metropolis, almost human, j.j. abrams, mechanical monsters

Just got done watching J.J. Abrams’ new TV creation Almost Human, and he has hit paydirt — at least for a pilot. He has outdone himself with potential story arcs, demographic appeals, and subtle cross-references.

The endoskeleton of a plot, a very-obvious nod to Robocop (1988), is thus: Thirty-five years in the future, ‘syndicates’ are out of control and the police have had to resort to drastic methods and procedures — most notably, requiring that every policeman must have an android partner. Karl Urban plays cop John ‘Kennex,’ who becomes the victim of a criminal ambush that costs him his leg as well as a good chunk of memory. Bought back to ‘operational status,’ he must then reacquaint himself with a force that may-or may-not be fighting the good fight.

The seems to be utterly entertaining chaos from beginning to end, but when you remember Abrams is behind it, you can’t help think it’s a mouth-watering mash-up of manipulation: Blade Runner settings; Urban’s side-kick interaction with Michael Ealy (Barbershop, F2 Fast 2 Furious) is Miami Vice meets Holmes and Yo-yo meets A.I.; Lily Taylor’s cop-boss ‘Maldonado’ is part Edward James Olmos’ ‘Adama’, part Judy Dench’s ‘M’; in one police trap I see Seven, my son sees Saw; there’s even a brief flash to Patrick McGoohan’s ’60s macguffin The Prisoner. Simon Pegg’s ‘Scotty’ from Abrams’ Star Trek reboot is see again here with the British Office’s Mackenzie Crook and ‘Rudy Lom,’ and a potential trustworthy love interest takes the form of Minka Kelly, who played the girl at the end of 500 Days of Summer.

Urban shows why he was cast as McCoy, not Kirk. He does play disgruntled quite well, though, and also does reds.

If you haven’t had enough of seeing the demise of ‘logic-based and rule-oriented’ creatures and techno-dystopias, I would suggest checking out the Max Fleisher animated short The Mechanical Monsters (1941), in which Superman (yes, a natural progression from Popeye) faces down a dapper evil genius (Bluto as The Continental?) and his platoon of numbered iron giants (‘5’ gets a lot of screen time – couldn’t help thinking of Gary Numan).

Watch Now

Afterward, settle in with Fritz Lang’s silent electro-personal-Franken-Jesus tale Metropolis (1927), which opens with perhaps the first instance of the sci-fi-portentous white-text-on-black screen exposition shot — most recently seen earlier this evening, opening Almost Human.

Watch Now

Record and watch Almost Human. Click below to see if it’s available in your area.

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