Basically, an X-Games sci-fi re-imagining of Jack London’s White Fang, but substitute Alaska with a desert landscape and the dog/wolf hybrid with a canine robot. Add some common government film conspiracy for the standard good measure. I was bored almost all the way through.
As twin films (films that are the same or very similar, produced or released at the same time by two different studios) go, A.X.L. might be the most laughable one to come out in recent memory. Released at the same time as and so similar to Alpha, even putting the film posters side by side, you would think the studio behind this clunker performed corporate espionage; purely hoping customers would pick their film by mistake. Neither one I found particularly good or interesting, but A.X.L is more of parasite than a twin.
A.X.L. stands for Attack, Exploration, Logistics, a top-secret robot dog development by the military as the next way to help and support American soldiers. The robot, white fang, is discovered by Miles (Alex Neustaedter) hiding in a scrap heap, and connects with him like any man’s best friend relationship, made of scrap metal or not. Of course, the military comes looking for their investment, and with the help of a sassy friend named Sara (singer Becky G.), they attempt to help it get away.
The film struggles with establishing suspense, and that is the result of a script by writer/director Oliver Daly that remains stuck in the first act that doesn’t know how to get out of it. The characters are poorly developed, offering no real arc or three-dimensional behaviours. Poor Thomas Jane, a talented and engaging actor (so good in 61*, Hung, and the more recent 1922 on Netflix), who is stuck in this robotic turkey as Miles’ father. Looking at his lifeless eye, you must wonder if he was thinking this wasn’t what he signed up for. You feel for him, as he must have been as bored acting in this film as we were watching it.
Clearly attempting to draft Alpha when it came out, it amounted to basically an X-games sci-fi re-imagining of Jack London’s White Fang; they just substitute Alaska with a desert landscape and make the dog/wolf hybrid a canine robot. There are so many other ways to spend your money, like on a distant cousin’s bail or some Nigerian prince that contacted you by email, that are better investments than this film. A.X.L had me bored almost all the way through. Even more shocking is the clear attempt for the open-ended finale to leave a bridge to a possible sequel. Just like the film Kin, the team behind A.X.L clearly has more faith in its product than the viewers do – they want their money back.
M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.