Review: The Machine


The Machine has a tag line, They Rise, We Fall, that hints at a scenario we have seen before in films such as Terminator. To expect this though would be a mistake. This is more a film about evolution than it is about machine revolution. True, there is enough use of automatic weapons and explosions as the plot reaches its climax to satisfy anyone expecting such things from a science fiction film, but director and writer Caradog W. James  subtle touches takes us away from many of the modern clichés of the Robot film genre. In a sense it hints back to Mary Shelly’s Novel Frankenstein, but, unlike Frankenstein of the novel, the creator of this human artifice, Vincent (Toby Stephens), shows humanity towards his creation; something that is returned in spades.

Robots and Androids are often depicted in science fiction as cold and logical creations. Humans, with their emotions and conscience, are therefore depicted in contrast as superior to machines. The refreshing thing about this film is that it is the human science and government that is cold, logical and lacking emotion and conscious. In particular the character of Thomson (Denis Lawson), is the personification of a callous, coldly pragmatic and amoral establishment. The scientists and technicians in the film also appear to be able to sidestep any moral issues in effectively torturing a sentient being, albeit a manufactured one, simply by referring to her as ‘Machine.’ The viewer is left with little doubt who is the more evolved being.

Casting ‘The Machine’ as a young attractive female, played Caity Lotz has obvious advantages for attracting an audience of predominantly young male science fiction fans, but a female machine highlights her maternal and caring qualities. She carries the electronic mind map of a child within her as a human mother would carry her unborn child. She also understands the cybernetically augmented brain damaged casualties of a growing cold/hot war with China. There is a new order coming and we are left feeling it will be less like the Borg and far more like The Culture of Iain M. Banks than mere biological evolution would allow humans to become.

There are also biblical references within the text. Eva (also played by Caity Lotz), has a name that is the Latinate counterpart of English Eve. She is the A.I. programmer who developed the Machine’s mind map based on her own. Vincent also uses her physical features as a template for the Machine. In effect she is the mother of the android. The Machine is a new being and, unlike Adam and Eve and their descendants, untainted by original sin. She therefore feels no self consciousness, no need to cover herself in shame of her own body. She is a new creation that is worthy of recreating the Garden of Eden on Earth.

This film is an intelligent and entertaining exploration of the subject of artificial intelligence.

Written by Peter Grehan

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