One of my favorite “robot” movies is “Ex Machina.” Now I’ve found another, “Archive.”
To be technically correct, these are actually about androids and artificial intelligence. Sure, they’re a tad sexist with an obsessed genius building a perfect woman … but then people like to play God and create images they want to see.
Yes, there’s a Frankenstein element in these films. In fact, “Archive” has a scene reminiscent of Victor Frankenstein raising his creation on an electrified platform to bring it to life.
Ol’ Victor was reanimating dead tissue. In “Ex Machina” and “Archive” the lifelike being are being built from scratch.
However, in “Archive” — like that earlier Keanu Reeves flick “Replicas” — we have a scientist obsessed with bringing back a wife who died in a traffic accident.
Directed and written by Gavin Rothery, “Archive” is a serious 2020 movie that got sidetracked from theaters to streaming video due to the global pandemic. But not to worry: You can find it on Amazon Prime, Vudu, Redbox, and Apple TV.
At 1 hour 49 minutes, some viewers have likened it to a long episode of “Black Mirror.” This sci-fi tale takes its time telling the story of George Almore (Theo James, but you can picture Ryan Reynolds in the role), an engineer who specializes in artificial intelligence.
He has been sent to a closed-down facility in Japan to do some cleanup. But what his company doesn’t know is that he’s trying to build an android into which he can dump the persona of his dead wife.
The sci-fi conceit here is that in the year 2038 a company called Archive has the ability to capture the essence of someone who has died, prolonging their goodbye with family and friends.
But George wonders, what if you could harness Archive’s ghost in the machine for his own guilty purposes?
George’s first attempt produces a boxy armless robot with the babbling intelligence of a 4- or 5-year-old kid. His second attempt is somewhat better, a shuffling robot with the petulant emotions of a teenager. But the third try (J-3, he calls the android) is a more faithful image of his deceased wife, Jules.
Except for a gray, lined face, this android is a faithful visual replica of his dearly departed. Stacy Martin does the voices for J-1 and J-2, as well as appearing as J-3 and in the flashback memory of his wife.
The bleak all-but-black-and-white scenery — snow-laden forests and a Frank Lloyd Wright-like sanctuary with a retractable bridge — is quite atmospheric, perfect for this psychological enigma that will remind you of something M. Night Shyamalan might have concocted. Yes, there are twists you won’t see coming.
Although this is a Robinson Crusoe movie with android Fridays, in addition to Theo James and Stacy Martin, popular actors Toby Jones and Rhona Mitra make brief cameo appearances.
Moviegoers have compared this film to “Blade Runner,” “Moon,” “Her,” “Replica,” “Black Mirror,” “Westworld,” “Ghost in the Shell,” “Metropolis,” HAL in “2001,” and of course “Ex Machina” … nonetheless this recycled Frankenstein plot with its Stygian presentation worked for me.
As for that twisty ending, you will want to watch it twice to figure out who actually is stored in the Archive.