The first grabber moment comes during a college party at a wealthy friend’s house, the perfect place for (Chloe Grace Moretz) to be just after she’s urinated on a stick. She and boyfriend Sam (Algee Smith of “Detroit”) may be shocked. He may be rattled that his rushed proposal has been shot down. She’s upset because, as she tells a friend, she’s got this problem and she’s not even sure he’s who she wants to be with.
Maybe we noticed the waiter whose reflexes are entirely too quick for a beer pong ping pong ball hurled his way as he efficiently works the room with drinks and tidying up duties.
A noise, a flickering of the lights, and “the event” begins. That waiter starts slaughtering all the privileged kids who have paid him no mind all night. All over the city, all over the world, lights are going on, screams are piercing the night sky. The androids who make life easy have started their own Judgement Day. It’s the robot uprising.
Pregnant Georgia and a guy she’s not even sure she loves and can depend on are on the run, scrambling to survive, to make their way to this or that rumored safe harbor — Boston? Korea? — and to get help delivering that baby on board.
Writer-director Mattson Tomlin’s “Mother/Android” is a straight up mash-up, “Terminator” meets “Children of Men.”
Human babies are rare things, which is what the whole “sanctuary” in Korea is about. They’ve been through the zombie apocalypse (“Train to Busan”) and coped with monsters in the rivers (“The Host”). They’re more prepared for the robot apocalypse, I guess.
Tomlin takes us through the generic dystopian landscape of collapse and decay, an Army descended into Darwinian anarchy with survivors hiding in forests in “No Man’s Land” while trying to find their way in to the “fortress” that Boston has become.
Who can you trust to be human? Are there humans you can actually trust?
Tomlin spent most of his screenwriting time working out the logic of a machine-driven takeover. Having no souls, no morals or sense of self-preservation, the electronic “hive” mind would work more like bees than zombies, the attainment of a group goal is paramount, “individuals” don’t matter. Machines don’t have angst over self-sacrifice.
Moretz can make most any character compelling, and we get little glimpses of Georgia’s self-preservation panic that should shift to protective mothering. But with no support system to reinforce that, are we still wired biologically to make that leap? The movies generally assume that to be the case. I don’t think “Mother/Android” does, which is an interesting twist.
Smith’s Sam has a simpler arc, a guy in love and acting out every chivalrous, heroic and self-sacrificing thing he can come up with to get baby and mother to safety. Sam gives us the sense that he’s making this up as he goes, maybe mimicking behavior he’s seen in movies. It’s “expected” of him.
As a filmmaker, Tomlin (“Solomon Grundy”) does a good job with the chases, violence and suspense. But he’s too reluctant to abandon the “Terminator” voice-over narration and hard-pressed to do much that’s new or interesting with this survival quest plot.
That makes Mother/Android” something of a mixed bag. But with Moretz here to ensure it’s at least a story we invest in, bringing emotional heft to the moments that beg for it, this nothing-special dystopia manages the bare minimum that fans should expect from films of this genre.
Rating: R for violence and language
Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Algee Smith, Raul Castillo and Kate Avallone
Credits: Scripted and directed by Mattson Tomlin, scripted by A Hulu release.
Running time: 1:50