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Review: ‘Archive’: an iTunes futuristic sci-fi movie about artificial intelligence with a jolting twist

THEO James is an English actor who gained fame as the leading man of Shailene Woodley in the “Divergent” franchise. But after that, both he and Shailene failed to sustain the momentum of their budding careers. We last saw Shailene in the TV series “Little Big Lies”.

Meanwhile, Theo got to star in “How it Ends”, an apocalyptic thriller in 2018 that was never released in theaters but went straight to streaming. Now, he appears in “Archive”, another sci-fi film also not shown theatrically but available on digital release on iTunes by Vertical Entertainment.

Set in the dystopian future of 2038, Theo plays George Almore, a scientist working on a new robot that is a revolutionary step in AI (artificial intelligence), with an android that looks and moves like a real human.

The prototype is almost finished but what his backers don’t know is that he has a hidden agenda. He wants it to be the reincarnation of his wife, Julia (Stacy Martin), who died in a tragic car crash. The directorial debut of Gavin Rothery, who also wrote the script, this is actually like another modern version of Frankenstein.

George is working in a secluded, remote and snowy facility on the edge of a cliff in Japan. He has already made two previous robots. First is J-1, which has the intelligence of a child. And J-2, which talks and more humanoid, but with the mental age of a teenager. Sadly, George maltreats both of them, specially when J-2 becomes jealous of J-3.

His latest robot model, J-3, still has no legs, but the upper half of her body is functioning, specially her mind which was given the memories of George’s late wife. The movie is somehow reminiscent of the 2014 sci-fi film about another robot played by Oscar winner Alicia Vikander, “Ex Machina”.

But “Archive” is not satisfied with this rather conventional narrative and, in the final scene, there is a very big twist that will just jolt you as you won’t see it coming. Of course, we can’t reveal it here as it’s gonna be a real spoiler, but the ending simply overturns any other ideas advanced by the writer-director about a genius scientist who’s trying to subvert the laws of nature for his own selfish motives in the better part of the film’s running time.

The twist is surprising all right, but somehow, it leaves a bad aftertaste as it discards the movie’s earlier premise about AI for a cheap narrative trickery. It appears more like the director couldn’t think of a better, more satisfying conclusion for his film.

Theo James certainly has the charismatic looks and screen presence of a good leading man, but the actress who plays his wife, Stacy Martin, sadly looks bland and unappetizing on screen. The first question you’d ask is why the heck would Theo even want to resurrect her in the first place.