Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Cinema File #95: "Android Insurrection" Review

Well, I suppose its better than the only other movie I can think of with Insurrection in the title. Not that that's saying much. 

My first introduction to the independent film company Pandora Machine was The Prometheus Trap, a mockbuster of the Ridley Scott film Prometheus that I felt did a good job of presenting a fun time travel story, even if the technical side of things made the Asylum look classy. When I found that they'd put out another movie in 2012 that wasn't a knock off of any big budget film (or at least any current or obvious ones), I was instantly curious, as I actually felt that The Prometheus Trap's biggest flaw was that it tried to hue too closely to the tone of what it was ripping off, and would have been better off had it been completely separate from any other film. Unfortunately, while not entirely without entertainment value, Android Insurrection does not excel for lack of a big budget template, but rather somehow finds a way to be even more derivative of classic sci-fi cliches.

Android Insurrection is the story of a crack team of special ops soldiers in a future where man is at war with machines, sent into an underground lab to rescue an android ally, only to be stalked by a robotic killing machine. Actually, its a little more complicated than that, as much of the detail surrounding this world and who acts on who's authority is not always clear. The movie opens with a Verhoven-esque bit of ironic narration extolling the benefits of life with robots, setting up the unseen apocalypse the movie is entrenched in, but once the action starts, we're right into things with little explicit context. Our heroes fight robots, but evidently at the behest of an AI ruler, except later this AI is said to have gone rogue, but until the most predictable downbeat ending possible, its not really obvious what it all means. The confusion is presented in such a way as to suggest a twist is coming to bring it all together, but this twist never comes, and by the end of the movie we're ultimately left to wonder what the point of any of this was.

Our introduction to the main group is a little bit stylish and holds a lot of promise for what's to come, but once we get to their mission inside the robot infested facility, the film becomes a by the numbers monster thriller with characters being picked off one by one. With the exception of their commanding officer whose fake German accent is far too hokey to be taken seriously, most of the characters are generally likable. The team leader reminds me of a young Michelle Forbes, tough, no-nonsense uber-heroine, and her team fills out the standard hardassed swat team roles well enough. The actress playing the crazy android from The Prometheus Trap returns here playing yet another crazy android, and all our bad guys are CG machines with varying degrees of cleverness to their design. All in all there really isn't a weak link among the cast, I just wish they were involved in a more interesting plot.

Throughout the film I was trying to figure out just what it was that was leaving me so blase about the whole thing, and finally I settled on the pacing. Even the lowest budgeted of B movies can benefit from a good editor who knows how to establish a consistent tone that fits the style of a film, and Android Insurrection is badly in need of one. I could have forgiven the rote storytelling or the lack of any real pay offs if the wry flippancy of the first ten minutes had carried on into the rest of the movie, or if the action would have been even remotely tense or engaging enough to live up to the many not so subtle Battlestar Galactica references littering the dialogue (seriously, they actually call humanoid robots Skin Jobs and the non-humanoid ones Toaster Ovens. Not Toasters, Toaster Ovens). Instead, we get almost every line of dialogue held onto just too long in what smacks of an amateurish inability to tighten a scene, and ultimately what should be a fast paced and action packed slugfest turns into a slow moving, practically plodding mess. Nowhere is this flaw more present than in the villain's final monologue, which is so unnecessarily long that I can't imagine anyone with an ear for quality was in the room during post-production.

The fact that the flaws outweigh the merits of Android Insurrection is especially sad because, much like The Prometheus Trap, I see a lot of potential here that is lost to basic technical mistakes. The setting is just a little more interesting than your average post apocalyptic robowar B movie, and the sometimes caustic interplay between the characters is often quite good even if the dialogue itself is not handled well. Everyone seems like they're having fun and doing something more than earning a quick paycheck, which is more than I can say for some movies with more going for them on the money side, and even with its lesser points, its in pretty much every way superior to the last movie with this set-up I saw. Then again, that was Transmorphers, so its not like it was that difficult to excel on that standard. Overall, I can't quite recommend this movie for anyone other than diehard fans of cheesy sci fi, and even then your likely to be more disappointed than anything else. There's just enough here to keep me just a teensy bit interested in what comes next from Pandora Machine, but I'm still waiting for my out and out hit.

UPDATE: Oh, and I almost forgot, in addition to ripping off Battlestar, the android chicks wield freaking light sabers. Considering the original Battlestar Galactica was often criticized for ripping off Star Wars (mostly unfairly in my view), and now this film not only apes the new Battlestar Galactica, but has the nerve to throw in light sabers, almost makes my head explode. Also, the android mentions that she uses the light saber because she is programmed with an inability to use guns, as a safety measure to protect the humans around her. No guns, but a light saber is okay. Yeah, never mind, head has exploded.

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