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AKA Worm

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Science and Hell have come together… at least according to one of the poster taglines. The same artwork also suggests this will be mixing up the twisting cities from Doctor Strange and the destroyed buildings from any number of other blockbusters, which is also false advertising.  It’s not even a cybernetics story as suggested by the alternative marketing material that mimicks Ex Machina for some reason. There isn’t even any anti-matter in the film, so we’re off to a good start. The chosen header image here, showing confused looking protagonist Ana, (Yaiza Figueroa) may be less eye catching but it’s far more suitable. This is a tale of experiments gone awry but it’s more apt to describe it as part teleportation story, part hacking technobabble, and part existential crisis.

The story starts with scientific jargon as Ana works on her PhD studies in what seems to be an abandoned attic room rather than a real space at Oxford University. She reels off a lot of dialogue about algorithms and atoms while working on sending molecules from one place to another. How this is all done with what seems to be a Petri dish with a few electrodes stuck in it is rather unclear. There are no huge particle accelerators and no equipment to keep all of this away from delicate human tissue. It’s not a great start and it just kind of expects you to catch up with all of this after a very brief flash forward showing some of the aftermath. Too much exposition is one thing, but rushing things along is another.

The experiment apparently requires a lot of computing memory to run, and so it’s down to Ana’s lab partner Nate ( Tom Barber-Duffy) to enlist the help of programmer Liv (Philippa Carson). Rather than finding better equipment her idea is to develop a worm that will illegally access processing power elsewhere in the country. You can tell she’s a hacker because of the facial piercings. Whether or not this solution really makes sense is irrelevant as the story quickly pushes on, and soon they manage to send larger objects through a newly discovered wormhole. However, there are no clever reveals in store for anyone wondering how the worm virus/wormhole connection will be explained I’m afraid.

They don’t even explain where the particles went before they managed to send them from point A to B in the room. Before anyone can stop and ask these kind of logical questions the game is up when the whole scheme is discovered by IT security. To make things even more annoying a patch from Microsoft threatens to shut everything down before the gang can reach the critical stage in the experiment – human teleportation. As the pressure mounts Ana inevitably draws the short straw and steps onto the transporter pad… which if you can believe it is where the story really starts to come apart at the seams.

The second act – the results of the allegedly successful beaming of Ana from one spot to another – is somehow the shakiest part of the film. The introduction wasn’t the greatest but the middle of the story is treated as a strange mystery as Ana experiences memory loss and nightmares. Which is funny when the idea of lost time is probably a more appropriate way to describe how the audience feels at this stage. But for something so potentially ominous and sinister there’s a lack of focus. As she tries to piece together what really happened (and why her two colleagues suddenly seem so aggressive and suspicious) they really drag out the detective elements. Whether any of it really makes sense or not.

A main point is that Ana can’t remember things for long unless she writes them down… but she still manages to sit in a library doing lengthy research on Alzheimer’s disease. Her philosophical musings about the teleportation of memory and the possible mass of the human soul almost becomes engaging… but it’s never the real core of the story. There’s also an entire subplot about vivisection protestors which seems very out of place, despite some fun animal mask moments. Sometimes it’s as though the film is trying to make the viewer feel as confused as the protagonist, instead of ramping up the potential paranoia when the police investigate what’s really been going on.

It’s a mixed bag but fortunately, for those watching long enough to reach it, the last section of the narrative does contain a few good moments. The reveals may not be entirely original in terms of teleportation stories, but it’s generally handled with pathos and it does a reasonable job of making up for all the loose ends. For the most part. The performances range from stiff to acceptable and overall it feels far too long with an abrupt start and a saggy middle. It needed to be more tightly wound instead of relying on the unknown so much without enough creeping dread. However, while the lost marbles imagery is a little on the nose, it’s not entirely without merit and may be worth checking out for those looking for a quick quantum mystery. Just don’t expect anything genuinely mind blowing.

Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

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About Mocata 146 Articles
A sucker for classic epics, 80s science fiction and fantasy kitsch, horror, action, animation, stop motion, world cinema, martial arts and all kinds of assorted stuff and nonsense. If you enjoy a bullet ballet, a good eye ball gag or a story about time travelling robots maybe we can be friends after all.

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