Tuesday, January 29, 2019

2036 Origin Unknown (2018)

WARNING:  I’m going to discuss details that will probably spoil the ending.  If you’re not into that, you might want to hold off on reading this review.

It’s been said before that there are no new stories.  Every book or movie you might come by is simply a different version of some other story.  The settings and characters may change.  Usually, a writer is good enough to come up with enough new details to entertain the reader.  At the very least, one wants to avoid making it look like an obvious rehash of some earlier story.

Take 2036 Origin Unknown.  I wouldn’t be the first person to draw comparisons to 2001: A Space Odyssey.  You have a few human characters dealing with an AI that comes across as just a little suspicious.  There’s a mission to another planet.  The AI is given some control over the mission, which worries at least one of the humans at some point.  Oh, and the ending is really confusing.

The main human is this case is Mackenzie ‘Mack’ Wilson.  Her father was lost on a mission to Mars.  Now, she works at a secret location as part of a secret mission to explore Mars and maybe figure out what happened.  When I say part of, though, she’s working primarily with ARTI, an artificial intelligence that’s been given a great deal of control.  In fact, ARTI has replaced most of the humans.  (Aside from Mack, only a few guards seem to be present at the secret ground-control location.)

Instead of a monolith, Mack and ARTI find a strange cube on Mars.  It has writing on it, which ARTI could identify, except that access to the database of strange symbols has been restricted.  The monolith seems to be made of nanites and would seem to be of alien origin, except that it might be of human origin.  It can also teleport itself to Earth in an instant.

Much of the movie seems to want to make you think about things.  For instance, what role would AI have in our lives?  Would it be our servants or our equal?  How long before it would replace us?  This takes the form of some banter between Mack and ARTI.  (Mack points out that ARTI might have one the Nobel Prize, except that he’s not human.)

The movie started out with a good deal of promise only to look like something that was slapped together.  First off, the AI is called ARTI.  This isn’t something one of the characters calls the program offhandedly.  This is the actual name of the AI.  We see ARTI on a wall.  If you want lazy writing, there’s lazy writing.

Also, ARTI came up with some sort of hyperlink signal that allows for instant communication, regardless of distance.  ARTI is at a loss to explain how he did it, as his memory has been wiped.  Oh, and his origin is also hazy.  It would seem that ARTI programmed himself.  At least, that’s what I gather.  Are we to gather that he just came into existence?  Is he his own Alpha and the Omega or something like that?  (If you understand it, please leave a comment.)

Like 2001: A Space Odyssey, the movie left me with a few questions.  Where they differ is in the fact that I really wasn’t as motivated to think about them.  It would seem that the entire narrative takes place in a simulation.  (I knew that instant communication was too good to be true.)  The movie doesn’t say who is running the simulation, though.  Is it aliens?  Is it ARTI?  Did ARTI or aliens subdue humans?

This wasn’t even one of those movies where I things occurred to me hours or days after I watched it.  It sort of faded from memory.  I’d say that I could go back and pick up new things on a second viewing, but I think I got most of it the first time.  I think that the movie could have been so much better.

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