Mother/Android isn’t anything more than another generic sci-fi copycat built from the spare parts of better flicks.
Even 40-odd years on, Ridley Scott’s dual sci-fi touchstones — Alien and Blade Runner — continue to inspire imitators. The latest in an endless string of copycats is Mother/Android, which reconfigures those earlier film’s artificial-intelligence-run-amok conceit with a healthy dose of TV’s The Walking Dead; the result is a generally lifeless and flat survival thriller. It’s another post-apocalyptic wasteland, in case if you haven’t had your fill already, in a dour example of algorithmic thinking rendering our supposed entertainment alarmingly inert.
Writer/director Mattson Tomlin gets things started with an efficient, if unremarkable, prologue, as young couple Georgia (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Sam (Algee Smith) bicker at a friend’s house party. She’s just discovered that she’s pregnant, and while Sam immediately suggests they get married, Georgia isn’t sure if she even wants to keep dating. The party is being serviced by what appears to be an obsequious wait staff, but which are revealed to actually be very lifelike androids. But before the title has even rolled, a mysterious signal begins scrambling everyone’s cell phones and the once servile robots become murder machines. The apocalypse is well underway, and the film then jumps ahead nine months; Georgia is due any day now, and she and Sam have been living in the woods, staying away from cities and avoiding roving patrols of androids. They plan to cross a robot-controlled no-mans-land and make their way to Boston, one of the last remaining human strongholds that is protected by an EMP. Much of the film consists of the pair traversing the woods, an obvious sop to Mother/Android’s limited budget (and presumably Covid protocols). There’s a brief stopover in a military camp where the film threatens to become interesting, but they’re quickly out of there and back to mucking about in the woods.
Making one of the main characters pregnant is a savvy wrinkle, lending the plot machinations a ticking-clock immediacy — can they make it to Boston before the baby comes? — as well as an inherent emotional hook. After all, no one wants to see harm come to a newborn. But the thrills are few and far between, despite the introduction of a third character about halfway through the movie — is he friend or foe? And how much can Georgia trust this mysterious stranger? To reveal more would constitute spoilers, although so little actually happens in the film that it’s hard to synopsize any of it without giving away the game. This is genre filmmaking built on the spare parts of other, better movies, and there’s nothing exciting happening around the margins to mark this as anything other than a dour, self-serious slog. Like so many movies being dumped onto streamers these days, Mother/Android looks and functions more like prestige TV, though Grace Moretz is quite good in a tricky role, really selling her character’s physical exhaustion and burgeoning maternal instinct. She keeps all of the plodding at least watchable, and invests the film’s ending with a genuine emotional punch. All well and good to note these silver linings, but there’s unfortunately no real salvation to be found in this generic sci-fi mishmash.