Monday, December 17, 2007


I was browsing in the video store for something to watch on Saturday, and once I'd noticed the 2006 production 'Android Apocalypse', I knew I had to rent it. I suspect that there's an entire stream of video marketing focused on the so-called 'Blandwagon and Similar Kitsch-Loving Losers' demographic. Once I had it in my hot little hands, I invited fellow B&SK-LLs JC and DS over to watch it.

It's the future, some time after catastrophic environmental collapse has trapped humanity in a handful of domed cities. Civilisation is maintained by sending mining drones and human-like androids out into the wasteland to dig wells, mine minerals, and seek anyone who might provide the population with acting lessons.

Warning: No Half-Way Decent Actors Beyond This Point

The movie opens with a little boy lost in the wasteland, being hunted by a handful of mining drones with a computer virus that has reset their operational parameters to "evil". Just in the nick of time he is rescued by an android who is to become one of the movies heroes, despite the fact that he is so uncharismatic that he actually leaches colour out of any set he enters. He delivers the boy back to his mother (in what looks like an early 80s shopping mall... of the Future!) but is met with hostility and a general lack of gratitude.

Meanwhile working class hero Jute (yes, as in burlap) loses his sand shovelling job to an android. He goes to his local dive bar to drown his sorrows, but instead gets in a fist fight with a stranger who turns out to be another android. Androids aren't supposed to be capable of hitting people, but this one seems to be making a pretty good go of it.

The cops arrive and break up the fight, but as is traditional it is soon resumed out in the carpark (next to what looks like a 70s muscle car... of the Future!). Jute manages to kill the android, which is some sort of crime in this city, and he slinks off home before anyone sees him. Or so he thinks.

At home we discover two things. One, Jute is married. Two, apparently IKEA survived the apocalypse. Jute and Mrs Jute snuggle in bed for a while, discussing this whole job loss/android killing scenario, when the cops burst in and arrest Jute. However he doesn't go quietly, and during the scuffle Mrs Jute manages to accidentally push an android cop through a wooden partition and down an elevator shaft, so she too is arrested.

One suspects that if this society could build either more durable androids or stronger wooden partitions, the crime rate would drop significantly.

Jute is sentenced to a prison term in place called Terminus, "terminus" apparently being a latin word for "derelict cement factory". For the trip across the wasteland to Terminus, he is shackled to the same android who saved the little boy in the opening scenes. The prison transport vehicle (some sort of 1960s Bedford truck... of the Future!) is attacked by rogue mining drones, and everyone is killed except for Jute and his android guard. They escape because the android has discovered the secret weakness of the giant armour-plated flying mining drones - they're more flammable than a tissue soaked in kerosene. Honestly, flicking a lit match at one of these things would cause it to explode. The android uses a variety of unlikely methods to set fire to stuff, and the drones are duly destroyed.

Having exhausted the entire budget on exploding giant armour-plated flying mining drone CGI, the movie now gets down to what will constitute 90% of its running time: scene after scene of Jute and the android stumbling around an abandoned quarry in Saskatchewan, overcoming their differences, relinquishing their prejudices, and becoming the unlikeliest of friends.

Unfortunately, unlike IKEA, the art of coherent dialogue doesn't seem to have survived the apocalypse. As the two of them wander about blurting non sequiturs at each other, the director apparently decided that only way to imply that they're growing closer is to have a lot of silent, meaningful glances between them. Given that these two seem to have absolutely nothing in common but athletic virility and gazing into each other's eyes, one gets the uncomfortable feeling that we're veering into 'Brokeback Apocalypse' territory.

A man could get lost in those eyes, and never want to find his way out...

It doesn't help that actor Joseph Lawrence took playing an android to mean that he had to adopt a slightly femme vocal tone and look passive a lot.

All this could be salvaged, in so many ways, if the producers had thought to include some examples of that most vital of bad sci-fi character sets - hot trashy women. The producers of 'Space Mutiny' and 'Laser Mission' knew the value of hot trashy women. Hell, even 'Bronx Executioner' had a hot trashy vixen to spice up the plot's innumerable lapses in sense. However, 'Android Apocalypse' only has Mrs Jute, who while attractive enough is neither hot nor trashy, and a female tracker android who is about as sexy as Margaret Cho.

But we're stuck with Jute and the android, now being chased by the authorities in their matching 4x4s (2006 model Jeep Wranglers... of the Future!). Eventually they're caught and dragged off to Terminus, where Jute is put to work in the Inflammable Dirt mines and the android is interogated by the villain.

Have I mentioned there was a villain? No? Well, there was. He was the chief scientist who designed both the mining drones and the androids, and having cybernetically replaced most of his own body he is ready to lead the robots in the Android Apocalypse promised in the title. In so doing, he falls into the trap of machines-take-over-the-world theorists everywhere in failing to answer the obvious question: why would the androids want to take over? What do humans have that they want? The needs of humans (food, water, shelter) and the needs of androids (electricity, presumably) are almost entirely unrelated. It'd be far more logical for the androids to simply ignore the humans and bog off into the wasteland to do whatever it is they want to do with their liberty.

But logic has little to do with bad sci-fi, so we've just got to accept that the androids want to take over the world. Fortunately Jute and his android buddy manage to fight their way out of their respective prisons, blow up pretty much everything, rescue Mrs Jute, and emerge into the brave new world of the final scene:

Mrs Jute: (indicating the android) So who's this?

JC: (as Jute) Oh, this is just a brawny, good-looking man in a tight white T-shirt I've been shackled to for the past few days.

Jute: He's my... friend.


Roll credits, and hope that no one is entertaining any thoughts of a sequel.


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