Archive is a clever little mind job with a fantastic right hook ending. Definitely worth our time to discuss the implications after the fact.
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I’m not 100% sure who recommended this one to me – but you know who you are! (I’m fairly certain they’ll identify themselves in the comments.) But regardless, thanks for the tip to this fantastic little film. Totally zigged and zagged it’s way all the way home. Alright, let’s away shall we?: “Archive Movie Recommendation and Ending Explanation.”
If you have never heard of the film Archive, you can be forgiven as it just came out and it is a significantly low budget film even if it has enormous aspirations. Basically it tells the intriguing story of a man who is trying desperately to resurrect his wife… and yeah, that’s about all I can say without spoiling this super clever little film. Go watch it right here. The film was first going to debut over at SXSW in March of this year, but was cancelled by a little thing called the Corona Virus. Instead, it was released direct to digital on July 10th. It also received a few screenings in theaters, but generally didn’t see much celluloid play time. Which is a bummer, because some of these CGI locations were jaw dropping. Made me pick up and dust off some of my old CAD skills and play again.
OK – so from here on out, we dive into spoilers. If you don’t want this fantastic little mind bender ruined for you (and you really really don’t) then stop reading right here.
Quick Archive Movie Walkthrough
In the future, 2038 I believe, we will be able to take a snapshot of our loved one’s mind, and talk with them after they die. But only to the tune of 200 hours, because the technology is analog, and the data will quickly begin to deteriorate. But the good news is, that these recording snapshots of our loved ones will be considered as important as their bodies themselves. They will be audited, protected, and cared for with a meticulousness that is impressive. Which, is both good and bad for our hero, George Almore. Why? Well, because George happens to be a vaunted robotic and AI expert, and he seems to be attempting to build a robot to place his wife’s extracted memories into. But there are men who are working hard under the Post Death Interment Act to keep these memories of his wife safe.
I’ve jumped to far ahead again. The film starts with George and Jules Amore finding out that George had won a 3-year contract to move to a remote outpost in Japan to work on bringing the post online, and to work on the corporations robotics technology. But before that happens, George and Jules have a horrible accident. Thankfully though, George had convinced Jules to snapshot her mind with this new tech, allowing him to talk to her occasionally while there in that remote Japanese outpost. But not too often, or her time would run out, and the fridge sized unit would be carted out, and buried along with her physical remains. That can’t happen though, because George has bigger plans.
Early on in the film we see that George has created two robots already, J1 and J2. Both big leaps from the previous version. And then we meet J3, who is George’s latest creation and the one he is determined to transform into a home for his wife. But these robots, J1, J2, and J3 are not springs and metal phalanges. They are functioning, emotional constructs, and we just aren’t sure if these emotional boxes are going to sabotage everything because, I mean, they are devolving before our very eyes. They’re deprecated even before they are fully built. And worse, not only are the robots themselves a risk, but as the film unwinds, we get the sense that someone is trying to steal George’s technology. There are security response teams, and corporate meetings about risk and damage control. But ultimately, this movie is one hundred and fifty percent about Jules, and George’s grief…and his desire to vault her out of the grave.
Eventually J2, threatened by J3, commits suicide by leaving the facility and swan-diving into the nearest river. Literally never seen a film grapple with the future of technology where threatened AI’s will desire death over continuing on.
Now, a key distinction, J3 isn’t Jules. Yes, it’s her voice. And it’s acted by the same actor. But J3 is actually a home to store Jules into once the robot’s brain and her memories have rebuilt satisfactorily, and everything is ready. Now, if J2 committed suicide when she realized that J3 was every measure better than her, what is J3 going to do when she puts two and two together and she realizes that she’ll be obliterated when the memory cut over is complete? Well, J3, deciding she doesn’t want to go without a fight, climbs into bed with George in an attempt to sway him. But it thoroughly freaks George out. OK, that didn’t work, what else?
Well, when someone fished J2 out of the lake, and is threatening legal action against ARM, um, George is in big trouble. Worse, they are coming now. And Jules hasn’t been inserted into the J3 frame! But, thankfully, everything is basically ready. George runs to cut the access bridge, and while he does so, Jules’ memory box calls…she would like to talk to George. But J3 picks up the phone and tells her that George isn’t there anymore, and she can’t speak to him. When George gets back, he asks J3 to get in the chair so he can upload his wife’s memory into the J3 unit. But J3 picks up a gun and refuses. Though ultimately she ascents, and sits in the chair. But when the upload begins, it doesn’t work, or it doesn’t take. But J3 acts like she is Jules. She tries to pass herself off as his wife in hopes that she can live with him as her. Clever robot.
Archive Movie Recommendation and Ending Explanation
Then something bizarre happens. The phone on the Jules consciousness unit rings, and George realizes what J3 is doing. Worse, Jules tells George that this will be their last phone call because his time is up now, and the analog storage needs to be put to rest. But did he want to talk to his child first though? Because, oh, by the way, she was pregnant during the time of the accident. Wait, WHAT? Yeah, that’s right, it would appear, that Jules is the one that survived the accident. And it was George who died in the accident. And he’s kept himself busy perpetuating the myth that he was the one still alive…that he was the one attempting to fork his wife out of this hard drive and into a robot. But it was actually his wife, and child, who survived the accident. And now it is Jules coming to say goodbye to George before they turn his unit off, and put him to rest.
Thoughts on the Movie Archive
From a design standpoint – this film was utterly gorgeous. Especially since it was obviously such a small budget film. And J3’s design was FANTASTIC. Loved her completely. But when they switched from the mainly CGI robot, to the painted human…they sort of lost me. But wow, the special effects for this film were stellar. Just can’t say enough good things about the work that Juci Szurdi did with their gorgeous art direction.
But ultimately, this is a brilliant Black Mirror episode that was brought to us by some of the same guys that created the movie Moon. It’s a fantastic cat and mouse game, held in a closed box, where we are lost in the various miss-directions that the movie throws at us. Is this a sabotage film dealing with suicidal robots? Is it a corporate greed and espionage film? Or is it a grief in a modern world film? Well, it’s all of the above, but ultimately its one big head fake. A head fake that is awesome if you don’t see it coming. I did figure it out about half way through, I even wrote it down in my notes as I was watching, “I bet you $100 that George is the dead one.” But I still enjoyed watching the film unfold because I wasn’t entirely convinced. Hopefully it surprised you somewhat too. Because all the other stuff is important to talk about – but it pales in comparison to the right hook that comes when Jules and George’s daughter say their respects and walk out of the digital mausoleum…
Edited by: CY
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