What I'm Watching: Uncanny
I've got a couple reviews I'd like to wrap up the year with, and I'll start off with Uncanny. It's about a guy who has created an artificial intelligence, put it into a humanoid body, and invited a person to poke and prod at it to see how human it is! Heeeey, this sounds familiar, doesn't it??
Yep, this is the poor man's Ex Machina! It even does the same style of a "day one" sort of device.
As you can imagine, with a plotline like that, it is VERY similar, but that's okay. There's always room within ideas for different takes to explore various sides of things. And this is a rich, largely unexplored idea right now, so of course it's a hot issue to play with. It's not quite what I would call a Mockbuster, but it's clearly slipping out there right now because of the similarity.
This is a much less dark, serious, and mysterious movie, but it does still manage to hit a lot of the same beats, although with less subtlety. Like asking this movie's robot if he finds the human tester attractive. And using chess as an occasional metaphor, such as sacrificing the queen. Ex Machina had its metaphors and style, and this one has its own. And Ex Machina does it better, and is less in your face with the symbology.
It also has a lot less style. No longer is there the cool hypertech lair of Nathan, but instead an apartment in the city. There's less menace in the creator, and a little bit more in the android. They skipped past trying to do super cool special effects on the android, just some acting and makeup. This is the budget version of the story, and it works well within its means.
The isolated lair being replaced with an apartment in the city does cause some plotline issues, though. Ex Machina was all on its own, isolated, and you could buy no one knowing what's going on in the middle of the middle of nowhere. But here, it becomes harder when all this stuff is going on in the city, with walking by windows, and just being casual about it. It's a minor issue, but it practically screams at you if you think of the other movie.
Uncanny does benefit from the smaller budget and scale, because they have to work within their means, which makes this a simpler, more intimate movie in a way. Which is strange to say about two movies that each have three main characters (And a few others, but for the most part...), but the familiar apartment setting, a reporter, the big city...it makes this movie a bit more familiar and relatable, and they know they need to work on that level, and use the acting to their best effect.
The acting is really good for something of this nature. I've been a fan of Lucy Griffiths since BBC's Robin Hood series, and it was a pleasure to see her hear. She is solid in playing the role of the reporter interviewing the android and its creator. She's engaging, she's clever, and she carries a lot of the film. David Clayton Rogers as the android Adam (Because of course Adam. Again, not so big on the subtlety, this movie), is also really good, and channels that calm, robotic nature, while also being creepy, stalkery, and letting human emotions out as the movie continues. Even if he never quite reaches the same level as Ava's innocence that draws you in. There are times when Mark Webber as his creator David comes off as the colder and less emotional of the two. It's an interesting dynamic, and makes you question just what is humanity, when the android may actually be acting more human than the distant creator. The biggest problem is that everyone seems very calm, and this is a talky movie. No one is really eccentric or strange, they are who they are. But for what this movie is, it works.
The movie goes along a lot of the same routes as Ex Machina, which is hard to avoid, but it does have some of its own unique ideas, and its own unique ending from that other movie. The final twist is MAYBE a step too far, and you kinda see the earlier twist coming, especially if you've seen that other movie and know what they did and what this movie could do differently. They still pull things off pretty well, and the payoffs are genuine, and you can go back and go, "Ah yes, I see this works and they indeed set things up!" if you didn't pick up on the hints beforehand. The ending does threaten to ruin things in that way of a largely enjoyable movie that falls over in the last 30 seconds. I can't quite say it goes that far, but oh it comes close. Fortunately the acting is good, and the story is enjoyable enough up to that point.
There are even moments in this movie I genuinely enjoy more than some moments in Ex Machina. The simpler, more basic nature of this movie, it's more straightforward nature of the plot make it almost more enjoyable for not having too many twists and turns and constantly ratcheting up drama.
I hate comparing this movie to Ex Machina, because that always seems unfair to the movie being discussed. However, when you come out with SUCH a similar plot, and are clearly trying to ride coat tails, I'm gonna compare. Y'all're asking for it.
In another world, in another time, this movie exists without Ex Machina coming out, and in that world, in that vacuum, this is an enjoyable little science fiction thriller. But it DOES exist in a world with Ex Machina, and the clear choice is go see THAT movie. But after you see and enjoy Ex Machina, come right back here and watch a movie that maybe isn't as good or as stylish or as flashy, but is enjoyable in its own way.
This is an absolutely solid, entertaining, low budget scifi drama, and I love it on that level. But you can't get beyond that it also exists at the same time as a movie that does a lot of the same stuff that I love even more. But this is still worth seeing.