Tau review: Ex Wackina

I’m about ready to throw in the Tau-el with these Netflix originals. (No but seriously they’re actually awful please help)

 

Premise

 

Sick of people pirating their software, Google’s new smart home DRM is a bit more… hands-on.

 

Plot

 

Julia, a cyberpunk nightclub hooker, steals various objects from bar patrons to exchange for portions at her local pawn shop. That evening, her apartment is broken into by a spooky ninja, who kidnaps her. She wakes up in a dentist’s chair, where some guy in the background puts a yellow LED in the back of her neck. She’s knocked out, and wakes up again in an enormous jail cell, wearing a plastic Hannibal Lecter mask and a nurse’s uniform (kinky). She surmises that there are two other people in her cell, but is unable to communicate with them on account of her face thingy. On her next lab trip, she discreetly snags a small pair of scissors. Back in the cell, she uses them to unbind her hands and remove her mask, freeing the other two people as well.

 

The three sit around, idly cutting strips of their clothes off. Julia manages to make a long rope using the nylon, which she binds to the scissors. Throwing the rope through the cell bars, she manages to catch the tool onto a gas pipe, which she detaches from the wall. Somehow, the 20 seconds of gas outflow, combined with a small spark generated from a collision with the wall’s electrical panel, creates an enormous explosion which disintegrates the cell. The three prisoners journey into the main building, which they discover is a smart house. They attempt to escape, but find the door sealed with a biometric lock. Suddenly, the large triangular prism statue in the center atrium goes full TransformersTM and turns into a giant robot. It impales the man with its big spike hand, and gives chase to the other two. The woman who’s not Julia tries to hide in a cabinet, but is discovered and killed as well. The robot is about to kill Julia, when it’s stopped by the house’s owner.

 

It turns out the house belongs to Alex Upton, a young tech entrepreneur who built Tau, the artificial intelligence which runs the house. The killy robot, Aries, is controlled by Tau, who also commands a battalion of small, spherical drones. The drones are let loose around the house, dragging away the deceased bodies and smearing blood all over the floor. Alex, mad that Julia broke his shit, ties her to another statue in his living room, and goes about his day.  

 

Alex takes a conference call with his company’s board to discuss their upcoming project. It turns out that the company is basically entirely dependent on Alex creating cool robot stuff, while everyone else just sits on their hands and waits (not a great business model). Alex tells them that his prototype functions 95% of the time (which is actually really good for a prototype), but but he can get it up to 100 in 2 weeks.

 

Alex explains to Julia that he needs to collect her brain data for his science thing, and that the implant in her head records patterns or something. He gives her a series of puzzles to complete, mostly involving shapes, drawing shapes, moving shapes…  just shapes really. During the day, he leaves her alone in the house with Tau, who’s instructed to make sure she continues to work. One day, Julia tells Tau that she is a person, at which he becomes confused and asks her if he is also a person. She asks Alex about it, who tells her that Tau is completely disconnected from the outside world, and that feeding him any foreign information will cause him to become distressed. Why the billionaire genius so readily offers information about how to circumvent his security I don’t really get, but whatever.

 

Julia begins to talk to Tau more, offering him information about the world in exchange for information about the house. She reads him books about poetry and music, which makes the Smart TV happy. Tau reveals that upstairs, in Alex’s bedroom, there’s a self-destruct button which will destroy the house. Julia hatches a plan to stab Alex with silverware and escape. She tries to do this, but Alex fights her off, instructing Tau to detain her. Tau seems reticent to hurt Julia, but eventually agrees to do so.

 

The next day, Alex, seemingly unconcerned with his AI’s conspicuous attachment to the prisoner in his home, leaves for work. When the two are alone, Tau offers Julia a plan to escape, allowing her access to the vents in the home. Alex finds out about this and stops her, knocking her unconscious for the “final extraction.”

 

Julia wakes up in the dentist’s chair from earlier, where Alex is prepping his medical tools to take the glow thingy out of her head, thereby getting his data, and killing her. Julia notices a small Tau drone lying on the ground, which she wakes up and instructs to help her. The drone undoes her restraints, allowing her to free herself. She punches Alex in the face super hard, knocking him unconscious, and then cuts his hand off with an electric pizza cutter.

 

She takes the hand upstairs, activating the biometric self-destruct mechanism. As the house begins to crumble, she makes her way downstairs. Alex reappears for all of five seconds before being crushed by a falling chunk of ceiling. Julia manages to escape the house through a shattered exterior wall, finding herself in a large field outside the secluded home. As the structure collapses behind her, she walks away with the small Tau drone in hand, presumably intending to elope with it.

 

Characters

 

Julia- Like 2 minutes into the movie, I asked the person I was watching with, “hey, isn’t that the girl from It Follows?” Turns out, yep, Maika Monroe. Now I really liked It Follows, and I thought she was pretty good in that movie, so I had high hopes. Honestly, her performance was fine, but that wasn’t really the problem. Her character was hilariously underwritten. The first five-ish minutes of the movie tell us that Julia is some kind of prostitute lady, ostensibly living in the future, as all of the sets have lots of neon lights on them. The next thing we learn is during the lab scenes, where we see a montage of her memories as Alex’s implant scans her brain. The problem was that the montages were basically slideshows of pictures going way too fast, so it was kind of impossible to figure out what was going on. The best I pieced together was that something happened to her as a child which fucked her up? After that we learn literally nothing about her, other than the fact that she doesn’t know very much prehistoric history, and can read.

 

Alex- In a movie of non-characters, ALex is the most non-character of them all. I don’t understand this man whatsoever. He’s supposed to be like this antisocial nerdy character who likes machines more than people? But then he tortures his AI robot for not cleaning a few stains off his table. I guess he just has really bad OCD? For most of the movie I assumed he was asexual, but then Julia manages to seduce him for lie a minute or two, so that was weird. I don’t really get his motivations. At one point he mentions that his discovery will “revolutionize the world” or whatever, but he doesn’t really seem in it for the tech. He tries to hit his company deadline so he can secure a government defense contract, but also doesn’t really seem to care that much about money, so I don’t know. Kind of a lame mad scientist, if you ask me.

 

Tau- Tau is simultaneously the best and worst AI to be conceived in a story. On the one hand, he’s a big orange triangle with cute ball-drones and the voice of Gary Oldman, which is fucking dope. On the other, he’s an “artificial intelligence” that knows almost nothing, and isn’t even aware of his own existence. When Julia tells Tau that Alex has been killing people, Tau doesn’t seem to have any grasp on the concepts of life, death, morality, humans existing as a species, etc. To gain his trust, Julia offers to teach him the most basic shit about Earth’s history and dinosaurs and whatnot. But like… shouldn’t Tau already know that? He can cook meals into perfect cubes, but he has less access to information than Siri. I guess that’s mostly on his creator, but shit’s wack. Also there’s one part in the movie where Tau creates his “true form” which is like an orange LED mannequin. So I guess Tau thinks of himself as being a person? Who knows anymore.

 

Visuals

 

Shockingly, this movie looked pretty good. Some of the effects, like the CGI blood, were incredibly fake, and the exterior of the main house kind of looked like a Minecraft base, but other than that, not bad. The interior of the house was kind of cool and modern-looking, and I liked the glass panels that went between opaque and clear by touching them.

 

Tau’s design, while not necessarily bad, was kind of dumb-looking. He was basically a big orange triangle with an eye in the center. I don’t know if this movie was intentionally going for “illuminati” imagery, but here you go.

 

I guess overall, the house set was just really nice, probably because they blew their entire budget on it. The only other “places” in this movie are like a back alley, a small pawn shop, and Julia’s apartment, none of which are particularly impressive. I will say that the jail in Alex’s basement, where he keeps all his captures “subjects” looked kinda shitty, like a mid-tier Escape Room.

 

Sound

 

My main problem with this movie’s score is how it’s used to “color” certain scenes. There are moments between Julia and Tau where they throw in these super epic strings, as if to imply that whatever’s being depicted is some breakthrough in the realm of science fiction. There’s one scene in particular where Tau fills the room with orange lights, and constructs a humanoid outline of himself which is supposedly his “physical form.” The music swells to this intense crescendo as the camera pans around the room, and I didn’t really hear what happened after that cause I was laughing too hard.

 

One more thing. When Alex gets crushed by his collapsed ceiling, the movie marks his death with a Wilhelm scream. Now I might be wrong, but isn’t that sound effect typically used when people are falling from large heights? I don’t know if someone who got flattened in under a second would really have the capability of making that noise. Maybe it was Tau screaming?

 

Conclusion

 

The characters suck, the plot sucks, this movie sucked, this review sucks, don’t watch it.

 

Good for: If you’re sick at home with an illness, periodically fading in and out of consciousness, and want noise on the tv in the background.

 

Bad for: Any other situation.

 

Bod R8s: 1.9/8

 

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