So much so, that I expected one of the Assaulticons to come back to life, climb out of the backseat or otherwise to something to make those last few, awkward minutes before the end credits rolled at least mildly entertaining. No such luck.

A.I. Assault is mediocre, even by “SciFi original” standards. The first fifteen minutes are terribly disjointed, the special effects — while not utterly wretched — are very clearly special effects, and most of the actors of note are either killed after three minutes of screen time or relegated to standing on the sidelines well away from the action. This is probably the worst thing about the movie, especially given that SciFi Channel used their names to promote the movie.

Next week (20 May 2006): The SciFi original movie, Abominable. Let’s hope the heroes remember that bumbles bounce.

Podcast: Misfit Brew Episode 11

Misfit Brew episode 11 has been posted, and you should listen to it. First, thriving misfit and Unquiet Desperado Chris Miller continues his examination of the archetypes with The High Priestess, about whom no one in their right mind makes “your momma” jokes. Then, fledgling misfit Rae Lamond continues her exploration into the culture by taking geeks where they rarely go: outside. Finally, there’s an essay by yours truly. Master misfit Mick Bradley asked me to submit an essay, so I reworked “The Lobot Thing” for audio. Mick either liked it or was just desperate enough to use it. Either way, it’s in there.

Go to the site and download the episode, or add the feed to your podcatcher. Don’t have a podcatcher? Try one of these:

Want more information about podcatchers? Head over to PodcatcherMatrix for a more extensive list as well as comparisons of the various clients.