Rise Of The Machines
New film Mother/android tells a relationship story in the ruins of an android uprising
SCREENWRITER Mattson Tomlin has been on a roll of late, hired to adapt the comic book series Fear Agent, penning a Mega Man film for Netflix and working with director Matt Reeves to develop The Batman’s script. But Tomlin has also been quietly polishing a passion project that is now a Hulu Original movie, Mother/android.
An adopted child, Tomlin knew only the sketchy details of his own “origin story” as the unexpected child of Romanian parents. Intrigued by their circumstances during the tumultuous overthrow of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, he crafted an original story that combined his love of genre with a cataclysmic backdrop. “I wanted to express these feelings and write this love letter to my biological parents,” Tomlin tells Red Alert. “I wanted to do it in a very personal way, but also in a way that is more than the language that I think and speak in.”
Mother/android tells the nearfuture story of college students Georgia (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Sam (Algee Smith), a tentative couple who discover that Georgia is pregnant on the same night that the ubiquitous servant androids of the world strike back against humanity. “[The script] was able to be more personal by adding in a robot apocalypse, in kind of a weird way,” Tomlin smiles.
After several years of shopping the script around, he found funding and then honed the script in pre-production with the help of notes from Matt Reeves about Georgia and Sam. “He was the person who was really encouraging, saying, ‘Don’t undervalue this relationship. Yeah, people are going to like the robots, but they’re going to like the humans more, so don’t be afraid to really lean further into what these two are going through.’ It was a way of challenging me, of going, ‘You’re trying to make this personal thing. Let it be as personal as you keep saying you
want it to be.’ A big part of the way the movie turned out is because of that.”
Essentially a quiet, intimate character piece playing out against a massive post-apocalyptic backdrop, the film, says Tomlin, has a slow-burn lead up to what many genre fans will be expecting to see from the start. And don’t expect an effects extraganza. “It’s my first movie so there are going to be limitations with that,” he says. “Rather than fight against those limitations, I like that the robots aren’t going to be CGI things that are running around and flying. Let’s make them human beings.
“Looking at what was so successful about the original Terminator: he’s a 280-pound wall of muscle, but it’s still a guy people are seeing walking around up until the very end. Getting to harken back to that kind of filmmaking was fun. There are always bigger movies that have done it better, so for me it’s, ‘How can I do it in a way that really taps into the emotion?’”
Tomlin says what got him there are the performances of Moretz and Smith, who play out a very fraught relationship that feels intensely brittle at times. “These are two people that are in a couple of difficult situations piled on top of each other, and you see both of them just doing the best they can to get through it. Chloe and Algee gave me so much to work with,” the director enthuses.
“It was about finding performances that could reflect this script and make us go, ‘I get why this person is fighting this person. I get why they’re leaning into each other or away from each other.
I would be doing the same thing.’ Both of them are just stunning. What I really needed out of the two of them was a) commitment, but b) a real sense that you could see these two really being friends under different circumstances.” Ironically, as Tomlin was in production for Mother/android he got the call from Skydance and Netflix to write a new Terminator anime series. He laughs when remembering that when he was trying to get his film funded, “I kept marching around Hollywood like an asshole saying, ‘This is not my audition to go do Terminator!’ And it wasn’t!”
He says there is plenty of emotional crossover between the projects that suits him perfectly. “I love making people cry,” he admits. “That’s the thing I really want to do with my work. The Terminator show is off to a great start. It’s very different from Mother/android, other than there are killer robots that are out for you, and also there are very surprising human relationships that might make you cry down the road.” TB
Mother/android is streaming on Hulu now in the US. A UK date is TBA.
I like that the robots aren’t going to be CGI things that are running around and flying