…And we’re back! After a December hiatus, we’re kicking off 2019 with year 4(?!??!) of the Blog Collab! My most excellent blog wife Christa picked an appropriately futuristic film as we start a new year with a free for all month.
After being abducted by a mad scientist, Julia must figure out a way to escape her captor and his super sophisticated AI house.
We don’t know a lot about Julia beyond her occupation as small-time thief. She’s not the kind of person who will be missed–the ideal type of person a renowned but secretly unhinged scientist would target for unscrupulous experiments.
This is exactly how Julia suddenly finds herself one evening, locked in a cell with electrified bars along with a couple of other unlucky souls. They all have matching uniforms along with Hannibal Lecter-style masks. These feel a little unnecessary as their cell seems to be far from the hearing range of any living human beings.
Our aforementioned mad scientist is running experiments involving a chip implanted into the back of his subjects’ necks and pretty much torturing them to measure brain activity. At least if I remember correctly–I tried. I really, really tried to care about what happened in this film.
Using the skills she’s acquired as a thief, Julia manages to smuggle a pair of scissors after her latest round in the patient’s chair. Freeing herself and her fellow prisoners, Julia manages to use the conveniently placed gas line to blast their cell open.
As they come close to making their daring escape, the three prisoners make a fatal mistake when they attempt to open the front door’s biometric lock with the wrong set of fingerprints. The alarm triggers a giant death robot that is controlled by the house’s advanced AI system, Tau. After taking out 2 of 3 humans in the house, Tau abruptly stops when mad scientist Alex returns home.
Full name Thomas Alex Upton, Alex has named his most brilliant creation, Tau, after himself. This is perhaps the most believable plot point of the film. Tau cleans, cooks, and calms Alex during stressful times–for example, when his apartment has been nearly destroyed by prisoners attempting to escape his insanity.
With a rapidly approaching deadline, Alex cannot let Julia escape but needs her to cooperate with his experiments. They reach a truce of sorts as she agrees to be cooperative, thus earning the privilege(?) of a shower, clean clothes, and freedom from restraints.
Meanwhile, Julia is sneakily attempting to understand and befriend Tau. Unable to contend with Tau’s destructive powers, Julia begins to unravel Tau’s interests in learning and making sense of the world. Julia starts to realize that Tau, though a creation, has more humanity than its namesake, and the two share a bond.
As Julia and Tau learn from each other, she discovers the convenient existence of a self-destruct button for Alex’s apartment. Can Julia use this intel to save herself and Tau from one absolutely batshit insane scientist?
2/5 Pink Panther Heads
This is a frustrating one–it has some good ideas but doesn’t execute them particularly well. I’ve complained A LOT about films that take their goddamn time getting to the point. Tau does the complete opposite; we genuinely do get about 3 minutes of exposition before Julia’s abduction. I really wanted to care about her, but I found it hard to invest in her character at all. Throughout the film, I kept thinking of the beginning when Julia sold her stolen goods at a pawn shop with a poker game going on in the background for some reason(?!). Tell me more about what the actual fuck is going on here–this is a story I’m interested in.
The relationship grounding the film is Julia and Tau’s, but it doesn’t have enough emotional depth to carry it. Maybe I’m too narrow-minded, but I had trouble getting past the idea of Tau as AI; there’s a moment when Julia goes back to save him and it’s just stupid.
I also found Julia and Alex ridiculously one-dimensional as characters. Alex was laughably evil at times and had a tendency to overdo it. There was more than one serious scene he ruined with his excessive rage acting. It didn’t help that the effects were terrible, so it was difficult to believe the real threat of robot Tau. Let’s not even touch the ceiling collapse that makes Alex’s death (oops, spoiler) much less satisfying.