A.I. Tales

The sci-fi anthology, made up of short stories about artificial intelligence, feature world-renowned talent such as Pom Klementieff (Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Infinity War), Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight), and Neil Jackson (Westworld) among many others.

A.I. Tales is a cogent collection of sci-fi shorts that imagine a world in which humanity has given up the driver’s seat and handed control over to automation through scientific advancement. Through four separate tales we are confronted with the ongoing divide between human warmth and cold technology in entertaining and nicely produced segments. While each on their own are, for the most part, very good, the dower monotone of each story lends little surprise or a sense of discovery.

Seed

Taking a cue from Logan’s Run, Seed is set on the night of a man’s planned demise for the betterment of society. Treated as a celebration of life, a living funeral so to speak, the man has the chance to say goodbye before stepping into a private room and using a device that would end his life. The performances are solid in this segment, selling the mix of lighthearted farewell, and clinical closure. Seed is a very nice piece.

In/Finite

The story here begins with a woman accepting a position at a prestigious company. The energy is giddy, yet reserved. The man in the suite congratulates her on being selected and the woman graciously accepts an assignment. Through flashbacks it is revealed not only what she has signed up for, but how her decision has affected those closest to her. There are some very effective moments between she and her family members that really sell the final moments of this story. In/Finite is a solid piece.

Phoenix 8

A private plane is high-tailing it to a secured location as nuclear war breaks out. The two riding in relative luxury on the plane sip their whiskey and inform their loved ones that there was no way to include them in safety. Dark stuff to be sure and a lovely way to open this bleak story of survival. After the bomb drops, a ragtag group scurries from rubble pile to rubble pile in search of safety. What they discover, buried deep in the arid sand dunes left over from the global disaster offers them not just hope, but a cruel decision. Phoenix 8 is easily the most visually impressive story in the bunch, conveying nuclear war and futuristic stylings all in one. The performances are solid, but they take a back seat to the spectacle. That’s not a bad thing here.

Redux

Deep in a labyrinth of offices and bunkers, a man has just made a very crucial decision and is now running from those after him. His evil bosses shoot their way through the layers of security to catch him and will obviously stop at nothing. The weakest of the four stories, Redux offers a cyclical storyline as a device to offer mystery. This would work had we more information but, with the short running time, things are limited. We are literally cut to the chase and then the story pulls a Memento on us. Totally being vague on purpose here, but, yes, after Eric Roberts gives us some glorious screen time the story ends. While not poorly produced, this piece just feels lacking.

There is such a delightful frustration to a good short film. With all of these pieces we want more. No question about it. However, keeping the weakest of the four pieces as the closer seems an odd choice. Another problem with this anthology is that, with each story, we know the other shoe will drop. We know there will be a dark twist that demonstrates the cold calculating future that awaits us. Here’s a novel idea; What if we saw the technology that we will supposedly be handing ourselves over to in the future as playful. Benevolent even. Tell a surprising story.

Those qualms aside, A.I.Tales is a polished collection of proof-of-concepts that will get some up and coming filmmakers some work.

A.I. Tales (2018) Directors Nelson Lee (SEED) Kristen Hilkert (IN/FINITE),  Adam Reichart (PHOENIX 9) Vitaly Vervlov (REDUX). Written by Nelson Lee, Ashley Mundy, Kristen Hilkert, Peer Gopfrich, Vitaly Vervlov. Starring Nelson Lee, Ashley Mundy, Russell Fenton, Eric Roberts.

5 out of 10 stars

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