Unlike those Amblin classics – The Goonies, especially – its gang of intrepid kids don't hail from Middle America. "It's set in a small seaside town," Wright told Empire magazine, "where you'd have seen Emily Lloyd in Wish You Were Here once upon a time – not where you'd expect to see two-storey robots."
Those draconian robots, the clanking and slightly rusting menace, have ceaselessly patrolled a technology bereft Earth for three long years, keeping humankind cowed behind closed doors. "I woke up one morning having had a dream about being incarcerated in my house, with giant robots walking by in the street outside," explains Wright of the set-up's surprising genesis. "It gave birth to the notion of people being trapped in their houses. Nobody knows why the robots have done this, but that's kind of what we find out over the course of the movie."
Facing off against these sentinels in Robot Overlords are McAuliffe (who also played the young Leonardo DiCaprio in Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby) as reluctant hero Sean Flynn, and his pals. "I think he's got that star quality," says Wright of his leading man. "He channels that 'man-of-few-words' thing that feels like it's gone out of fashion a bit." Gillian Anderson's teacher is also on the side of the angels, albeit in a less active role than usual. "I grew up with the X-Files and always really loved her," continues Wright. "I thought it would be interesting to see her play a normal woman, a mum. The kids are quite ordinary, too. Extraordinary things happen to them but they're just an average gang of kids."
Expect resistance from Kingsley's hissable ex-geography teacher turned chief robot collaborator, Mr. Smyth. "He was passed over for promotion," explains the director, "and he's quite bitter and twisted. So when the robots arrived, he saw his chance to change his story. Apparently Ben Kingsley had an art teacher who he absolutely hated. That's who his character is channelling."
Wright's first feature, Tormented (2009), was an impactful study of sixth form school life; his second, Grabbers (2012), was hailed as an irresistible Friday night out monster feature in the spirit of Tremors (1990) or Lake Placid (1999). Expect his Amblin homaging third to hit our screens in the early part of 2015.