This week was Jillian’s choice in the Sci-fi/Fantasy genre. I’m not that great with Sci-fi, truth be told, so I think the idea of trying films I would never pick up under my own steam, is a good one.
This film was quite topical for me as I’d already watched Ex Machina (2015) at the beginning of the week. Both films have very similar subject matter, but are executed in completely different ways. The fact I watched them in such close succession is both a good and bad thing. Though when it comes down to it, they don’t really compare at all.
Who would win in a fight between the two? Don’t worry, I shall tell you shortly.
*As always, Spoilers*
The Machine (2013)
Director: Caradog W. James
Stars: Toby Stephens, Caity Lotz, Denis Lawson
IMDB Synopsis: In efforts to construct perfect android killing machines in a war against China, UK scientists exceed their goal and create a sentient cyborg.
Channel 4 have recently released an all-too realistic looking trailer for new TV show, Humans, placing it innocuously (and creepily) within the other adverts, so A.I. and the concept of robots passing for members of the family is current to say the least. Add this to my viewing of Ex Machina, a film I looked forward to seeing for ages, and you could say there’s been a lot of futuristic ponderment going on this week.
G and I often pose hypothetical questions about mortality and the like to one another (usually he to I) and we ended up having a decent debate about Artificial Intelligence. Specifically, whether it really matters if your loved one is human or not, if you love him/her and he/she simulates love back*. So I appreciate a film that makes me think about things from an unusual angle.
The Machine was similar to Ex Machina in topic, but stylistically very different. The opening credits tell us that there has been a cold war with China, sending the UK into a great depression. The arms race is focused on powerful, intelligent machinery as a result. In short, cyborgs, baby. (Love saying that word out loud: Cyborg. Cyborrrrgg. Cyyyyyborgggg.)
Vincent is a clever and handsome scientist who has worked out a way to implant artificial segments of brain into wounded (and brain damaged) soldiers, giving them a quality of life they could never have imagined possible. Unfortunately, during an experimental surgery with a solider named Paul Dawson, he is disappointed when his subject fails to show empathy. Right away you wonder what Vince’s motivation is as an employee of the Ministry of Defense, working on deadly human/robotic weapon people, hoping for signs of humanity. You will find out.
Sadly, Paul Dawson goes mental and kills everyone, except Vincent, who is badly wounded but lives to fight another day, being all handsome.
Soon, it becomes apparent that Vincent does have a driving force and it’s his daughter, who suffers from Rhett’s Syndrome. This will almost certainly come back to bite him on his tight bottom later in the film, mark my words. He is also haunted by nasty dreams and it doesn’t help that a woman who says she’s Paul Dawson’s mother is hanging around outside the M.O.D building, pushing for answers about what happened to her son.
When Ava, a promising young woman appears looking for funding for a project, involving computers she has taught to be convincing ‘humans’, Vincent snaps her up as an employee right away. Concerned about Mrs Dawson, who appears on Ava’s first day, and intrigued by a rumour surrounding ‘Area 6’ (where all the wounded test subjects are kept), she starts to snoop, despite Vincent’s insistence that she minds her own effing business.
There’s a spark between them, and Ava agrees to help Vincent scan and ‘fix’ his daughter’s brain. Unfortunately, some things aren’t meant to be and Ava is murdered by a disgruntled Chinese man outside the base, not long afterwards.
Meanwhile, there’s a girl called Suri (not Tom Cruise’s kid, sadly) creeping about recording things people are saying and communicating with the other soliders/security in a non-human way. (The security guards roaming the base are all former patients with brain implants). Vincent is convinced that the implant causes patients to lose the power of speech as a side effect, rendering all the guards mute, though it is obvious that he’s tripping because they’re all thick as ruddy thieves, transmitting thoughts between them.
Vincent goes above and beyond his remit by replicating the deceased Ava in cyborg form. He uses scans he’s made of her face previously and thus, The Machine is born. She is blonde, beautiful (but of course) and unlike Ava (presumably) has completely smooth parts.
Right away it appears she is not the killing machine Vincent’s boss, Thompson is keen for her to be. She’s sweet and trusting, so Thompson begins to manipulate her, stoking the fire of her inner rage with a big pokey stick.
Handsome Vince is on a completely different page and gets pissed when The Machine accidentally kills an assistant dressed as a clown (I don’t blame you, Machine, KILL KILL KILL!), so she promises it won’t happen again. She is powerless against the manipulation of Thompson though and eventually unleashes her inner arse kicker.
The questions: Is The Machine really as human as she’ll have Vincent believe? Can Thompson remove her empathetic side and get her onside as the world’s greatest killing machine? What’s with the Flashdance (1983) tribute scene? What are those naughty robot brained soldiers plotting; and finally, can Vincent save his daughter before all his resources are taken away?
Oh, and, are they romantically connected? I couldn’t quite determine it from the ending. I think not re: sexual organs, but sex ain’t always the main event so you never know.
Well, it wasn’t half bad, I’ll say that. It’s definitely not the closest thing to Blade Runner (1982) since Blade Runner, as the poster would have us believe but on its own merits, it’s not bad at all.
I don’t think I’m a Caity Lotz fan, though I haven’t seen her in anything else (her CV says Arrow (TV Series) and Mad Men, as well as The Flash (TV Series) and another DC project, so I’m guessing she’s big in the comic world). I just found her a bit hammy. Still, as a cyborg with a heart (or does she?), I don’t know what I’m expecting.
Toby is handsome and his scenes with his daughter are sweet enough, but it’s all a bit clinical for my taste. There’s not much heart or soul to this film which I think is where it falls down.That said, I enjoyed the climax, which all went a bit Superman III (1983) as the subjects, led by The Machine, clamber to destroy the quantum computer.
Compared to Ex Machina, though, which I loved, it doesn’t hold up as well. Perhaps it’s Oscar Issac that does it (another handsome scientist), or maybe it’s the bigger budget, the more visually stunning sets, the better actors – but to me it’s like comparing a ballet to a rock video. I like them both, but artistically, the ballet takes it, easily.
Pop over to Jill’s shortly for her take.
*The answer, I believe, is a little bit yes and a little bit no. Conversation for a whole post!