Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The Machine

Lowdown: The totalitarian makers of a humanoid robot fighter discover the adverse effects of giving their creation consciousness.
There is a problem with science fiction movies, you know. Because the genre holds such promise, one almost feels obliged to watch every science fiction movie that passes under one’s radar for fear of missing out on the next best thing. The obvious side effect of such habits is occasionally – frequently? – stumbling upon bad apples. Which brings me to The Machine, a science fiction movie that passed through my radar yet about which I knew nothing prior to watching it.
Proceedings take place at a miserable, 1984 like dystopian near future, where the West is in eternal war with China. This is total war, which means the everything has to be dedicated to the cause, with the obvious implications this spells for society (as well as some not so obvious ones, like the world depicted as eternally very dark). We find ourselves at a struggling Britain with a scientist, Vincent (Toby Stephens), working on creating the ultimate soldier, an artificial intelligence with an edge – an artificial intelligence with consciousness. Because that will show the Chinese!
Toby’s research is stuck, which is where a prodgie female scientist (Caity Lotz) is brought to assist him. Not only is she American, but she also brings with her the missing link for the creation of the consciousness and thus for the pleasure of the ruthless arms manufacturing boss (Denis Lawson, aka Star Wars’ Wedge). Several things go wrong in the process, owing to the 1984 like society our affair is set at. When, eventually, the conscious robot figures things out, the unexpected happens.
As science fiction flicks go, The Machine can be easily dismissed as one of those that tries too hard with too little. Its aspirations are obvious: there’s plenty of that’s meant to remind us of Blade Runner, even down to the too Vangelis like soundtrack. Then there are the obvious Terminator themes to do with the rise of the machines. Our AI robot looks, sounds and behaves a lot like Mass Effect’s EDI, too (not that there is anything wrong with that). The whole package feels rather eccentric, too eccentric; however, it never crosses the border into the realm of the dismissible.
The Machine may not be the best science fiction ever, but it is still interesting enough and sort of original enough to justify its existence.
Overall: Not unmissable; if science fiction tickles your fancy, feel free to give The Machine a try. I will be generous and give it 3 out of 5 crabs, for EDI’s sake.

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