Archive – a strange science fiction film broadcast— is a story about robots.
Released in 2020, a trio of robots populate the world of their story. But instead of the most realistic CGI money can buy, the Archive’s robots are clearly people walking around as best they can in chunky robotic suits. It’s both hilarious and fantastic.
Archive comes from Gavin Rothery, a graphic designer who had a huge role to play not just in the concepts but in the creation of the captivating 2009 science fiction piece Moon. While Archive isn’t as hypnotically terrifying as Moon, its assured direction and components finely crafted make it a hidden gem worth digging out of the Prime Video vault.
Theo James is the lone central figure, playing an American robotics engineer in the far lands of a Japanese forest in 2038. He brings affable father energy to a spaceship-like work facility where he’s messing with car-sized robot daughters. and is about to create a third and final fully grown realistic woman robot. It’s not as decadent as it looks.
In Archive’s opening moments, the film feels like a piece from the Joe Wright period. Crisp lighting brings out the details of a snow-spotted forest. This scenario changes over the seasons as George continues his work. Repeated images of a waterfall look like reused external images, until a surprising twist involving Prototype 2, a robot that acts like a teenager. This robot plays a number of roles, including a villain, which you end up feeling very sorry for.
That’s Rothery’s greatest asset: Eking sympathy for hard-headed robots that squeak on two disguised human legs. In an interview, Rothery cited Star Wars robots and the simplicity of their garbage can designs as precedents for making low-budget robots characterful and charismatic. Spoilers: It works.
In addition to cute robots, Archive explores a familiar history already covered by the likes of Black Mirror. But it’s the delivery that makes the Archive impressive. It’s a story about artificial intelligence, grief and loss that moves at a steady pace but always keeps enough gears to keep your focus on the screen. Surprisingly, much of the tension simmers between the robots themselves.
The two great strands of the story come together for the final third, almost in perfect unison. You’re prepared to anticipate the mystery of George’s past unraveling, as the consequences of messing with sentient robots come at just the right time. (And then that final twist mentioned above slaps us on the head.)
Wisely, the Archive doesn’t show its hand right away. Details about George’s work and intentions aren’t clear until the film’s final moments, but we’re given enough pieces of the puzzle to form our own conclusions.
Archive isn’t a fully original narrative, but it’s one of those sci-fi packages that does it all well. It’s satisfying, contains no awkward dialogue, and looks elegant despite a meager budget. Nor does it try to rinse your mind with thought-provoking ideas that require extracurricular reading to understand. And scientific precision? There’s nothing to talk about, but this isn’t one of the That films. If nothing else, Archive is a movie about sweet, unconventional robots. Don’t say you watched everything on Prime Video before watching the movie about the sweet robots.
Where to watch Archive in your country
If you are in the UK or Australia, The Archive is currently streaming on Netflix.
In Germany, France and Spain, you will have to pay a small fee to rent or buy the movie from Amazon Video,, YouTube Movies and other streaming services.
In Italy, the Archive is being streamed on Prime Video.
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