By Jeffrey Anderson,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Familiar but effective sci-fi tale about death, robots.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Tackles classic themes of life and death, with humans trying to control death/bring back loved ones. While there's no absolute conclusion or lesson, it leads to interesting questions: Why do we feel the way we do about death? Why is it so hard to let loved ones go?
Positive Role Models
No real role models here. George is the driving character, and his actions are mainly self-serving -- and rule-breaking.
Violence & Scariness
Enormous gun is held but not fired. Car hurtles through the air, crashing into windshield of a second car. Bloody face. Character wields cricket bat. Nightmares/flashbacks. Terrified screaming. Surreal, nightmarish imagery in old Betty Boop cartoons. A robot "kills" itself by walking into a lake.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A couple kiss, tickle each other, and giggle while lying in bed.
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Uses of "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and "bastard," plus exclamations "Jesus Christ" and "Jesus f--king Christ."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Character smokes a cigar. Character drinks in a bar. Character takes an unidentified pill.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Archive is a familiar but intriguing sci-fi movie about a man (Theo James) who builds an artificial intelligence being after losing his wife. A huge gun is seen but not fired, and there's a scary car accident, some blood, nightmares/surreal images, terrified screaming, and a robot that "kills" itself. A couple kiss and tickle each other while lying in bed. Language includes several uses of "f--k" and "s--t," plus "Jesus Christ" (and one "Jesus f--king Christ"). A character smokes a cigar and downs a drink in a bar; another character takes an unidentified pill.
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What's the Story?
In ARCHIVE, George Almore (Theo James) is working on an AI robot in a rundown, remote lab in Japan. He's already built the rudimentary "J1" and "J2" robots, which have allowed him to perfect the new "J3" (Stacy Martin), who's nearly finished. In the meantime, George spends precious hours every day maintaining the lab's crumbling security system. He also speaks to his late wife, Jules (also Martin), through a program called Archive, which allows the living to speak to the dead for a limited number of hours to help resolve their affairs. While George's backers demand frequent updates on his work, which he refuses to provide, a man named Vincent Sinclair (Toby Jones) arrives unexpectedly to inspect the Archive machine. George realizes he can't hide his secret project any longer -- but can he finish it before he's shut down for good?
Is It Any Good?
Though it comprises familiar elements from many other sci-fi movies, this debut feature's appealing visual design and surprising emotional content are ultimately enough to make it worth a look. Written and directed by Gavin Rothery, Archive recalls other robot/artificial intelligence movies like Blade Runner, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and Ex Machina, as well as another movie about a lone man and a robot stuck in a single location: Moon, upon which Rothery worked as a designer and visual effects supervisor. Even the excellent music by Oscar-winner Steven Price (Gravity) sounds a little like the famous Blade Runner score. Consequently, Archive sometimes feels a bit second-rate.
But although the gorgeously designed J3 robot is part of a long tradition of beautiful female robots (going all the way back to Metropolis), Martin brings her own strength and personality to the part. Divergent heartthrob James, who co-produced, gives a serviceable performance, managing to work for the story by matter-of-factly dealing with the complex relationships between George and the robots. (They used to be his romantic partners, and now they're more like petulant children.) Rothery's screenplay for Archive ties all of its themes together nicely, asking questions about death and loved ones left behind, and provides a satisfying ending that's sure to please hard-core sci-fi fans.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Archive's violence. How much is shown, and how much is suggested? How does sound work to make unseen violence seem more threatening?
Why do you think it's so difficult for George to accept death? Is he doing the right thing by trying to re-create his wife? Why or why not?
Why are robots so interesting? How do the robots here compare with others you've seen in movies or TV shows?
What is George's relationship with J1 and J2 like? How are they similar to a parent and children, and how are they dissimilar?
What's the appeal of sci-fi movies? What do stories about the future tell us about our present?
- On DVD or streaming: August 11, 2020
- Cast: Theo James, Stacy Martin, Toby Jones
- Director: Gavin Rothery
- Studio: Vertical Entertainment
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Robots
- Run time: 109 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: November 7, 2022
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