Anyone getting a MONSTER TRUCKS (2017) vibe, only worse?
The story looks like it’s about a young man who happens upon a cybernetic dog named AXL and keeps him for himself as opposed to giving him back to to the government and then… adventure ho!
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Alex Neustaedter (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of, and upcoming films AMERICAN WOMAN  and LOW TIDE ), Becky G. (POWER RANGERS ), Thomas Jane (THE MIST , DEEP BLUE SEA , and upcoming films THE PREDATOR  and CROWN VIC ), Ted McGinley (GOD’S NOT DEAD 3 ), and Dominic Rains (CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER ).
Now for the crew. Writing and directing is Oliver Daly, making his feature film debut. Congrats, sir. Composing the score is Ian Hultquist, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of. The cinematographer is Tom Orr, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of, and the upcoming RICHARD SAYS GOODBYE (2018). Finally, the editor is Jeff McEvoy, known for NERVE (2016) and UNDERWORLD AWAKENING (2012).
Overall, y’all are looking at the same trailer as I am. This ain’t going to be good. Here’s hoping that it knows what it is and won’t try. But, I doubt it.
This is my honest opinion of: A.X.L.
Miles Hill (Alex Neustaedter) is a teen motocross racer with his dad Chuck (Thomas Jane) as his mechanic. AXL is a robotic dog developed by Andric (Dominic Rains) for the military as the next level K9 war dog. However, AXL escapes and hides from Andric’s pursuit. Miles, seemingly befriending a rival racer named Sam (Alex MacNicoll), gets injured doing a bike trick and is left by Sam for winning the most recent race against him. Miles eventually happens upon AXL and the two form a unique bond and AXL begins to learn at a geometric rate.
By God this is bad. I mean, I knew that. It doesn’t surprise me with how bad this movie gets. But… you know what? A bad movie is still hard to sit through, no matter how predictably bad it gets.
Alright, I know that I’m supposed to suspend disbelief, as we’re all supposed to do when it comes to sci-fi, but we literally open on a montage of what AXL is and one of the footage is of the military robot dogs that we actually use today. These things, as impressively advanced as they are- no seriously, watch this video, it’s pretty cool-
– these things aren’t exactly graceful, and this is as advanced as we’ve gotten so far. So this movie seriously expects me to believe that some egg-head can make something that’s as advanced as AXL with modern technology before the Japanese? Go home, movie, you’re drunk. It would be so much easier to buy if the world that this movie takes place in was a futuristic movie. It doesn’t need to be a big budget Star Wars kind of future, or even a rundown dystopia like Blade Runner, but… I don’t know, something along the likes of UPGRADE maybe? A future that is clearly not the present where technology like this is more plausible? I’m just saying, there’s a way to do this without being lazy.
Beyond that, it’s a very run-of-the-mill “boy and his dog” movie. But here’s the problem. At least with those movies that actually have real dogs, the movie could easily bank on the dog being cute and skirt on by with that alone and please a few people watching it. At least actual dogs can be cute. AXL is terrifying. AXL isn’t the slightest bit cute, or even all that awesome. He’s a horror movie creature. First off, his design feels incredibly… skeletal, I want to say. His eyes. There was honestly no way this could have worked. From his threatened-red to his benign-blue, AXL is intimidating as all hell and I would have lobed a grenade at the thing in a heartbeat. Given that the inside of its mouth is all buzzsaws, I think you’ve got a recipe for something that deserves the horror treatment, not a family-friendly kids movie. And yet, here we are.
And why does this thing have emotions anyway? Actually, come to think of it, I have no idea if that’s exactly what they are. Okay, I get it, it was programmed to be a learning machine. First of all, dude, have you never seen the Terminator movies or played the Mass Effect video games? Learning machines never goes well for organics. But how do you program emotions into a machine? It’s all about military recon, combat, the whole thing. Machines like this shouldn’t be able to develop emotions. Even the bond it develops with Miles makes no sense. It comes with a little wristband, or whatever, that’s supposed to sync between the handler and AXL, which is supposed to create that bond, but AXL and Miles develop a friendship right away, leaving that little doohickey completely irrelevant.
But Miles and AXL’s relationship isn’t the only strange one. That honor also goes to Miles and Sara (Becky G). This relationship comes out of freakin’ nowhere. I might say that it’s refreshing to see the girl have an immediate attraction to the guy first, as opposed to the other way around, but no matter which character you want to place a contrivance, it’s still a contrivance. Sara literally takes one look at Miles and goes against her employers by giving Miles a new chain off of the Fontaine shelves, which they were unwilling to give up. Ironic, considering that later on Sara would be severely angry with Miles for possibly getting her family in trouble and kicked out of the home that’s sheltered and fed them. And I thought this was a well-written script! Note my sarcasm. Beyond that, she gets worried about him, drives out to pick him up, develops a romance, all within the span of a day or two. He doesn’t even do anything to warrant her attraction.
Surprise surprise, even some character motivation doesn’t make sense. So, aside from AXL’s creator, Andric (Dominic Rains), who is the primary villain of the movie, we also have a completely unnecessary bully villain in Sam. First of all, the movie teases the crap out of the audience by making him kind of sympathetic as someone who may not necessarily want to race, but is being forced into it by his corporate-minded father. He’s certainly unruly, as evidenced by having a damned makeshift flamethrower and torching a junked car with it, but then later on pulls a twist and he’s a jerk. Fantastic that this movie didn’t bother just having a morally ambiguous character to throw in. But fine, whatever. The point is, this character is significantly more imposing than Andric because at least Sam nearly kills Miles. How so? By… well, I’m actually not sure of the how. He fills Miles’ gas tank with an energy drink and upon Miles attempting a trick, he falls off of his bike and lands hard. First of all, I’m pretty sure Miles’ wipeout was simply his own dumb fault, as he clearly just lets go of the handles. Second, no broken bones? That was a good ten, fifteen foot drop and he lands hard on his arm. It was a miracle in its own right that he didn’t die, let alone get away with nothing more than a couple of scratches. Third, Sam was nearly an accessory to murder, had Miles actually died and he has zero qualms about it and attempts to leave him there alone. But then, for insert your own dumb reasons here, one of Sam’s friends says, “We can’t leave him out here like this,” and Sam… leaves behind fuel and water. Wow, for a dude who is okay with potential murder, he’s surprisingly considerate. The best part about all this… Miles never calls the police on the guy. It’d have been acceptable and understandable enough if he had AXL drag Sam to the middle of the desert and tear the kid limb from limb, literally, and leave the rest of the world none the wiser, but the appropriate thing to do would be to call the local authorities. Nope… Miles is dumb. Really dumb. Everyone’s dumb, but this all takes a special kind of cake.
Yes, this is a bad movie. From Miles knowing how to repair a machine that should be far too advanced for his knowledge, as well as claiming that it was abused due to a few bullet holes in its hide, to a whole bunch of other stupidity that I don’t want to get into. Either that, or I just don’t remember them due to repressed memories, but I prefer to think that going further into this movie’s crap is simply not good for my mental health. But as bad as it is, it’s not really insultingly bad. I won’t argue anyone who says that this is one of the worst movies of the year, it is, but it’s just not worth getting mad about. No one went in expecting anything cool outside of children. Regardless, I don’t recommend this movie. It’s not worth your time, gas, or money. I don’t even recommend it as a rental. Avoid it altogether, you’re missing absolutely nothing.
My honest rating for A.X.L.: 2/5
This week’s reviews
- THE LITTLE MERMAID
- THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST
- THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS
- THE BOOKSHOP
- SUPPORT THE GIRLS
Next week’s reviews:
- OPERATION FINALE
- THE LITTLE STRANGER
- LET THE CORPSES TAN / LAISSEZ BRONZER LES CADAVRES
- YA VEREMOS / WE’LL SEE