In a previous post I derided the sometimes formulaic plot of the robot who wants to be a human, a story that’s at least as old as Disney’s little puppet boy. I was saddened that the same story seemed to have been repeated ad nauseum all this time with little variation. How many times did we need the same idea repeated to us? It’s a kind of ego-stroking for the audience, and we just like to see something else trying to figure out what it means to be human, but at the same time it holds us back from exploring other ideas, at least from what I’ve seen in most movies and TV.
The Machine is somewhat different from that idea, at least to some extent. It stars Toby Stephens and Caity Lotz (of Arrow) as brilliant scientists looking to perfect Prostheses and eventually a complete artificial lifeform. When Lotz’ character dies, her brain is uploaded to a robot body, and then the fun begins. There’s the expected military connection and evil director played by the brilliantly slimy Denis Lawson, (who I’ve only just learned was in the original Star Wars). For a film with only 3 main characters to do the heavy lifting, it’s quite engrossing.
The artificial being is never really referred to as anything other than the “Machine”, and while it does ask many questions about emotions, our reactions and has a very childlike response to most of the things she encounters. She doesn’t show any real desire to be human, but does try to not be the weapon she’s designed to become in the end. I think you know how the story ends, but she brings real depth to what could be a shallow or simple character. In fact, she’s an actress who will have a bright future and hopefully overcome the unfortunate tendency of some young women to be relegated as “scenery.” Toby Stephens is an actor who’s had a long and successful career, and he does an excellent job here as well, playing a brilliant scientist who for once doesn’t want to create robots for an evil purpose. He has a real weight of intelligence about him, enough that he can believably play a top-notch scientist.
All in all it’s a fun and engaging film, and while it doesn’t strictly break any new ground as far as the human/robot relationship, it is far enough away from the Johnny 5 and Robocop model to bring a fresher perspective to the story.