Greg Pak, the man behind the much-loved Asian Pride Porn, presents a new full-length feature that utilizes four separate stories to highlight the human condition by using that most inhuman of objects — the robot. I was hoping to be blown away, but was left feeling much like the iPerson in the “Machine Love” segment — kind of cold.
Pak, who also stars as Archie in “Machine Love,” is an excellent writer and director, and his cast is fiercely dedicated to their craft (always a plus). So what is wrong with the film? Not much, but it still failed to move me, and it took some introspection to realize why.
The four stories expertly touch on the human side of relationships, even when using robots, toys or uploaded memories to get their points across. They also explore love in its most basic forms: the love between a child and a very independent mother (“My Robot Baby”), love of a deceased wife (“Clay”), love of a comatose son (“The Robot Fixer”), and love of someone just like yourself (“Machine Love”). Still, all this love just wasn’t enough for me. In the end, I stared at the credits and said, “Well, that was nice. What’s next?” For a film that looked good, had incredible actors and was actually interesting, I was a bit surprised by my reaction, so I watched it again to see if I missed something.
The second viewing engaged me even less than the first, and then it hit me: The film wasn’t made for me, and it would never connect the way it would with another person. I don’t enjoy examinations of humans when it comes to love, loss and personal inadequacies. I’m just not moved by those stories all that often. I’ve been around long enough to understand those things, and I am able to see past the gimmick of using robots to show how they can be just like their creators. (That’s been done before, too, but rarely this well.) However, I found that I was very interested in the scenes in “Machine Love” that dealt with people’s distrust and fear of Archie. Those were the most interesting moments in the film; I want to know more about why people hate the outsider, why they fear the unknown, and I want to know what the outsider thinks of himself and why he thinks it. If Pak ever does a “Robot Stories II,” that’s what I want to see. Robots being persecuted. Robots hating who they are. Robots destroying the people who created them. Robots who understand that the human condition is their condition … and that is nothing but a negative. I want to see the dark side of humanity, because the light side just didn’t work here.
I don’t believe Pak had all that in mind while writing this film. I feel he wanted to present four nice tales that would strike people as curious, whimsical and perhaps a bit romantic. Those are human emotions most people like to experience. Not me. I’ll take the ugly any day.