If you could have your consciousness uploaded to a machine when you die, would you do it? What if it was only for a limited period, offering enough time – in the case of an accidental death, at least – to say proper goodbyes and get your affairs in order?
These are just a couple of the questions asked by the new sci-fi movie Archive. Add to that other ethical and moral debates that might be coming our way in the future, ranging from the treatment of conscious A.I. as disposable when the next version arrives, through to corporate ownership of your conscious remains, and you can understand why so many sci-fi fans are raving about the film.
For those who haven’t seen it yet, here’s the trailer:
If some of the design work on the film reminds you of Duncan Jones’ wonderful Moon, that’s likely because the writer/director (and production designer!) of Archive is Gavin Rothery, who was co-creator and designer of the iconic sets and VFX for Moon. And the similarities don’t end there – like Moon, Archive is very much focused on a central character working alone, with only a robot (or in this case, robots) for company.
The film also has similarities with Alex Garland’s Ex Machina, with cutting-edge work on conscious artificial intelligence being done in a remote location, with set shots bathing in the beauty of the natural world, though with a slowly-growing sense of unease and paranoia setting in.
But to just say that Archive is like a cross between Moon and Ex Machina would not do the movie justice (though that probably would be a fair compliment for any sci-fi film, in my opinion). Rothery creates a real humanity to his film’s characters, both human and robotic – and by ‘real’, I mean they aren’t simply a protagonist or antagonist. Instead they are intensely human with the full range of both virtues and flaws, from being generous and loving, to being capable of pettiness, jealousy and selfishness that causes real harm to others.
And as mentioned earlier, the storyline has multiple elements at work, from the replacement of loved ones in entering new relationships, to the ethics of A.I. development – perhaps even too many elements, for those looking simply for entertainment rather than more deep ruminations. There are so many threads that would have been great to pull on further, such as the inner life of the ‘J2’ robot, how the Archive technology works, and the larger world of the future that we only get glimpses of beyond the primary set.
The climax will certainly blow your mind, and perhaps makes some of those ideas redundant – although, conversely, I did feel that it actually took some of the focus away from the deeper issues touched on in the film that might have been able to be employed for a more emotionally satisfying ending (as in addressing some of the moral/ethical questions raised). And while I know it serves certain elements of the storyline, maybe it’s time for a movie about the relationship between a creator and their robot to feature a female creator with a male robot?
But overall, a very welcome entry into the sci-fi movie pantheon. The acting from the leads is superb (Theo James and Stacy Martin), the production design and visuals are first-class, and the subject matter and storyline are sure to fascinate any lover of smart science fiction.
Archive is available as digital download and through streaming services (Amazon, Apple, Google etc.) now – check it out!