IO9 Review Android
dir. Aaron Lipstatdt
In Aaron Lipstatdt's 1982 science fiction melodrama Android, Klaus Kinski plays brilliant cyberneticist (and snappy dresser) Dr. Daniel and Don Keith Opper is Max 404, Daniel's assistant and longtime android companion. Daniel and Max are the sole occupants of a deep space laboratory where they are conducting illegal research into the development of the "perfect woman," by which Daniel of course means "a talking Real Doll."
When three escaped criminals (one intriguingly female, two uselessly male) arrive at the station, Dr. Daniel strikes on the brilliant idea of using the female human as a template to expand his artificial girlfriend's personality beyond "Fleshlight in a blonde wig" territory. While Klaus is charming the gentlewoman caller with his "let me hook you up to my android and stimulate you" pitch, the remaining crooks work on the loose outline for their "murder Klaus and his assistant and get the hell out of here" plan.
After that, things get kind of rape-tastic, and then Max gets his head rewired and goes all "hyper-alloy combat chassis" on the bad guys and then the blonde sex droid is activated and tells Klaus she just wants to be friends and then there's a goofy final twist and, oh, forget it.
Look, Android is a mess. It's a sloppy, rushed, uninspired piece of early 80s schlock that had no business being as bad as it is. While the story is derivative, borrowing heavily from Forbidden Planet, Pinocchio and Frankenstein, it's perfectly serviceable. One can also forgive the poorly lit sets, cheesy effects, ill-fitting costumes and clunky expository dialogue. Budgets are what they are and there's only so much rich back story you can fit into an 80-minute movie.
What's harder to forgive is poor editing and bad directing. The actors' dialogue delivery is emotionally inconsistent, shots are oddly blocked, scenes are cut short or allowed to linger too long and many of the cuts break continuity unnecessarily, for example showing a character moving into a frame and then cutting to a shot of them standing still just before they begin moving.
Normally in a film like this, we'd be looking to Klaus to spice up the material with some of his authentic Kinski gibberish, but alas he merely cruises through this piece nonchalantly like a homeowner on Hoarders, proudly showing off his collection of vintage Chinese food delivery containers. It's as though the entire production had come down with a case of the Kinskis and were suffering through a fever of awkward dialogue pauses, skewed framing and bipolar line readings while Klaus just felt right at home.
What redeems Android from the dustbin of history is Don Keith Opper's performance as Max 404. Opper is not credited; Max 404 is credited as playing himself. It's easy to dismiss this as nothing more than a cute conceit, but I think it reflects the filmmakers' recognition that Max is the emotional center of the movie.
Opper's performance as the android who wants to be a real boy shines through the thick fog of ineptitude that saturates the rest of the production. Whether he's learning about human mating from 8-bit vector graphic porn or mimicking masculine identity and style found in old movies, the scenes where Max is alone studying and deconstructing human behavior are the most endearing, most human moments in the film.
Our attachment to Max is almost subconscious. So much else is wrong with Android that a few moments stolen from Max's awkward synthetic adolescence can't really get all that unsuspended disbelief back up off the floor. At least, not until Max is reprogrammed and his personality removed. In this scene, he becomes HAL with a human face and despite all our complaints, we want Max back.
It's difficult ultimately to recommend Android on the basis of Opper's performance alone, but given the mercifully short running time and an appropriately adjusted set of expectations, Android just about breaks even.