Do Androids Dream of Winning Oscars?

Androids have been a sci-fi staple since Metropolis, and have appeared in some of the best loved works of the genre. They have also featured in some terrible films. The following aren’t the worst by any means, but in my quest for android glory they did leave me holding back bitter tears of disappointment.

Although an integrated android/human society is still a little way off, films often provide tantalising glimpses of what such a future could be like. Or at least their trailers do…


The premise

This film about pyjama loving shut-ins who send android avatars to do their errands promised so much and it delivered almost nothing. The world hinted at was barely explored; it’s briefly mentioned that surrogacy ended all forms of discrimination, but how? Because you can pick a surrogate that looks like whoever you want it to?

In a future where everyone dreams of being a 25 year old organless model

I don’t buy it. If after decades of people using artificial limbs it’s still a mission to find them in any colour other than peach, I doubt surries would be that much better after only five years. And what if you’re the only kid on the block who can’t afford rocket feet and laser eyes?

What sucked

I had so many questions, from the mundane (why aren’t there more extreme bodymods? They all look like corporate mannequins) to the sociological (is it cheating if it’s not your real body? And how much have birth rates plummeted?) but none of them were even mentioned. The plot really boiled down to Bruce Willis needs a hug and robot hugs just don’t cut it. Given how little he cared when his partner was murdered it was probably too late for him anyway.

Not even blowing stuff up could make Bruce feel better

Redeeming features

Bruce Willis’s wife. She refuses to do anything without her surrogate because she is afraid of physical injury. She works as a beauty engineer at a parlour for altering surrogates according to fashion, reinforcing her choices and belief that they are essential. She is also constantly reminded that surrogates are artificial, reassuring her that she and everyone else is safe. Her complex psychology is about the only interesting thing in this film.

And even she passed out before the end


What I wanted to see

A proper post-nuclear apocalypse. The flash forwards in the previous films tended to show skull-strewn rubbly darkness patrolled by killer robots, not sunshiney open landscapes with healthy-looking people hiding at every pit stop. There should have been a backdrop of nuclear winter and heat-seeking missiles, with a foreground of desperate choices between preserving the precious remaining humans and longing to eat one of them after they ran out of dogs.

Shouldn’t this many nukes have made some difference?

What we actually got

Aside from not being The Road, Terminator Salvation suffered from an embarrassment of riches resource-wise. There were a few nods to the difficulty in acquiring food; Kyle and Star chow down on 2 day old jackal while the 7-Eleven crew bitch about sharing their basket of carrots. However, skip forward an hour and they’re doing an emergency heart transplant out the back of a helicopter in the middle of the desert – it doesn’t even matter if old robot boy has the same blood type, just whack that thing in.

Choppers and guns a go-go…how long have they been fighting this war?

The rebel base appears to accept all comers, clothing and feeding whoever shows up, and even blowing up half their defences on Connor’s say so. Even Star has clean plasters at the ready when her new buddy gets a booboo. Without the resource pressure the battle for survival loses a valuable layer of depth.

Redeeming features

The robots are scary. There are no dopey judderborg here, just terrifying death machines with orders to smear you into non-existence.

Death is fast and brutal – as it should be

And the creation of Marcus the cyborg, ignorant of his purpose as a pawn in Skynet’s plan, is a powerful reminder of the machine overlord’s cruelty.


Promises, promises

Like the protagonist of a bad teen flick Prometheus promised all things to all people; style for film buffs, a new story for new audiences, a bunch of old references for Alien fans, new mysteries for Alien fans, new aliens for mystery fans…

But Prometheus didn’t know if it was a cheerleader or mathlete, and the only way it could find time to manage this identity crisis was to bunk off every science class ever. The 3 or 4 dozen people aboard the Prometheus were the least convincing sciencologists I’ve seen since that guy in The Core declared a need for unobtainium.

Putting a fishbowl on your head does not make you a scientist – especially if you then take it off

They don’t appear to do any scans, tests or measurements until after they’ve taken their gloves off, poked anything remotely dangerous looking then licked their fingers. Even the alien worm refuses to acknowledge the existence of science and spontaneously re-grows its severed head.

But what about the deleted scenes?

There are even more forgettable people in this cut

Although the deleted scenes could explain things like biological processes and character motivation, it doesn’t actually matter because they aren’t in the film. If anything, it’s more disappointing if you do see them because it shows that the editor deliberately chose to make the final cut flat and confusing.

The good bit

David, not because Michael Fassbender is phenomenal in the part, but because David has clear motivation, character development, and reacts to things the way he is supposed to unlike anyone else. He’s also one of the best androids of recent years, with the uncanny human but not human exterior and a mind that you could never hope to keep up with.

Every home should have one

Oh, and something about the film being pretty. Shallow, I know, but it does tend to make you more popular.