Cast: Alex Neustaedter, Becky G, Alex MacNicoll, Dominic Rains
Director: Oliver Daly
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: A.X.L. is a top-secret, robotic dog created by the military to help protect tomorrow’s soldiers. Code named by the scientists who created him, A.X.L. stands for Attack, Exploration, Logistics, and embodies the most advanced, next-generation artificial intelligence. After an experiment gone wrong, A.X.L. is discovered hiding alone in the desert by a kind-hearted outsider named Miles (Alex Neustaedter), who finds a way to connect with him after activating his owner-pairing technology. Together, the two develop a special friendship based on trust, loyalty and compassion. Helping Miles gain the confidence he’s been lacking, A.X.L. will go to any length to protect his new companion, including facing off against the scientists who created him and who will do anything to get him back. Knowing what is at stake if A.X.L. is captured, Miles teams up with a smart, resourceful ally named Sara (Becky G) to protect his new best friend on a timeless, epic adventure for the whole family.
As August comes to a close, I think I have my top contender for most generic movie of 2018. A.X.L. does everything in its power to give us the absolute bare minimum; nothing more and nothing less. At no point did I ever think the movie did anything spectacular, but there were also no moments where I thought the film was inherently bad. It rides that line where at moments it can be exciting and at other times the plot drags and I do not really see the connection between the two sections of this movie. A slightly below average film at best, A.X.L. is the film that nobody ever asked for, but one that you can hardly complain about.
The film follows Miles (Neustaedter), an aspiring BMX racer who ends up being left in the middle of nowhere after rival biker Sam (MacNicoll) tampers with Miles’ bike, causing him to crash. While Miles is isolated, he encounters a large robotic dog named A.X.L., a government machine that a private military firm is creating to help soldiers on the battlefield. As Miles develops a relationship with A.X.L., they must face the consequences of their actions together and see if their friendship is greater than the forces of the U.S. military. As you can probably tell from the plot summary, this is about the most uninspired stories to get a wide release this year. If you want to argue that since this movie is targeted towards a younger audience that the lack of story is fine, but remember that movies like E.T. and The Iron Giant are also targeted towards that same demographic and are some of the most creative and well-made movies of all time. I always felt as though A.X.L. was just trying to borrow things that made other movies successful and never tried to be its own thing. I am not saying that the film necessarily does anything wrong, but at no point does it take the risk of trying to go outside of the box that it places itself in. I also never saw the connection between Miles’ racing aspirations and him finding A.X.L.. Maybe this was to show that Miles is good with mechanical elements that are useful throughout the movie, but at no point did I ever feel his aspirations or money issues were relevant to the plot. Outside of that, everything is very mediocre and nothing stands out in a negative way. The acting works for the most part, with each actor giving a reasonable performance, but none of them ever felt immersed in the role. The thing I thought was a little bit above average was the special effects for A.X.L.. At no point does A.X.L.’s presence feel fake or misplaced in the real world, so kudos to the effects team for at least making their titular character feel a part of the world that the other characters exist in. While the special effects might be solid, it does not hide the fact that A.X.L. is an otherwise boring film weighed down by too many clichés and tired moments to stand out in an always crowded field.
Overall, A.X.L. is a pretty standard summer release that younger audiences can flock to and have a reasonably good time. There were no moments that made me cringe or laugh due to how poorly it was made, but there were also no moments that made me want to stand up and cheer. As summer dies down, we will see less of these movies coming out until the holiday season, but this is neither the best nor the worst one to be released this year.
Overall Score: 4.5/10