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I Love Maria

Entry updated 5 September 2022. Tagged: Film.

Hong Kong film (1988; vt Roboforce). Directed by David Chung. Written by Yuen Kai Chi. Cast includes Lam Ching-ying, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Paul Chun, Tsui Hark, Ben Lam, John Shum and Sally Yeh. 96 minutes. Colour.

A large, hulking Robot, Pioneer I, robs a bank; before flying off it announces that the Hero Gang has declared war on Hong Kong and will control the City within a month. Scientists forced to work for the gang have built a second robot, Pioneer II (Yeh), whose design is based on gang leader Saviour's (Lam) lover (and, it appears, sister) Maria (Yeh). Caressing it, he tells Maria that "perfect order can only be found in machines", adding that it will be Immortal and replace her. Police Scientists are trying to find ways to defeat Pioneer I; but one, Curly (Shum), is ignored by their leader, who sees him as a threat. Curly befriends the alcoholic Whisky (Hark). who is an ex-member of the Hero Gang; they, alarmed by his association with a police employee, send Pioneer II to kill him.

Pioneer II resembles a cross between the lead character in RoboCop (1987) and the robot in Metropolis (1927) (whose human original was also called Maria), but has gun barrel fingers, arm rockets (see Weapons), plus the ability to crash through walls and fly. It takes a while for the penny to drop, but Whisky eventually realizes this is not Maria (with whom he was on friendly terms), warning Curly, "There's no way you can trust her, her missile is gigantic." Through luck, Pioneer II is destroyed and they escape; as the police now consider Curly a traitor, the pair go into hiding. Curly rebuilds Pioneer II, initially neglecting to delete the instruction to kill Whisky, though this is eventually rectified. There follows considerable slapstick between Curly and Whisky (they manage to get electrocuted a lot), interrupted by attempts to kill them (the Hero Gang) or capture them (the police). Pioneer I and II fight, with the former proving the stronger; at one point Whisky is saved by the Master (Ching-ying) – the honourable ex-leader of the Hero Gang – on a high-tech motorbike which can fly, at least for short distances.

Curly invents a cannon he claims will stop Pioneer I. Whisky expresses doubts, so Pioneer II tests it on herself, proving it works; she comforts the distressed Whisky with "I won't die: robots have no life." Thanks to Curly's regular repairs and reprogramming, along with her experiences, Pioneer II gradually develops self-awareness (see AI; Identity). The final scenes have the Master and the police captain (Chun) held in a warehouse by the Hero Gang: Curly, Whisky, Pioneer II and reporter T Q Zhuang (Chiu-Wai) – the last having been prominent but not plot-relevant for most of the film – come to the rescue. Much action follows. Pioneer II saves the Master and holds off Pioneer I whilst circumstances delay Curly and Whisky from firing their cannon; they fret over hitting Pioneer II, so she fires her detachable hand to press the cannon's button. Pioneer I is destroyed and Pioneer II survives. Meanwhile, Saviour – whose love of machines has led to him replacing his arms (see Cyborgs) – tries to activate Pioneer III, a Mecha, but fails. It ends up rocketing into space; Saviour plummets to his doom; when she cannot save him, Maria falls too. The police captain, who contributed nothing, gets the glory and a medal; but Curly, Whisky, Pioneer II and Zhuang are happy with their lives.

Despite a limited budget, the special effects are effective and the violence likeably chaotic. Everything moves as a fast pace; though the slapstick Humour can become repetitive and the reporter grates, I Love Maria is overall an entertaining sf action/comedy movie. [SP]


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