Judge David Johnson dreams of electric sheep.
Mankind must survive.
Can pretty-boy androids and scruffy human outlaws with guttural voices learn to coexist peacefully together? Or will their differences and prejudices cloud their judgment to the impending doom of mankind?
Facts of the Case
It's the future, and thanks to a recent nuclear holocaust, much of the Earth has been reduced to a harsh, poisonous desert. Humanity has retreated to domed cities where, along with the help of machines, they have attempted to rebuild their existence. This existence now included the regular presence of androids that perform jobs humans won't do and thus drive them out of work.
One such human is Jute (Scott Bairstow), who loses his job to a "Cog" (as androids are called) and takes his frustration out violently. He beats another android to death and is promptly sentenced to an android-run prison. Tasked to guard Jute is Deecee (Joseph Lawrence), a wonky android showing sings of self-consciousness. While in transit, their prison vehicle is ambushed by a big-ass engineering robot, forcing Deecee and Jute to form a tenuous alliance.
As the two mismatched companions attempt to survive the desert and the android patrol that has been dispatched to bring them in, they figure out a malicious, genocidal plot by the wacko leader of the androids to cleanse the Earth of all humanity and install and machine-run paradise full of emotion-free lifestyles and oil baths.
The do-machines-have-souls question has been tackled before, but none have done it with the guy from Blossom. Yes, Joseph Lawrence's portrayal of the android Deecee is pretty amusing, as he really forces the emotion-less dialogue delivery, but I'm willing to let that slide. Android Apocalypse, for all of its basement-dwelling trappings of straight-to-DVD sci-fi poop, managed to entertain me throughout its runtime.
• How come the future has flying robots and androids but everyone drives Jeep Wranglers?
• Is it really a good idea to send human criminals to a prison run entirely by androids?
• How come android programmers insist on making their creations talk like that girl from Small Wonder?
These are questions I don't have the answer to, and neither do the filmmakers of Android Apocalypse. As I said, this movie's dopey and doesn't try to be much more than a B-sci-fi action film. What made it marginally work for me was Scott Bairstow's energetic performance as Jute and the briskness of the pacing. Granted, Bairstow has a scummy past, having been mixed up in a salacious bit of sexual deviancy in 2004, but he's good in this film. The guy looks like he's really trying, and the character of Jute gives him a lot to work with. As is mandated, he experiences a life-changing journey of personal growth when he comes to embrace his android partner as a "friend," but along the way the guy has a pretty good bad-ass attitude.
And while it's easy to rip on Lawrence, "android" admittedly ranks pretty high on the sucky "one-dimensional roles to have" scale. It's a lot of deadpan line readings and blank facial expressions. The big payoff is that ultimate realization of self and the will to sacrifice that all robot protagonists go through and maybe Deecee's epiphany isn't as emotionally impacting as, say, the Iron Giant's, it gives Lawrence something to shoot for and does okay.
As for the action, there are few set-pieces to break up all the multiculturalism lessons, moving the plot along nicely, including a lengthy Jeep chase, a fight between Bairstow and WWE wrestler Chris Jericho, and the big finale, where get a sniff of what an android apocalypse might look like. Too bad for us we just miss out, but hey, android apocalypses cost money. And that's what works against this flick the most: the budget. Yet, in turn, I respect the filmmakers that much more for milking their CGI budget and churning out some decent effects work. The exteriors are well done and though the giant killer robot modules are the weakest-rendered creations floating around, director Paul Ziller wisely mixes up the shots and lighting enough not to betray their mediocrity.
The DVD is decent, sporting an anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer that looks sharp. The stereo audio track is disappointing, however. Some random on-the-set footage comprises the making-of documentary, an unsatisfying bonus feature.
Android Apocalypse would be laughed out of the theater, but in its division (straight-to-TV/DVD sci-fi/action) the flick holds its own.
The accused needs a few shots of spray lubricant in the joints, but beyond that, the court has no big qualms with its existence.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Home Entertainment
• Making of Android Apocalypse
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