Robocroc gets some hang time!
Robocroc! So much promise in that title, and yet what we get is a complete mess saved only by the high caliber actors being awesome. But sadly they are not awesome enough, and Robocroc becomes less worthy of your time. Recent SyFy films have focused on gimmick kills and ridiculous premises. Robocroc doesn’t really feature either of them, but they wouldn’t have helped, as the real problem is the confusion as to how the film is brought together. Minus commercials, it’s almost 29 minutes before we get a confirmed kill by Robocroc (though dialogue later establishes that other characters died. Characters we don’t see get killed!) One of the great pieces for advice for storytelling is “show, don’t tell”, and we should have seen the soldiers getting killed. Even if you avoided that, you could imply things enough that we knew the soldiers were getting killed. Instead, all that is shown is what looks like someone injured.
There was a famous story years ago about the formula for SyFy films (back when they were SciFi Channel films), and the rules included that we see the monster all the time and there needed to be a kill every few minutes to keep the audience interested. Robocroc violates the second rule, which is surprising for what looks like a film especially made for SyFy. I don’t fault a film for deviating from the established guidelines, but I prefer when films do, that they do so because it makes the film better. And while I was surprised several characters lived, the story didn’t really take any risks. But maybe I’m being too hard on Robocroc.
It’s fun watching Corin Nemec, Steven Hartley, and Dee Wallace act the crap around everyone else. What looks like a good chunk of the cast was hired locally wherever it was film (Bulgaria?), and a few of them are dubbed over and have the acting skills of paint drying. Yeah, I don’t know what that expression means, either, but it fits. Corin Nemec is awesome, obviously having a fun time being a cool zookeeper and completely avoids becoming a Steve Irwin clone, despite the hints from the script that it is what the writers had in mind. It is a good choice, allowing the character to be unique. Dee Wallace’s sinister scientist character makes you wonder just how far she’s willing to go to test her weapon. Then you watch her blow right past that and get even more evil. All she needed to be the most evil was to feed babies to Robocroc. Steven Hartley was just awesome, acting like a grizzled military commander who has probably fought all sorts of random robot monsters doing retrieval work.
Robocroc does get some props for calling out of the behavior of the creepy guy who is friends with Rob Duffy, every other character (except Rob) treats him like a horrible person, and Rob isn’t very fond of how Creepy Guy keeps getting him in trouble. Creepy Guy’s attempt to perv on some bikini babes gets him dunked into the pool. Later he gets grabby on the dance floor and that gets him locked in the bathroom. Creepy Guy is just a character you want to die. And the film teases and teases and then… Well, sometimes life ain’t fair!
Robocroc has a bit of social commentary on the use of drones/automated weapons. It seems to be against them, because they’ll turn into killing machines that will kill anyone.
Part of Robocroc‘s confusion is just what kind of park they are at. It looks like a random zoo, which is usually just a zoo. But in fact it’s part of a huge entertainment complex that is largely a water park and ATV range. We aren’t told this, we just suddenly cut to those things and wonder why Robocroc is running around there, until later in the film explaining it’s all part of the same complex. I guess they did show, not tell. But this could have been explained in a simple line of dialogue or even a voice announcement! Gah! Robogah!