Someone really liked Blade Runner. Oh, and Terminator. Just call this Bladinator. It’s an exciting time for low-budget science fiction. As the accessibility of VFX technology emboldens more filmmakers to try their hand at genre projects akin to Spielberg’s dominant 1980s fare, and the surreal material attracts top talent a la Scarlett Johansson in last year’s Under the Skin, the possibilities are seemingly endless. The Machine joins the parade with a story of what it is to be human; it just forgets to adhere to its own rules.
Vincent (Black Sails’ Toby Stephens) is an artificial intelligence engineer looking to save his mentally challenged daughter. Using M.O.D. money, he works in a basement lab with maimed military veterans who are held in captivity and brought back to semi-consciousness with brain implants. When he recruits Ava (Caity Lotz) and she is killed, he bring her back as the Machine. Torn between Vincent’s humanitarian objectives and the military functions she was designed for, Ava struggles to prove she is more than her parts.
Undeniably brooding and heavily atmospheric, with a synth score that just screams Vangelis or Brad Fiedel, the movie starts out well enough, but slows into repetition as the limited number of sets replay time and again. More than the budgetary limitations, however, the movie falters by never defining the rules of its world. While predecessors like Blade Runner and Terminator dealt with profound, opaque themes, their action was grounded in an accessible, compelling story with clearly defined boundaries. The Machine doesn’t quite know what its machines are and are not capable of, nor does the emotional story pack any real punch. The concept’s all there, but the scales needed a little more specific detail to tip.
BLU-RAY BONUS FEATURES
"The Machine" is on sale June 17, 2014 and is rated R. Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller. Directed by Caradog W James. Written by Caradog W. James. Starring Caity Lotz, Toby Stephens.