Always a fan first, Concept Artist Gavin Rothery (Moon) has now entered a new realm as a visionary writer/director with his first full feature, Archive. Rothery has created a visually captivating chamber piece that explores how the Holy Grail of technological advancement – a fully responsive working A.I. – would not be possible if there wasn’t an emotional core driving that kind of staggering breakthrough. Originally, Archive was going to premiere at SXSW this year, and even though it may be more difficult to see this on the big screen, this movie needs to be seen and talked about as soon as humanly possible.
After speaking with Gavin, it’s clear that, even with the astounding visuals he and his team have created, the ideas behind the designs are what’s really driving him. It’s a film that definitely invites multiple viewings. Below, we spoke about how the idea for Archive was sparked by two of Gavin’s computers crashing at the exact same time and we delve into the overall scope of the film and how a lot of VFX tricks were used to pull it off. For both of us it turns out, any chance to talk about Star Wars is welcomed, and Gavin has an amazing idea for where he would like to take the franchise next.
Synopsis: 2038: George Almore is working on a true human-equivalent AI. His latest prototype is almost ready. This sensitive phase is also the riskiest. Especially as he has a goal that must be hidden at all costs: being reunited with his dead wife.
Dread Central: I love where the whole idea of this came from. Could you talk about that a little bit? Just the idea of a robot deciding to die and how you came up with that?
Gavin Rothery: It’s just me, I just have a dark personality I think. What happened was I lost a bunch of data. I had two PCs and they both died simultaneously – and I still don’t know what happened. I’ve worked in computers for a long time and every now and again you have a computer that will just die and it usually just ruins your day. Sometimes it ruins your week. Maybe even ruins your year. So I was in a real sulk. I just had the idea that just popped into my head about somebody creating an A.I. and the A.I., once it understood what it was and what it’s situation was, not wanting to live. The original story was all about somebody trying to keep a computer alive long enough to find out what was going on. I decided to go with the themes of love and death and that quite quickly led into Archive.
DC: I love the design of the robots where 01 is like a child, 02 is a teenager, and then it keeps emotionally developing from there.
GR: I just find it really compelling, this guy just getting a little bit further with his work each time but keeping his creations around. The idea is he’s kind of living with a weird family; he’s made a family of versions of the ghost of his dead wife.
DC: Speaking of Jules, his wife, can you talk about the design of the 03 model that resembles George’s wife and how much was practical makeup that Stacy Martin had to act inside of?
GR: All of it. Oh, I shouldn’t have said that. The idea of that is I wanted her to be a ghost so that’s why she’s completely white. I wanted her to be a ghost who can just flick a switch and become really creepy. She’s not his wife, she’s not the same person. She’s her ghost. The version prior to that when we see her with the robot arm without any legs, that was probably about as low down and dirty with visual effects as you could get. We just had Stacy with a pair of green trousers on.
DC: It looks incredible. This really is a small chamber piece set in the near future. Do you think the best sci-fi has the least amount of characters?
GR: I love watching actors running with it. When we did Moon, watching Sam Rockwell go for it on Moon was wonderful. Watching Theo and Stacy run away with Archive, I think you just get to spend more time with the characters when you’ve got fewer of them. I think you can get into the little details of why things matter.
DC: I know this is going back a little bit but I saw that you had designed a ship called Gladius for Mark Hamill, for his character in the game Squadron 42, and that was a dream come true for you because you’re building a ship for Luke Skywalker. Where would you take the Star Wars universe now if given the chance?
GR: If I had a blank slate and I could do anything I wanted with Star Wars, what I’d love to do is to basically tell a story akin to the movie Excalibur and go back to the original rift in the Force. When the whole thing was being put together, so a sci-fi feudal thing going on. The very first Jedi just figuring out the Force and you’ve got your equivalent of Merlin who forges the first lightsaber. Just get into the rift right at the beginning where there’s something going on and the fundamental disconnect comes in about how to do things that creates, ultimately, the light and dark side.
Having these characters that are basically the Knights of the Round Table but they’re the original of what became the Jedi and the Sith. I just think there’s so much you could set up with that that would be great. Just play up the old Arthurian legends a bit, too, like the Lady of the Lake and having a spin on it. I think it could be brilliant.
Vertical Entertainment will release the sci-fi film Archive in Virtual Cinema Screenings, On Demand and Digital on July 10, 2020. The film was an official selection for the 2020 SXSW Film Festival.