When I bought Computer Chess (2013) I was expecting a documentary on the history of chess engines and how they’ve been programed to become so strong in the game. Instead, I what I found was at first some type of mockumentary on a chess tournament between computers set in the early ‘80s. This film felt like something that you run into randomly when you check out what’s playing on Adult Swim.
There’s zero reason to care about anything happening in this
film, as nothing has a payoff. The team that built the winning chess engine is
hardly focused on, leaving us little reason to care when we get the big matchup
between man and machine. The tournament takes place at a hotel over the weekend
and the man who organized the event planned the final on a Monday and forgot to
book the room for it, so he’s forced to make a deal with a cult… That’s the
level of stupid we’re dealing with here. And the guy is so peeved at the people
who booked the room to begin with, but allowed the game to take place, that he
flips the chess board in anger. There are several storylines that take place in
the film, and none of them have any kind of pay off, so no reason to care.
If I had to guess I’d say this film is trying to replicate
the surrealist style David Lynch used in Eraserhead and Twin Peaks, but without
his talent for filmmaking. There are interesting ideas in this film, but
nothing was built on, instead hitting us with as much nonsense the filmmakers
can think of. While no one would call chess engines from this period artificial
intelligence, this is a fantastical world where wild and outlandish things
happen. So why was nothing done with the plot line with the chess engine that
seemed to become a sentient being? Because it’s a weird thing that might creep
you out, not that it’s important to the story or a concept worth exploring, at
least to the filmmakers.
This film isn’t a total wash. There are interesting concepts,
the film did grab me in the beginning. There are natural storylines to be told
here, but they were dropped for outlandishness. When people say that Hollywood
should look back and remake bad films to bring them to their full potential, I
think people do mean films like this one. Unless you’re looking to do something
like that, I’d suggest you skip this one. 3/10.