After the various innovations of Google, Facebook, Apple et al, what’s the next stop for invasive tech? It just might be robot buddies, as pioneered in Prototype (no relation to the best-selling videogame). They look like Michael Myers from Halloween crossed with Schwarzenegger’s creepy rubber-mask scene in the first Terminator, they talk with the soft-spoken precision of Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, and they respond to your commands the way Amazon wishes Alexa would. The make-up used for these artificial lifeforms is stunning, especially given the obvious budget limitations of Prototype.
They were created (within the story, that is) by Roger Marshall, who is not the Silicon Valley guru or Japanese futurist you might expect to be responsible for these marvels, but a down-at-heel Brit who lives in an almost comedically modest middle-class house with his two children and his battered wife. That last part is important, for Prototype is not, at its core, a gee-whiz science fiction tale, but a study of abuse in the family home. In fact, in the way that the arrival of a speculative-fiction outsider into the home upends and unearths these dynamics, what it most closely resembles is a version of Lucky McKee’s feminist gorefest The Woman, only without (much) gore.
Comparisons will obviously be made to Demon Seed, i, Robot, Metropolis and countless others, and it suffers a little from the usual limitations of budget – uninteresting locations, flat lighting, flat acting from most, except for Andrew Rolfe in a sadly minor part – but Prototype is worth a look for its heart, brain, and other things robots don’t possess.