In 2038. a lot of incredible things are happening in the world of robotics and artificial intelligence. You can now store a person’s conscious mind for up to three years after their death in a program called Archive. And the areas of robotic brains and interactive cyber awareness are both seeing major leaps almost daily.
In fact, there are so many potentially lucrative ideas being brought to light these days that the whole A.I. industry has become almost dangerous to be a part of—with spy-like insurgent actions and kidnappings happening all the time.
That’s why one George Almore has been sent off on his own to reactivate a mothballed robotic facility situated halfway up a snow-capped mountain near Kyoto, Japan. The corporate owners like the idea of moving some of their cybernetics projects up to that shuttered facility’s secluded locale. But, of course, they want it all done quietly, so no one suspects their plans. Thus, George is sent off on the hush-hush.
That, however, suits George just fine. For while he’s working on rebooting the facility’s security systems and bringing other crucial production capabilities back online, the cybernetically focused engineer is also following through on his own hush-hush plans.
You see George recently lost his wife, Jules, in a terrible car accident that he blames himself for. Yes, he’s still able to connect with her through Archive. But that’s a painful experience: to have a loved one so close and yet so very far, far away. And Jules’ three-year Archive deadline is fast approaching.
With this facility’s capabilities at his fingertips, though, combined with George’s own ample skills, a secret little project he’s working on just might change everything. It’s never been done before and it’s really quite illegal. But George doesn’t care a whit about laws and rules at this point.
He just wants to touch Jules’ hand once more.
Even if it’s not really hers.
J2, the second of George’s robotic creations, is the first of its kind with real self-awareness. And if you squint at the story just right, you’ll notice some light father-daughter or creator-creation spiritual parallels in their relationship. However, the film doesn’t follow through on this idea.
George suggests that “deep-tiered machine learning” is the equivalent of a “holy grail.”
Late in the film, J3, the most human-like of George’s creations, climbs into bed with him while he’s sleeping. She has flashes of memory of her former human form caressing and kissing her husband. The robot reaches out and touches George’s shoulder, but he wakes and jumps out of bed when he sees her. (Both are fully dressed.)
We see memories of George tenderly kissing his human wife on a couple occasions. J3 also dances seductively while listening to music.
Robots threaten a human with automatic weapons (but don’t shoot). A rough-edged security specialist named Tagg gives George a gun for protection, while also being very threatening in his actions.
If indeed you can accept the idea that the robots evolve to a point of self-awareness, then one of them commits what could be seen as suicide.
Ten f-words and five s-words are joined by a single use each of “b–ch” and “b–tard.” God’s and Jesus’ names are both misused a handful of times (the worst being a combination of Jesus name with the f-word).
While at a club, we see a film of Japanese women popping some kind of unidentified pill into their mouths. George meets with a man who gulps back a glass of booze.
Out of jealousy, J2 makes several rebellious choices that endanger George and his plans.
Archive is yet another sci-fi peek into a future in which mankind attempts to make a machine that is far more than machine. There’s certainly an alluring appeal to that idea. And it’s been explored and revisited in everything from the 1927 film Metropolis to more recent cinematic pursuits, such as the movie Ex Machina and HBO’s Westworld.
This film handles its story of a man wrestling with loss, and robots wrestling with self-determination, fairly well. And the filmmakers craft a serene future world with its own minimalist and inviting beauty.
That’s not to say, however, that this pic is all perfectly inviting.
Archive stumbles at times in fully fleshing out some of the more compelling robotic ideas it introduces. And there are also potential spiritual questions that slip by unexplored. But the biggest issue with this robo-drama is the completely unnecessary foul language in its memory bank. That profanity alone will keep discerning families with a mutual cybernetic fascination at a long metal-arm’s length.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.