Pros: 70s science fiction style. last century; very beautiful picture and design; lively and cute robots; excellent acting by Stacy Martin Cons: The ending of the film is predictable; low pace of the story; mediocre game by Theo James Archive / “Creator”
Directed by Gavin Rothery
Starring: Theo James (George Elmore), Stacy Martin (Jules Elmore, J3, voice of J2), Timea King Madai (J2), Chris Schubert (J1), Rhona Mitra (Simon), Toby Jones (Vincent Sinclair), Leah Williams ( base voice), etc.
Studios Independent, Head Gear Films
Year of release 2020
Archive is Gavin Rothery’s first major directorial effort. He also acted as the screenwriter and producer of the film. In general, Rothery got into cinema from the video game industry, and his first directorial work was the creation of the introductory video for Titanfall from Respawn Entertainment. In addition, Rothery has worked as an artist on games such as Fable, Grand Theft Auto III, Battalion Wars and Bionicle Heroes. And, to top it all off, Gavin Rothery did the concept art and ship designs for Chris Roberts’ infamous Star Citizen.
The story told in Archive is actually very simple and echoes the same Ex Machina by Alex Garland and Morgan by Luke Scott. The main character of the film, a talented roboticist George Elmore (Theo James), lives on an old, inaccessible base and is engaged in a certain project commissioned by a large corporation. But George is working on completely different tasks, which he hides from his superiors. The robotics company consists of four living beings: the dumb and armless clumsy robot J1; a more advanced robot J2, which can dream and has the level of intellectual development of a teenage girl; and an even cooler robot, J3, who looks suspiciously like George’s dead wife. But you will find out what kind of fourth living creature is at the base a little later.
Despite the glaring discrepancy between the English and Russian/Ukrainian titles of the film, in this case I would not rush to accuse the localizers of a careless attitude to their work. Quite the contrary, by changing the title so radically, they did the audience a favor by hiding the main secret of the film, which was too clearly emphasized by its authors.
It’s interesting that the unexpected plot twist in the finale, which many reviewers for some reason consider Archive’s main advantage, is actually easy to calculate. The authors have scattered so many clues throughout the database that even a blind person should notice them. So, alas, from a plot point of view, Archive is indeed very predictable and, surprise, surprise, this is not at all the story of Pygmalion and Galatea, although there are undoubtedly fragments of this Greek myth here, as they are in almost all books and films about robots.
Artist Gavin Rothery is primarily a visionary and the value of Archive lies in his imitation of the style of science fiction films and illustrations of the 70s. last century. Of course, someone will say that from the point of view of design and sterility, the Archive pictures are just a re-shot of Moon / “Luna 2112”, but this is not entirely true.
Yes, Rothery is friends with Duncan Jones and they worked together on the visuals of Moon. But Moon, in turn, draws on classic films of the last century, and so does Archive. In the design of the base itself, the inscriptions and indicators, the appearance of the robots and interfaces, there is a clear influence of the classic 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick and Alien by Ridley Scott. If we talk specifically about Moon, then Archive is more related to it by the feeling of loneliness and alienation of the main character from humanity, and not by style. Although there are undoubtedly overlaps in base design here.
In general, Archive is worth watching if only for the base design and robots. Rothery built a full-size model of this base in Budapest, where most of the filming took place. As for the robots, these are not CGI, but real models with real people inside. The large J1 features designer Chris Schubert, and the smaller J2 features former Cirque du Soleil performer Timea Kinga Maday. J3 played by Stacy Martin.
In general, Stacy Martin has three roles in the film and she coped with all of them superbly. The star of Lars von Trier’s controversial two-volume Nymphomaniac (Volume I, Volume II) played the protagonist’s wife, Jules Elmore, in Archive; Galatea-J3 and gave the voice to the jealous Galatea-J2. In general, J2 is perhaps one of the most lively characters in the film, with whom you empathize more than others.
As for the lead actor, Theo James, whom you may have seen in the infamous Divergent / Insurgent / Allegiant series and the equally meaningless Underworld: Blood Wars, he clearly does not live up to the role given to him. Sam Rockwell in Moon is the same to him. However, as I understand it, I didn’t really have to choose; Theo James was one of the producers of the film.
And although I personally enjoyed watching Archive, not noticing the almost two hours of running time, overall it is a leisurely and predictable film. It’s worth watching just for the visuals and three performances by actress Stacy Martin. And yes, best in English. Although Archive / “Creator” had a limited release, in Ukraine it was in the first week after cinemas opened, so the film was unlikely to do well at the box office. However, the film is still shown in some Kyiv clubs.
A fantastic story that is worth watching just for the pictures and style.