Previous entries in ReelzChannel's Doomsday Series depicted the apocalypse in the form of natural disasters and man-made science. With those two chestnuts out of the way, it's only logical that Delete, the newest of their two-part miniseries event movies, tackles the threat of artificial intelligence. This exceptionally goofy entry takes a look at our long-standing fear that one day we'll invent a computer that's so sophisticated, it will take on a life of its own, and that this new artificial intelligence will then decide we're too violent and destructive to be allowed to keep on living.
Delete continues the channel's progress up the ladder of Hollywood talent, attracting not just a director with multiple feature films under his belt (Steve Barron, of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie), but a couple of notable genre stars (Seth Green, Matt Frewer), and an up-and-coming actor (Keir Gilchrist, It's Kind of a Funny Story) to play the lead, in addition to their usual inclusion of a "name" player (Gil Bellows). The profile boost had me hoping for something a little more than passable mindless TV, but Delete is actually a bit of a step back for the Doomsday Series, regressing from C-movie thrills to "unintentionally funny" in terms of entertainment value.
The problems mostly stem from the screenplay, by Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie, which makes zero effort to shake up the thriller formula. This is a standard two-part narrative, with thread A following a band of everyday heroes trying to use wit and ingenuity to save the world, while the B-thread unfolds in a bunker somewhere, with important people in suits making all the wrong decisions, usually involving missiles. The good team consists of intrepid reporter Jesse (Erin Karpluk), her smitten hacker contact Daniel (Gilchrist), and skeptical FBI agent Max Hollis (Ryan Robbins, who looks like a mash-up of Steve Zahn and Will Forte). Jesse and Daniel are working together to investigate a cover-up at a nuclear power plant when one of their hacker sources (and all of his colleagues) are murdered. They trace the hit back to an artificial intelligence that manifested itself out of the world's network of computers, and must figure out why the A.I. desperately wanted to destroy the data that one of the hackers was hiding.
As with so many cyber-thrillers, the logic of the story is at the mercy of screenwriters who, best case scenario, read a magazine article on hackers once. Although the script generally avoids trying to use any "lingo" or cliched ideas of what hackers are like, the writers do jump straight into silliness by allowing Daniel to practically jump inside the program, Matrix-style, with a headset that is totally ludicrous, but is apparently common enough for two characters in the movie to have one. As the film progresses, the silliness continues to build and build far past the breaking point, with a runaway train carrying tankers of poison gas on one hand, and the threat that the computer will stop Bellows' daughter's electronic pacemaker on the other. It's hard to decide whether I was more amused / embarrassed by a scene of a terrified Bellows arguing with a laptop or the importance of a single tear at a crucial moment.
Barron tips the deck further with visuals of the A.I. itself that look like one of the visualizations from Windows Media Player, bringing back memories of the Death Star-like trenches of the computers in Hackers. When Daniel enters the computer, it takes on the form of Jesse to entice him into "interfacing" with it, complete with a floating "Like" symbol next to her body. He's also unusually obsessed with lens flare, to the point where at least 85% of the shots in the movie are overwhelmed with some blinding light source pointed directly at the camera. At first, it seemed like it represented the "perspective" of the computer and all of its many outlets, overwhelming humanity, but it's just another silly choice in a silly movie. At least it's more fun to watch than Eagle Eye.
Delete arrives in a standard Blu-Ray case with no insert. The artwork follows the template set by previous "Doomsday Series" releases, with a gray border around the artwork that gives each entry a nice sense of unity. Although the A.I. never has a digital face in the movie (only a literal one, played by Karpluk in a couple of scenes), the art depicts Gilchrist, wearing the headset, in wireframe form, with cubes exploding around him. It's somewhat Stalker-ish, but don't get your hopes up. The case also notes this is an "Extended Version,", but I didn't watch the film on television and don't know what's different between this and the original airing.
The Video and Audio
Barron's obsession with lens flare trumps even J.J. Abrams', but with it, he places emphasis on strong colors. This 1.78:1 1080p AVC presentation is frequently dazzling, with bright, eye-popping colors, razor-sharp detail, and impressive depth. During the opening credits, severe artifacting and banding is visible, but considering the credits are a visualization of the film's villainous A.I., I have to assume these issues are intentional. A minimal amount of banding is visible during fade out transitions during the film itself, but I didn't spot any artifacting or other issues. Some of the shots from the film are also news reports and use lower-quality cameras. During these scenes, bright reds and blues can occasionally appear over-saturated, but again, this is clearly an intentional (or natural) issue with the photography.
Audio is a lively, immersive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that writhes and shifts with the A.I. visuals. Dialogue tends to have that "made-for-TV" / "direct-to-video" sterility, but the mix is generally quite decent, locating a level of authenticity and fullness that tends to elude low-budget mixes. The subwoofer also gets some workout during intense sequences. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing are also included.
Unlike the other entries in the "Doomsday Series," Delete actually has some extras, in the form of cast interviews. Keir Gilchrist (3:20), Erin Karpluk (4:49), Seth Green (4:29), Ryan Robbins (3:29), Matt Frewer (3:12), and Janet Kidder (3:51) sit down for brief, promotionally-minded chats that focus mostly on bland "who is your character" and "what is the story?" kinds of questions. Forgettable, but better than nothing, I suppose.
A 10-minute promo for Exploding Sun (10:09) is also included. All of the extras on the disc are in HD.
Skip it. Although I'd enthusiastically support Delete as a candidate for a drinking game (just don't use the lens flare -- I don't want any alcohol poisoning cases on my conscience), this is the silliest of the Doomsday Series yet, pushing what is already a line of B-movie productions too far over the top to take seriously.
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