When I reviewed Minority Report a few weeks ago there was a whisper or two that I hadn’t mentioned Screamers as one of the better adaptations of Philip K. Dick’s work. Always one for a bit of top quality sci-fi I decided to have a watch.
Peter Weller leads a retinue of soldiers stationed on a distant planet, engaged in a pitched battle against another army on the other side of a disputed desert mine. Weller’s forces are protected in this war by the titular ‘Screamer’ robots, rat-sized mechanicals with buzz-saws attached. When Weller decides to take up the offer of peace talks with the opposing forces he sets off only to find that things have taken a sinister turn on the planet and the Screamers are evolving.
Screamers is something of a disappointment. It’d be too easy to dismiss it as no-budget, idea free banality. But there are ideas, from the source material, evidently tossed away early on. The evolving machines raise some questions about identity but there’s no contemplation on the answers here, just an excuse for some very poorly directed action sequences. There are two locations for most of the film, the desert and the warehouse, I mustered some excitement toward the end when there was a scene in the mountains but they just found their way into another warehouse. If you are making a cheap sci-fi film then you should concentrate on the ideas (see Moon), if you’re making it action heavy then you should make sure you’ve got the budget, or creative talent, for it. Anything else is a recipe for failure and means you won’t be making it onto any list of successful adaptations.