A bizarre love story between two survivors of a space ship crash on a barren ice planet.

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A bizarre love story between two survivors of a space ship crash on a barren ice planet.

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January 2004 (USA)  »

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Excellent FX, but a disturbing portrayal of gay love
19 October 2004 | by (Washington, D.C.) – See all my reviews

An astronaut and his robotic companion are trapped on an ice-planet, where their relationship slowly unravels.

Astounding special effects -- far superior to almost anything we've seen come out of Hollywood (that is not an exaggeration) -- make this film work. The CGI of the robot, Tomo, is just jaw-dropping. It is clean, realistic and animated. It is far superior to almost anything seen in "A.I." or "I, Robot."

As the days pass, Tomo ("companion" in Japanese) becomes increasingly effeminate and campy as the days stretch into weeks. His relationship to his human master gradually deteriorates into abuse and cruelty; when the astronaut idly tosses pebbles at Tomo, Tomo ties him to the ground for a day. In flashback, the audience slowly comes to understand that the ship's crash is extremely mysterious and that the astronaut blames himself for causing the death of his co-pilot. Too, there are hints in the astronaut's log that perhaps Tomo's attraction to his human partner began much sooner than anyone realizes. The astronaut finally decides to head back to the ship to see if any rescue transmitters can be salvaged. But betrayal is all he finds: He realizes that Tomo caused the crash in order to strand the two of them together, alone. He realizes Tomo hid the rescue transmitter, in order to forestall any rescue that would separate them. And he realizes that Tomo loves him. But it's all too late. Tomo has destroyed the transmitter and slit his own hydraulic cables in despair.

For my money, "Tomo" is about 5 minutes too long. The character development is uneven and unclear, and the film's opening sequence doesn't really introduce the plot, characters or situation too clearly. It is also not exactly clear why Tomo does some of the things he does. Why does Tomo imitate the astronaut when he sees the human masturbating? Does Tomo want to be more human-like? Perhaps. But Tomo also seems to not care.

Other elements in the film -- such as the fishing sequence, with its grotesque poking of the fish's eye, and the opening and closing credits showing heterosexual robot-sex -- seem unnecessary. When all is said and done, "Tomo" draws rather heavily on "2001: A Space Odyssey" for its insane-robot theme. But more disturbing is "Tomo's" depiction of a gay robot as insane. The robot couldn't just be gay? The robot couldn't just have done one thing wrong (crashed the ship, or hidden the rescue beacon), it had to have done many psychotic, abusive things?

Had Tomo been a human being, I doubt this film would have been as well-received. And therein lies a big problem for the film, for its message is much more complex and disturbing than many audiences seem to realize.


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