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Entry updated 19 June 2023. Tagged: Film.

Russian animated short film in two parts (1994-1995; original title Amba Film Pervyy). Ekran. Directed and written by Gennady Tischenko. Voice cast includes Vsevolod Abdulov, Lyudmila Gnilova and Aleksandr Lushchik. 8 minutes and 10 minutes. Colour.

A sequel to Tischenko's earlier two-part serial Geona's Vampires (1991) and Masters of Geona (1992), this again features Inspector Yanin of the Cosmosecological Commission. This time he and colleague Max are told to assist teenaged ambassador Julia, who is on her way to the planet Mira. Their briefing concerns Bioarchitect Harper, who designed AMBA-1 (Automorphic Bioarchitectural Assemblage-1), a programmable biomass that in a week grew a settlement on Mars that could house a million people. Harper is now on Mira, where AMBA-2 has been growing a network of cities and towns, as well as producing oxygen to make the atmosphere breathable (see Colonization of Other Worlds; Terraforming). AMBA-2 is controlled by a biocybernetic (see Cyborgs) machine built around a Genetically Engineered dog's brain (we are assured that the dog, Rex, had been injured in an accident). One of the Cosmosecological Commission wonders why a dolphin's brain hadn't been used, and is told that, firstly, dogs' loyalty to humanity is long established and, secondly, they wanted to save Rex, who was Julia's pet. However, Communication with the planet ceased after a week – thus the visit. The trio's starship orbits Mira and they discover there have been unforeseen mutations in the biomass. Yanin and Julia now land in a ship, which is promptly dragged under the surface by tentacle-like growths. Julia hears a voice in her head, a group of identical men approach and the first part ends.

AMBA's second episode opens with Max landing and being attacked by eyed pseudopods, forcing him to retreat back into the starship. A head with tentacles growing from its neck now appears and states they are what is left of Harper. Meanwhile, Rex talks to Julia and Yanin Telepathically: he seems friendly and says the men are Androids based on Harper; they subsequently fight off a tentacle attack. Rex now explains the situation: the settlement had approached completion without problems, but then the mutations began to appear – the result of silicon viruses. As part of the Terraforming AMBA-2 had absorbed the planet's silicon life, but this led to an increase in the radiation bathing the planet surface (presumably the usurped ecology had maintained the ozone layer). This nearly killed Harper, so Rex transplanted his head on to a bunch of tentacles whilst he Cloned his body, to which his head will be attached at some point: Rex does not think he has the skills and would rather it were done by surgeons.

Yanin and Julia are reunited with Max and they prepare to leave, accompanied by Harper – who explains the attack of the tentacles was his fault: he had been excited by their arrival and couldn't control them. Rex says that in a few years he will have successfully terraformed the planet and hopes then he and Julia can play together once again. The spaceship departs – and they notice Mira is following them back to Earth's Solar System. Harper mentions that AMBA has another meaning, in Russian it means "all up" or "kaput": it represents the end of Earth's technocratic phase. Yanin observes humans and Rex are now brothers in reason, but as Rex is so much smarter he is the big brother of the relationship – Harper points out it will take thousands of years for Mira to reach Earth, so humanity has time to catch up.

AMBA is a noticeable step up from the Geona series, with better animation – though still stilted – and a more complex plot, but sharing similar ecological concerns. It is probably too complex – the conversations (see Infodumps) during the 18 minutes are used to cram in enough story for a full length film. The science and plot often fail to make sense: most conspicuously, Rex is initially shown as a Brain in a Box (or rather, a sphere) and then, during the farewells, as a dog; also, how is Rex moving Mira and what will stop it from freezing? Nonetheless, overall this is a good film (the two parts should be considered as a single work) with some memorable, surreal scenes. [SP]


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