A.X.L. Parent Guide
More computer graphics bark than solid story bite.
Parent Movie Review
Animatronic dog meets bullied boy in A.X.L. (pronounced “axel”), a film that attempts a technological upgrade on the old “boy-and-his-dog” premise.
A day of dirt biking in the hills leaves Miles (Alex Neustaedter) abandoned by his “friend” Sam (Alex MacNicoll) and his group of cronies. Yet this new-kid-in-town and high school senior isn’t nearly as fazed as I would be when this unexpected alone time leads to the discovery of a giant, robotic Rottweiler stashed in an abandoned shipping container. Not smart enough to let sleeping dogs lie, Miles manages to awaken the mechanical mutt who then tears after him, believing the boy to be an enemy. Fortunately Mile’s driving and stunting abilities are good enough to trick A.X.L. (credited as being played by Dorian Kingi – I’m assuming for motion capture animation) into sailing off a cliff, and landing in a sad mess of twisted metal.
Even after having his life endangered, Miles is determined to patch this newfound pooch back together. Using some tools, convenient supplied by A.X.L. himself, the computer-programed pup soon boots up again. Acknowledging the teen’s kindness, A.X.L. moves his rescuer’s profile into the “friend” folder. Eventually, the pair becomes even more bonded through a technological thumbprint device (essentially A.X.L.‘s ignition key) that makes the chrome canine wholly obedient to Mile’s commands.
Meanwhile, another school pal named Sara (Becky G) arrives on the scene. Recognizing Miles’ pet as a very expensive science experiment, she suggests returning the stray to some higher authority. But Miles refuses because he believes the former owner will mistreat the life-like machine.
What Miles and Sara don’t know is that A.X.L.‘s creator, Andric (Dominic Rains), is watching the entire relationship unfold through cameras built into the robot’s eyes. Happy to have a pair of “guinea pigs” to test the device’s ability to interact with humans, the military contractor ignores the possibility of the public harm A.X.L. might do. And that prospect becomes more likely when Sam returns to see what Sara and Miles are up to.
The best part of this movie is the visual creation of A.X.L. and the concept of designing an artificial animal for the purpose of protection. Also appreciated are the relatively few content concerns. A handful of mild profanities (including a Christian term of deity), some physical skirmishes (with brief blood seen) and revealing female clothing round up the greatest issues.
On the “dog” side, it seems most of this film’s apparently thin budget was spent on visual effects. While bringing A.X.L. to life is well done, that accomplishment comes at the sacrifice of strong performances and a solid story. Some of the other nuts and bolts of this production aren’t exactly tight either.
If you’re in the 8 to 12-year-old crowd, A.X.L. will likely offer a fun adventure. If not, it may just feel like you’re watching a hybrid hound begging for a sequel.Directed by Oliver Daly. Starring Thomas Jane, Becky G, Alex Neustaedter. Running time: 100 minutes. Theatrical release August 24, 2018. Updated January 1, 2019
Watch the trailer for A.X.L.
Rating & Content Info
Why is A.X.L. rated PG? A.X.L. is rated PG by the MPAA for sci-fi action/peril, suggestive material, thematic elements and some language.
Violence: Characters ride and do stunts with dirt bikes, resulting in some tumbles and crashes. Teens bully one another with verbal and physical threats. Lives are purposefully put at risk. Guns, bow-and-arrows and other weapons are seen and used. Fist-fights and explosions occur. Injuries are depicted, some with blood effects. Characters are chased and put in perilous situations. A robotic creature pursues characters and threatens to harm or kill them (growling, teeth-baring and snapping are seen along with pinning and dragging people). A gang of teen boys engage in arson and use fire to injure others. Characters disobey rules and rebel against authority figures. Characters are taken against their will, bound and interrogated. A dog-like character is shot at, muzzled and brought down with taser drones. A character hacks a computer so another can take money.
Sexual Content: Female characters wear revealing clothing, including one whose bra shows under her tank top. A teen couple is seen embracing and passionately kissing.
Profanity: Mild profanities, terms of deity and slurs are used infrequently.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Teen characters are briefly seen drinking at a party.
Page last updated January 1, 2019
A.X.L. Parents' Guide
Miles is bullied by Sam and his gang, yet when the tables are turned, Miles is quick to treat Sam in a similar fashion. Is it okay to be mean to others if they have hurt you first? How does Sara react to Miles' aggressive behavior? What would you do if you had the upper hand in a confrontation with a person who had previously threatened you?
Sara encourages Miles to return A.X.L. to his owner because it is the "right" thing to do. Why is Miles reluctant to do so? Are his concerns valid? Is the robot dog a thinking and feeling being, or just a machine? Why do you think the filmmakers created a story with characters that believe in and want to protect the high-tech pooch? Did you start to see A.X.L. as a real dog too? Have you ever treated any inanimate thing like it was alive?