So I finished up my latest draft of book #7 in the Corrosive Knights series (read about that here) and wanted to give myself a bit of a break yesterday so I popped in the latest Netflix film I had on DVD.
Titled Anti Matter and released in 2016, I can honestly say I have no idea how that movie got on my radar or why I put it in my Netflix que. Regardless, there it was and, having the free time, I put it on. Here’s the movie’s trailer:
Doesn’t look too bad, right?
Ana has discovered a way to make small objects “disappear”. She consults her friend Nate and shows him the results of her experiment and he, in turn, brings Liv, a “wild child” but brilliant fellow student into the experiment which, they soon find, isn’t just about making things disappear: They can effectively move matter from one place to another (shades of The Fly!).
Their experiments progress nicely and they manage to transport plants, then a caterpillar, then a cat, all while protests against animal cruelty are staged near their lab. Outside of this trio, however, no one knows what they’re up to and, with stars in their eyes and thoughts of becoming rich beyond their wildest dreams lurking just under the surface, they are forced to speed up their experiments to see if the ultimate immediate matter transportation is possible: Sending humans from one point to another.
As the one who created this experiment, Ana decides to be that first test subject.
But afterwards, things get strange and suddenly she finds herself having a hard time remembering things and her two friends and lab partners are suddenly acting very strange. Is she paranoid or is there something sinister going on?
Anti Matter is a low budget, perhaps even minimally budgeted film which nonetheless manages to present a clever, at times quite deep story to its viewers. However, and this is one of the film’s biggest problems, the “shock” ending is something I suspect almost everyone can see coming from a mile away and, further, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense given the story presented.
The actors are fine in the roles, though if there’s one quibble I have it is that I would have switched actors playing Ana and Liv. The protagonist, Ana, is played by Yaiza Figuero and, unfortunately, she has a noticeable Spanish accent (she is originally from Puerto Rico) and didn’t seem quite as comfortable in front of the camera as Phillipa Carson, the actress who played Liv.
But this is minor compared to the film’s biggest problem: The script.
As I’ve stated many times before, a great script/story can do wonders to any movie, low or high budgeted. In the case of Anti Matter, the story concept is quite good, though perhaps not the most original, but the story as presented has many flaws which become only more and more apparent after a) you realize what’s going on (again, that realization should come well before the movie’s end to most viewers), and b) once that realization is made, much of what we’ve seen to this point starts to make little sense.
I will discuss this in some more detail in a moment, but as it involves some rather massive SPOILERS, I’ll leave it for now.
There is a lot to like about Anti Matter. I applaud the fact that the movie’s makers took what had to be a very low budget yet nonetheless tackled some interesting issues in its science fiction milieu. I applaud the fact that they were trying to give us a science fiction film that made us think rather than resorted to cheap action or violence or “shock”.
But on the other hand I have to fault them for not thinking their scenario all the way through and giving us a film whose story, unfortunately, falls apart with close scrutiny.
A true shame.
Now, on to…
YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!!!!
Ok, so now let’s get into the meat of the matter: Where I felt Anti Matter’s script let down the story proper.
As I mentioned before, we have a scenario that, while interesting, is not incredibly new to the science fiction genre: Matter teleportation. As I mentioned, this has been used in the movie The Fly and Star Trek and a whole host of other sci-fi works.
So our protagonist, Ana, decides to be the first subject in this matter teleportation experiment but when it is done, she begins to experience odd things. She cannot remember things well. She finds herself not hungry. Her two lab mates, too, begin acting strange around her, as if they’re hiding things from her. Even her mother, whom she calls frequently, starts to act strange over the phone.
To make matters worse, when she goes to her apartment, she finds someone is there, breaking in. The person wears an odd Monkey mask and, in the movie’s only real action sequence, Ana fights the disguised intruder, even breaking through the glass window of their apartment and falling a floor down to the ground (this particular sequence, by the way, stood out like a sore thumb and felt like maybe it shouldn’t have been there… it seemed a little too “action” for this otherwise cerebral film).
So what’s happening?
Again, it felt too obvious to me: Clearly this Ana wasn’t the “real” Ana. Somehow, the matter teleportation experiment created two Anas, and I knew the “real” one was hidden somewhere.
Surprise, surprise, that’s exactly what happened.
The Ana we follow from the experiment on, we find in the movie’s climax, is an echo, a “non” being fragment of the real Ana. Further, we’re told that the lab partners have been dealing with her for days now, that she can’t remember things from one day to another because she hasn’t the capacity to do so. They’re acting suspicious, in part, because they’re tired of dealing with this echo and going over the same thing day after day with her.
But this time around, things come to a head and the “real” Ana appears to tell the echo she needs to go back into the machine. The unreal Ana doesn’t want to, she fears for her life, but the real Ana tells her she will simply go back to being a part of her. So she steps into the teleportation area and disappears, forever.
I ask the following: If this Ana was an echo that was running wild, why the hell did the real Ana and her lab partners let this craziness go on for so long? Why the hell did they leave this disturbed non-person to roam the city and university freely? Were they not afraid of what she might do?
And if she couldn’t remember things from day to day, effectively becoming the same being every time she woke up, why didn’t they simply confront her the first day with the real Ana and explain things? Why let this charade go on for so long?
Look, I really was rooting for this film to succeed, even though I could see that twist coming. But the problem not only lies with that twist but with how it was handled. Almost everything from the point where Ana is transported to the end made little sense and, even worse, ultimately torpedoed the film’s story because of this.
And that, my fiends, is really too damn bad.