Really good and really bad movies are often incredibly different in terms of content, yet incredibly similar in terms of experience. When a film reaches one of the two extremes, it can often create a transcendent experience, and a lot of looking out the window afterwards.
Andron reaches one of these extremes. Let me tell you about the plot and you can guess which.
Andron (also known as Andrón – The Black Labyrinth) takes place in a dystopian future where all of the world is in slavery. Ten volunteers have their minds wiped and are placed in a maze, where they must attempt to survive. The last one alive wins. To add to the stakes, slaves watch the events unfold via reality TV, and are allowed to bet their lives on the outcome. If they win, they become free. If they lose, they die.
I know that might sound like an Academy-Award winning film, but Andron falls on the ‘bad’ side of the extremes. The movie is essentially The Hunger Games + The Maze Runner + Snowpiercer… + Battlefield Earth. The film was wrong from its inception, but things get so much worse. This is like a 7-year-old writing a dystopian movie after overhearing their older siblings talk about Catching Fire. It’s like a middle-schooler hearing about Saw for the first time and feeling a little sick but also a little intrigued. Writer-director Francesco Cinquemani is Italian, but the movie is in English, so maybe there’s a Troll 2 situation going on here. That said, the mind-numbing aspects of the movie come from bad filmmaking, not bad translations.
Let’s start with the characters and then work our way up. Ten strangers enter the maze, and they are all ridiculously attractive. There is at least some diversity amongst the ten, but that seems to be just so the audience can tell who is who. Each of the ten characters is indistinguishable from the others, and are only differentiated through their outward characteristics (one has glasses, one is bald, etc.). The movie does get a little racist within their character depictions, but this appears to be more incompetence than malice (as is the case with most of this movie).
The characters then enter the maze with no sense of what is going on. There are thousands of ways the film could have introduced the scenario in an interesting manner, but it decides that it doesn’t really need to. (Introducing stuff in a clever way takes time and planning and forethought.) I’d be shocked if Andron had more than two drafts. That might even be too many. Instead of introducing the conflict, each of the characters just asks questions. These questions are not answered, so for a good portion of the movie the majority of the dialogue is just people asking what is going on, waiting until one wise character explains everything.
All of this occurs while Alec Baldwin, Danny Glover and a bunch of people covered in dirt watch. Alec Baldwin is the game master, and his role generally consists of saying things like “Let’s spice this up a bit” or “Let’s make this interesting” and then moving his hands along generic digital technology. Danny Glover is a secluded powerful dude who doesn’t seem to have any control over anything. He seems to be walking in a funny way so I hope that Danny Glover is doing alright. The dirt people are there to watch and occasionally fall over when someone in the arena dies.
In terms of plot points, nothing matters and everything is awful. The movie promises puzzles. There are no puzzles. Every twist and turn involves minions appearing out of nowhere to fight the group, but usually this does nothing. The characters in-fight and then people die. The movie fails to set any kind of stakes in place, and eventually the audience has to ask for something… even a Trump steak. If the film doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, the least it could do is even offer a little bit of emotional manipulation to add some weight – any weight to the situation. The best it does is offer up a generic family that bets on the game. Characters die and then members of the family die. The family never even speaks. I don’t think this movie could get any worse if it were trying.
Even ignoring the story and the characters and the dialogue and the acting and pretty much everything except for pure aesthetics, Andron still sucks. The sound mix is off, the editing is repetitive, and the colorization is far too bland. It’s an absolute shocker that there aren’t any technical errors, so it appears that there are just some awful creative choices. All of this awful package is tied together in a brown, poop bow by the abysmal CGI that, instead of creating a new world, separates the characters from theirs. It is beautiful and will leave you alternating between “I hate this so much” and “I love this so much”.
This film has so many holes it makes swiss cheese look like stainless steel. For those who love watching so-bad-it’s-almost-good movies, Andron makes a nice addition to their collection. For those who don’t, stay far away from this movie. It begins as a premise and ends as a premise. For 96 minutes there is a constant stupidity and incompetence that creates a perfect sense of existential dread. This movie is why there should always be multiple drafts. This movie is why creative people always need feedback. This movie is why I cry.