Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Uncanny Resemblance

Every now and then, two rather similar movies end up appearing at almost exactly the same time. Usually, you see it from the big Hollywood studios. But in early 2015, it happened with two independent science fiction films -- Ex Machina (from Britain) and Uncanny (from America).

Here's the plot summary as it could apply to either film: a brilliant but reclusive inventor has succeeded in creating the world's first artificially intelligent android. He invites someone to his lab to interact with and test the creation. But the creation is growing in ways its creator hasn't anticipated, harboring dark and threatening motives. The fork in the road taken by Uncanny is this: both inventor and android are male, and their guest is a female reporter. As a romantic relationship begins to develop between the reporter and scientist, the android begins to exhibit jealousy.

Unfortunately for Uncanny, it does have to exist in the same world as Ex Machina. It comes off as the lesser work on every level. The three core actors in the film all give good performances, but not the exceptional ones of Ex Machina. The relationship dynamics of Uncanny are interesting, but the movie isn't really delving into deeper questions of the psyche; it's simply out to shock you.

The ending of Uncanny really left me on the fence. It's kind of the most interesting thing about the movie, but it also kind of undermines all of the moderately interesting character moments that came before. It turns the story in a way that is telegraphed earlier in the film, and yet the twist still manages to feel a bit untethered, unearned. The movie kind of left me wondering at the point of it all, even though it's actually quite explicit in its aspirations in the first act.

I suppose I wonder what I might have thought of this movie if I'd seen it first and then Ex Machina. Then again, I hardly feel like I should recommend this movie when a far superior one is out there to be enjoyed. Uncanny is a lightweight but modestly entertaining option, I guess. I'd give it a B-.

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