Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by the week’s new releases or premieres. This week: That adorable walking weapon Chappie inspires five days of robots, androids, and sentient machines.
Android takes place in a future that’s no longer so distant, and on a space station that, as in a lot of older science fiction movies, now looks more than a little retro. But some aspects of protagonist Max’s living situation feel contemporary: He spends much of his time in isolation, playing video games, listening to pop music, and occasionally looking at illicit materials on a computer screen. He also begins to exhibit signs of disobedience to his only companion on the ship, his boss Dr. Daniel (Klaus Kinski).
Max’s full name is Max 404; he’s the android of the movie’s title, although the story is slightly coy about that information at first. It’s simultaneously coy about who plays Max, noted in the credits as if playing himself (“introducing Max 404”), maybe because actor Don Keith Opper still has his name on the movie as co-writer of the screenplay. Opper doesn’t look or act traditionally robotic; instead, with a skinny frame, big forehead, and sizable gap between his front teeth, he looks more like a nerdy misfit, and acts like one, too. When a small group of prison escapees make their way onto the space station, Max barely contains his excitement, and becomes particularly attached to Maggie (Brie Howard). Dr. Daniel, however, has plans of his own for her.
Director Aaron Lipstadt made his directorial debut on Android before moving into a busy career in television, helming episodes of Quantum Leap, Medium, various Law & Orders, and the upcoming adaptation of the comic book Powers. Android has some of the simplicity of a television anthology episode; it runs only 80 minutes, with a small cast, and dispenses some of its plot with efficiency that borders on the ridiculous. (As soon as Dr. Daniel learns that a woman will not be joining him for his experiments, a female voice comes on the station’s radio, asking to dock.) What it lacks in expanse, though, the film makes up in oddball juxtapositions—like Max watching Metropolis while listening to James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World”—and its tinkering with genre conventions. So many robot movies offer a characterization binary: the friendly robot learning to be human, or the evil robot who turns on humanity (with humans accordingly positioned as oppressors or freedom fighters). Android operates with refreshing moral ambiguity; it’s more of a pulpy thought experiment than an easy thriller.
Availability: Android is available on DVD, which can be obtained from Netflix or your local video store/library.