It is a couple decades into the future and artificial intelligence is still a work in process. Amore has accepted a position reopening his company’s mothballed facility in frosty northern Japan, because he can also use the facilities for his cutting-edge robotic research. He has a little bit of company in his blocky first two prototypes, J1 and J2, who do not look very human. More importantly, he can also communicate with the “download” of Jules’ consciousness, which has been saved through proprietary technology developed by the Archive company.
The idea is to transfer Jules into a compatible robot host. Unfortunately, it has never been done before and archives degrade quickly, making contact increasingly intermittent, before their inevitable expiration. Legally, he should not be tinkering with another company’s IP, but Almore is well past the point of caring, but he must hide his work from his suspicious boss.
Archive is a smart sf film that takes an intriguing premise and fully develops it during the course of the narrative. It is also visually impressive, thanks to the terrific robot designs and the striking mountain backdrops. Most notably, Rothery’s treatment of the robot characters might be the smartest seen in a feature film since Jake Schreier’s Robot and Frank. There are times when J1 and J2 really deliver an emotional walloping, which is saying something, since they are even boxier than Robbie the Robot, but Rothery earns it.
Frankly, most experienced sf fans will be hoping Rothery will not spring the obvious twist ending, but indeed he does. Nevertheless, the portrayal of human-robotic-AI relationships is so strong, it cannot be undermined by the final gotcha. Thematically, Archive would pair up well with the short film Beautiful Dreamer, which should be getting second looks with the release of Kore-eda’s The Truth, which kind-of, sort-of incorporates the same short story. Technically, it is a solid package, with cinematographer Laurie Rose making it all look cool, in every sense of the word. Highly recommended for science fiction fans, Archive releases this Friday (7/10), on VOD platforms.