Artificial intelligence has a long history in cinema. The first film that incorporated AI in its plot is Metropolis, a 1927 German science-fiction film. Since then, there are many films that revolve around artificial intelligence or have it as an essential part of their story. One of the most popular artificial intelligence from cinema is HAL 9000, an artificial intelligence character that serves as the main antagonist of the film. Archive, a science fiction film that has just been released in July 2020, is using a more grounded approach in displaying its artificial intelligence characters.
Archive takes place in 2038. George Almore, a robotics engineer, is secretly working on a human-equivalent AI. He’s also in a one-way contact with his deceased wife, Stacy Marti, through Archive, a machine that temporarily stores her consciousness. A conflict arises when the producer of Archive finds out that Almore has been tampering with his machine. Almore has to race with time to finish his robot and reach his ultimate goal that must be hidden at all costs – resuscitate his wife into physical form.
Archive has competent production work. The lab looks solid and convincing, and the prototype robots look decent and have their personality. The visuals, although lacks in variety, are feasible enough in portraying the film’s futuristic theme and isolation of the main character, such as the futuristic Japanese city and lush snowy forests. The visuals are not what Archive tries to sell anyway, but they are pretty enough to look at.
Unfortunately, Archive does not know what it wants to be. The film raises several conflicts, such as identity crisis, corporate politics, and relationship drama, but these conflicts are under baked and do not reach any satisfying resolution. The tonal shifts are jarring, jumping from one point to another without any sense of narrative cohesiveness. George Almore, played by Theo James, is poorly written and falls into film clichés. He does not have any unique characteristics or emotional complexity that makes him stand out from any similar film. Several decisions he takes throughout the film also will raise the viewers’ brows. J2, an AI robot character, has more inciting traits and emotional depth than Almore but is still reduced to only revolves around him, not the other way around.
However, the film is boasted for its shocking plot twist at the end of the film. While the ending is possible due to its setup, it does not give any cathartic endpoint that would make the movie worthwhile. With this ending, there are some parts in the film that either make it inconsistent or worsen the George Almore character even more. Therefore, it does feel like the plot twist is there to shock the viewers.
Archive is a science-fiction film with decent production but poor writing and under baked plots. The main character is severely one-note and underwritten, with no charm or even intriguing trait to keep the film afloat. The ending is quite shocking, but it’s just not enough to endure the 100 minutes setup.