Thursday, July 16, 2020

Archive (2020)

Like many sci-fi flicks, Archive starts strong and ends poorly. It is not for lack of budget, but rather a lack of reason to care. Not to piss on Gavin Rothery’s feature directorial debut. The filmmaking is competent. The story is the problem.

If you are looking for relatable characters in a relatable story, you will not find that here. If you just want background noise in your living room, it’s not the worst thing you could put on. As this is an audiovisual experience, there are also shiny things to look at. Sufficient for the easily entertained.


The protagonist meets a yellow-glasses-wearing “risk assessor” at a bar (let’s call him G-Man). Talking about the fate of a certain “high-risk” research project, G-Man asks:

Did you hear about Black Mesa?

Half-Life 3 confirmed. Or not.

Stealth marketing aside, Archive is not a terrible film, it just suffers from the trappings of Inception (2010), complete with hard-to-love characters.

The drama would hit harder were it not for the big twist coming so late in the film. Instead of character and characterization, the audience sees a lot of robots and research without meaning or context, only to be told that what they just watched is even less meaningful than it initially appeared. What a bummer.

Not to spoil anything, but the main dude is alone at a research base because his wife apparently died in a car crash. If the film had opened with the accident, the audience would have had a reason to care through the first act. Instead, robots and research. The film’s namesake is an archive of the dead wife’s brain, which is “analog” so it decays over time. How inconvenient.

The robot guy of course tries to put the brain in a bot to revive the wife. Standard stuff. Too bad the wife is as unlikable as he is. According to the protagonist:

She was perfect…for me.


When the wifebot finally starts walking around, there is a sense that the leading assholes are wasting company resources. The main guy’s rebellious foolishness does tie in with the plot when you see the twist. Unfortunately, the twist ruins the hard science facade, and thus the film. I hate to say it, but you’ll probably find a better sense of realism in a Has Fallen movie.

The characters are sad and the audience doesn’t care. Such is the peril of targeting a soap opera at emotionally stunted sci-fi fans. If the pieces were rearranged in a different order, this might be a good film. Unfortunately, it seems so preoccupied with getting the bots looking just right that the humans only get in the way.

A footnote:

Not to give too much away, but the Black Mirror episode Playtest does a much better job with the fear-of-castration psychology than this film, if only because the protagonist in Playtest wasn’t a shithead to start with. Maybe I’m missing the point of this robot movie, but it feels like there was potential.

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