“The beginning of something new” – Singularity (DVD Review)

** Stars

Elias Van Dorne heralded a new age for robotics and humanity by bringing them into everyday life and making it all better.  He then created military robots which caused more wars and chaos, with the world blaming him for it all. He then creates a new technology to end all wars and it all went wrong.  It’s now up to to a pair of youngsters to survive against a machine that sees humanity as an infection.

Singularity would have been a good video game.  Cusack delivers his role as Van Dorne as if he was in a series of convoluted cut scenes and the opening of the film certainly feels like the opening sequence from any number of video games.  It turns out there’s a reason why Cusack’s role feels this way.

Cusack and his sequences are the product of 2017 shooting, whilst online research (during some of the less engaging moments) reveals that the film was made in 2013 and was originally called Aurora, which would certainly make sense, given Aurora is named as the target for Andrew’s journey.  This duality of film-making makes for, occasionally, disjointed and disconcerting story telling.

There’s a couple of moments of giant, CGI robots that get in the way of Andrew (Julian Schaffner) and the gutsy Calia (Jeannine Wacker).  He spends his time occasionally overacting, then being dull as dishwater, whilst she is basically a low-budget Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games.  The big robots, however, aren’t what this film is about – this is a journey of discovery for Andrew and Calia, observed by Elias and his cohort, Damien (Carmen Argenziano).

Whilst they spend a lot of time sitting around and talking, we get lots of exposition, adding to this is Calia’s voiceover, which explains exactly what’s going on and why it’s all happening.  She even signposts the surprises for us, revealing who Andrew is moments before it’s shown on the screen.  Throw into this more explanation from Van Horne and Damien and there’s little to read into during the 89 minute runtime.

The scenery, shot on location in the Czech Republic is beautiful, and we certainly get to see a lot of the outdoors as Andrew and Calia spend a long time running through lush greenery before we cut to wherever Elias and his lackey, Damien, are meant to be.  The CGI, by contrast, looks low-budget and, thankfully, isn’t over exposed. 

It’s a film that manages to lose its way in its attempt to tell a story, which is odd given that Singularity isn’t a new story – there’s been plenty of “computers dominating humanity” films over the decades.  Even in the final minutes, where Singularity gets interesting, it all feels like well trodden territory that somehow fails to hold up to what the film maker is trying to achieve, but that doesn’t stop it being pretty to look at.

This entry, directed and written by Robert Kouba won’t do anything to enhance the dystopian genre, let alone science fiction. It gives us elements of The Terminator and The Hunger Games, along with other “humanity in peril” films, without ever elevating itself, in style or content, above them.  There’s even a touch of AI: Artificial Intelligence in there, and, perhaps, I, Robot.  

Singularity is a mixtape of ideas from a writer who clearly loves the genre in which he’s working, but doesn’t necessarily have the ability to make all his ideas work in a cohesive fashion.

Dir:  Robert Kouba

Scr:  Robert Kouba

Starring:  Julian Schaffner, John Cusack, Jeannine Wacker

Country: USA/Czech Republic/Switzerland

Year: 2017

Runtime: 89 mins

Singularity is available on DVD now.