A low-budget sci-fi B-movie shot in 1994 and released to very little commercial success.
The virtual-reality arcade combat game Evolver is all the rage, and Kyle's (Ethan Embry) score is on top of the country charts. So, logically, he's the one chosen to test a real-life version of the game that the company just came up with. They deliver him a small robot, the titular Evolver (voiced by William H. Macy), and a few innocuous laser-pointer guns to fight it with.
At first everything goes fine and everyone has a ton of fun, but after a while Evolver reverts to deeper, far more dangerous programming: he upgrades his weapons and goes on a rampage, killing several people and almost succeeding in killing Kyle's sister until he's disabled by Kyle. The robot is carried away and everyone resumes their normal lives, but only briefly: during transit Evolver reactivates, and refusing to acknowledge defeat he switches into combat mode and looks for revenge...
This movie provides examples of the following tropes:
- Abnormal Ammo: when Evolver figures out plastic balls and foam missiles can't actually kill his targets, he replaces them with metal ball bearings and kitchen knives.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: well, duh.
- Back from the Dead: Evolver does this twice. First time he gets thrown into a pool, but reactivates later. Then he's beaten into shutdown with a baseball bat, but then reactivates again - partially disabled, but still very much out for blood.
- Energy Weapons: Evolver has a high-powered laser hidden in his chassis. He's also able to somehow overdrive harmless laser pointers into dangerous instant-barbecue weapons.
- Failsafe Failure: The verbal shutdown code that is originally used to stop the out-of-control robot during the trial run is rejected by the Evolver when its creator tries to use it at the end of the film. Cue Oh, Crap!.
- Glass Cannon: being a civilian model rather than the original military incarnation Evolver counts on a good offensive to avoid damage - and with lasers and improvised ammunition aplenty he's certainly able to dish it out. But when his defense is breached, even the more agile "combat-mode" Evolver goes down with sufficiently enthusiastic application of a wooden baseball bat.
- Gone Horribly Right: Evolver's objective is to adapt to ensure victory, and boy does it.
- Humans Are Bastards: Evolver gets progressively more evil as he witnesses evil. Granted, in the end he's being attacked simply for survival, but he starts his rampage when the jock kicks him, and gets more dangerous later on when Kyle's friend kidnaps him and tries to forcibly eject his memory disc. Also, violent television and drugs seem to cause his personality to degrade even further.
- Idiot Ball: So many people have a turn at this the movie resembles a football skirmish. First there are the creators of Evolver that used a military program to create a toy for the civilian market, the people that didn't think to ensure Evolver couldn't make use of anything other than foam balls for ammunition, the kid that tried to use Evolver for spying on the girl's shower room, etc. Kyle at least had enough sense to remove Evolver's battery when things started getting weird, but not enough sense to make sure his kid sister didn't find it and plug it back in to a homicidal robot.
- Improbable Infant Survival: Naturally, Kyle's little sister, who's like 9, doesn't die despite being attacked.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Kyle hacks the Evolver sweepstakes computer database and places himself as the winner, he gets a Killer Robot that goes on a rampage and tries to annihilate him. Seems fair.
- My Little Panzer: the Evolver AI was originally a military prototype for a combat robot, which was cancelled when field trials showed it to be too dangerous to use. The programming was then adapted to non-lethal gameplay. It did not go well.
- Sequel Hook: in the end, after Evolver's been blown up, he doesn't quite seem to be completely dead: through his shattered vision we see a "TARGET NOT TERMINATED" message, then the screen fades to snow... no sequel ever materialized, though.
- Shown Their Work: A lot of the computer terminology and usage is up there with WarGames. Provided you disregard Evolver's Villainous Breakdown.
- Villainous Breakdown: Evolver losing the final round against Kyle
- What Happened to the Mouse?: About halfway through the movie, Evolver severely injures the best friend of the main character, and the next scene shows him going to hospital, on a stretcher. It's mentioned that it is unclear if he will survive. And sure enough, he is never mentioned again, indeed making it unclear.