Director/Screenplay – Neil John Rowe, Producers – Amanda Rowe & Neil John Rowe, Visual Effects – Rendered Pictures (Supervisor – Neil Rowe). Production Company – Rendered Pictures
Ian Rowe (Pilot)
Project Connection is the culmination of a sixty-year plan that has involved sending a machine to a planet twenty light years away. With its connection now active, this allows instantaneous teleportation between the two worlds. A pilot is now sent through the portal only for things to go wrong and his craft to fail and burn up on re-entry. Parachuting down, the pilot finds himself on a habitable world but with meagre supplies. He soon discovers that the world is inhabited by robots, some of which are friendly, while others start shooting him. He befriends and follows one robot, believing that it will lead him to the underground location of the planet’s inhabitants.
Reconnoiter was a micro-budgeted film from Neil John Rowe. Rowe had worked for over a decade in visual effects before forming the Rendered Pictures production company based in Devon. This consists of he, his wife Amanda and brother Ian who perform all of the tasks in front of and behind the camera themselves. Reconnoiter was retitled Robot World for winder release.
Like one or two other British filmmakers of recent, Neil John Rowe takes inspiration from Gareth Edwards who made Monsters (2010) and performed all of the highly accomplished visual effects himself. Rowe makes Reconnoiter/Robot World on a miniscule budget, mostly shooting outdoors in the Devon area and using bare, open landscapes or abandoned buildings. He produces effects that rival many in far better budgeted Hollywood films. The opening space journey looks detailed and convincing. The robots are excellent, particularly good being the one shaped like a dog that loyally accompanies Ian Rowe through much of the film.
Beyond its effects, Reconnoiter/Robot World is also a smart and clever science-fiction film. Even though he is operating on a minute budget, Neil Rowe has clearly taken the time to practically think out matters. Unlike many other SF films that simply have astronauts turn up on Earth-like planets, much of the concern here is whether Ian Rowe will be able to breathe, drink the water and how he is going to get food when his rations run out.
Where the film gets extremely clever is during some of the abrupt twists it gives us. [PLOT SPOILERS]. There is the moment where Ian Rowe is wandering through the empty landscape and comes across a bottle and records in his log “I’ve found a container. It seems to be covered in the alien language” and when we see what he is referring to it is clearly a Jack Daniels bottle. Here Neil Rowe has very cleverly conducted a twist not dissimilar to Planet of the Apes (1968), leaving us with the initial assumption that Ian Rowe was an astronaut from Earth (although in retrospect, we realise this is merely our assumptions and that where he comes from is never detailed in any way) before twisting it on its head to reveal he is in fact the alien and that he is on a post-apocalyptic Earth. There is a further double twist that comes at the ending with the discovery of the poster and the realisation that his journey there has been instrumental in the destruction of this world.
Neil Rowe, along with Amanda and Ian, next went on to make Alien Outbreak (2020), an alien invasion film with more robots.