Prototype, not to be confused with The Prototype, is the latest offering from producer Scott Jeffrey (Exorcist Vengeance, The Mutation) to find its way to our screens. It begins with Roger (Jamie Robertson, Medusa, Conjuring the Genie) and his company working on creating a robotic household servant. Unfortunately the first version, Zero, turned out to have homicidal tendencies.
So they develop One (Luke Robinson, It Came from Below, Anonymous) and Roger brings it home to test. Unfortunately, Roger is an asshole who abuses his wife Shelly (Danielle Scott, Spider in the Attic, Looks Can Kill) as well as their kids Michael (Tom Taplin, We Go in at Dawn, Arthur & Merlin: Knights of Camelot) and Andy (Marshall K. Hawkes, HellKat, Hatched). When observing that, and Michael’s own bullying, leads to problems with One, the company develops Two (Zoe Purdy, Misbehavior, The Eternals).
Unfortunately, this prototype’s AI has a bit too much of its creator’s personality built into it and soon becomes aggressive, and ready to pave the way for a robotic rebellion. And the only thing that might be able to stop Two is the outdated and outclassed One.
At first glance, Prototype seems to have a lot in common with The Alpha Test, both visually and in the concept of a robotic AI learning the wrong lessons from its creator and his dysfunctional family and opting for violent revolt. Of course, both of them, like so many other films, drew heavily on Isaac Asimov’s novel I, Robot so some similarities are to be expected. But the sense of deja vu was pretty strong at times.
The main difference between Prototype and Aaron Mintes’ film is the presence of the second robot and that allows for an extra layer of interaction here as Two demands loyalty from One because she is a superior model proving robots can be just as obsessed with power as their creators. It also sets up a conflict familiar to anyone who’s seen Soldier or the various Terminator sequels.
Director Jack Peter Mundy (Dinosaur Hotel, Amityville Scarecrow) and writer Sam Gurney play out all of this internal drama as a lead-up to the inevitable violence. Unfortunately, the script keeps switching between the ominous, such as Two thinking and acting more independently, and the mundane such as Roger getting shittier than usual when Shelly tells him she only stays because of the kids. As a result, the film keeps killing its own momentum and impact for much of its running time.
It also means that, like so many of Jeffrey’s films, Prototype is incredibly talky for most of its running time. After a brief and bloodless killing at the start, it’s not until the halfway point that anything actually happens, and the hour mark before we get our robotic rebellion. And that is far from action-packed, being resolved mostly by talk and coding.
The effects in Prototype aren’t anything special either. The robots are obviously actors with masks and prosthetics on their heads and necks. You can see the skin around their eyes through the mask’s eye holes which kills the intended effect. There are no gore effects, killings are almost entirely bloodless so there isn’t even that to distract from the tedium.
While not the worst thing to come off of the Proportion Pictures assembly line, Prototype still isn’t anything I can recommend. Its plot has been done before and done much better too. Personally, I’ll stick to Runaway for my dose of mechanized household help gone haywire.
Left Films will release Prototype to Digital platforms on April 5th. And if it’s not quite what you want, or if you want more like it, FilmTagger has some suggestions.