Chappie premiered in theaters this past week to, at best, mediocre reviews. But there are a ton of good robot movies, some better known than others.
One such that maybe should be better known is The Machine.
The Machine is basically a low budget (under a million British pounds!) British version of The Terminator. Set at some unstated point in the future, the movie deals with a secret military project trying to perfect artificial intelligence and cybernetics in part of an ongoing cold war with China. Critically injured soldiers are given a variety of brain implants, but over time appear to lose the ability to speak for some unknown reason. “Appear” is the key word there obviously. Head researcher Vincent (played by Toby Stephens) is working towards a dual purpose as he has a brain-damaged daughter he is hoping to also cure.
The cast is mostly British. The one noteworthy exception is American Caity Lotz, best known as Sara Lance/Black Canary on Arrow, and she’s fantastic in two roles, first as a brilliant AI specialist named Ava, and later as the title character, an android who was given Ava’s brain patterns (long story) and face. Lotz manages to play both characters well, especially the Machine, as she manages to show the Machine grow and develop over the movie’s 90 minute run time, learning, reacting, and still coming across as some kind of robot.
Of course, the movie is still set in a military project, so the Machine being gentle and kind won’t fly with her superiors.
Lotz’s background prior to becoming an actor was in dance. This comes in handy with the Machine’s fight choreography. She has a smooth, graceful way of taking down opponents, making quick work of anyone dumb enough to try and fight her off. If the Terminator is a slow-moving tank, the Machine is more Bruce Lee, only the Machine actually has a conscience.
The movie itself may not be the most original sci-fi film out there, but Lotz makes something of it, and I’d give that eight AI chips out of ten as a result.