March 29, 2006
Movie Review By: SFAM
Directed by: Aaron Lipstadt
Written by: Don Keith Opper, James & Will Reigle
Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Low
Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium
Key Cast Members:
Overview: There are some really good Sci-Fi movies that I don’t consider strictly cyberpunk, but still are strong enough in some ways that I feel compelled to include here. Android is one of those films. Android, in a very low-budget manner, gives us a wonderful exploration of androids and their early attempts to assimilate with humankind. On top of this, the writing is interesting and the acting is very good, especially Klaus Kinski and Don Keith Opper. The budget is low enough that the FX and set designs actually do detract some from the enjoyment of the film, but not enough to stop you from seeing this.
The Story: Android takes place on a large but deserted research-oriented space station located in deep space. Dr. Daniel (played wonderfully by Klaus Kinski), a genius by unstable scientist has almost completed his greatest creation – a perfect female android, named Cassandra. Apparently, Androids have been outlawed on Earth, due to some catastrophic event that occurred previously (hence, the reason for the deep space station), so Dr. Daniel must continue his work under cover with only minimal assistance. His current assistant, Max 404 (Don Keith Opper – also the writer) is also an android, but he is but a prototype – an imperfect experiment may no longer be necessary to continue. Unfortunately, Dr. Daniel needs a living female to “give Cassandra life” by transferring some of her essence to Cassandra.
Providence strikes when an outlaw group of criminals on a run-away space ship ends up in their quadrant with a ship in need of repair. As they dock, the criminals, two men and a woman, happily greet Dr. Daniel and Max, and begin looking for what’s valuable to steal, while Dr. Daniels sees this as his golden opportunity to get a woman to finalize his android. Max 404 is immediately attracted to Maggie (Brie Howard), the female convict. At the prompting of the other convicts, Maggie humors Max 404 in order to find out more information. Things come to a head when Max 404 overhears Dr. Daniel say that Max will be deactivated when Cassandra comes online. Max decides his only chance for life is to leave with the convicts, and decides to take things into his own hands.
Metropolis’ Maria Recreated: Android employs some fun linkages between previous movies. Max 404 tends to enjoy old B&W, and tends to watch ones that foreshadow coming plot scenes. One of the cool scenes in this movie was when Max 404 is watching the movie Metropolis on the computer monitor. The scene where the evil scientist, C.A. Rotwang is creating an evil android version of Maria from the human Maria. In Android, Dr. Daniel needs to capture Maggie to use her essence to “give life” to the perfect android, Cassandra. The parallels are obvious, and are appreciated to anyone familiar with Metropolis. In another scene, Max 404 is watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” where Stewart finally gets up the urge to go see Mary at her house – this occurs right before Max 404 has his love scene with Maggie.
Android Coming of Age Story: One of the really interesting things about Android is Max 404, only 5 years old, engaging in a coming of age type story. Max has the ability to think and feel, but has never experienced anything outside the boundaries of the space station. He spends his time dreaming of Earth, playing video games, and imaging himself engaging in interesting life experiences. He’s not human, but unfortunately for Max, this is the only model he has in determining how to act and react to new situations. Maggie provides him his first opportunity to “engage” in a way that he’s always wished. As soon has things come to a head, Max’s choices are markedly different than a human might be. Max doesn’t feel guilt, nor does he worry about human taboos such as murder, etc. But the highlight of the movie is Don Keith Opper’s acting when he thinks Dr. Daniel (Kinski) is going to deactivate him – this alone is almost worth watching the movie for.
The FX: The FX in Android is extremely low-budget. In listening to the commentary, we find out that the story was written as a way to gain additional monetary benefit out of an existing space station set. Android never veers into Dr. Who FX territory, but there are a number of cheesy looking elements that do detract somewhat from the mood. The ships that come to dock have a decidedly Saturday morning kids show look, and the guest suites look very 70s with the off-color strips going around the wall. Still, for the most part things generally work.
The Bottom Line: Android is one of the really well made low-budget Sci-Fi movies of the 80s. The FX aren’t great, (except for one cool scene that’s a spoiler – DON’T CLICK on this unless you’ve seen the movie - spoiler “decent FX” shot), but the story more than makes up for it. Android gives us a pretty interesting view of a young, imperfect android, engaging in the “coming of age” story, and dealing with challenges far different than perhaps a human might. The ending is also interesting, when Cassandra finally awakes – she too acts differently than expected. In short, Android is a very well written, well acted, and interesting low-budget Android flick.