A short film from James Kerwin, R.U.R.: Genesis, takes a new look at the sci-fi classic, R.U.R.
The year is 1919. Somewhere in modern day Czech Republic, the soon-to-be acclaimed playwright Karel Čapek is creating his vision of the future: a ground-breaking sci-fi story called R.U.R., which would eventually become the inspiration for such masterpieces as Metropolis and Blade Runner.
In his version of the year 1969, genetically engineered workers inhabit the Earth. The perfect, made-to-order people – which would eventually become the basis for the concept of robots – are seen as lesser beings that lack basic human rights and provide a vehicle for commentary on modern politics, progress, and relationships.
Fast forward to today when award-winning writer/director James Kerwin looks back at Čapek’s look forward. His short film R.U.R.: Genesis presents a fresh yet faithful take on the classic sci-fi story. Set in an alt-history 1969, Kerwin masterfully combines Čapek’s surprisingly accurate predictions of future advances in biotechnology with the groovy go-go girl ’60s we know and love.
The short stars Chase Masterson (Star Trek), Kipleigh Brown (Yesterday Was a Lie), and Vic Mignogna (Fullmetal Alchemist) and serves both as a standalone short film adventure and as a “sizzle reel” for the full length feature film currently in development.
“Stylistically, R.U.R.: Genesis is by far the most fun of any project I’ve ever done,” says Masterson. “But what really sets the film apart from the vast majority of projects out there is the brilliant combination of story and timeless themes. Not many filmmakers’ work embodies both of those elements thoroughly. . . It’s sexy, powerful stuff.”
The original R.U.R. play is still hailed as a fundamental science fiction story. After its debut in 1920, R.U.R. (short for Rosumovi Umělí Roboti, or Rossum’s Artificial Workers in Czech) quickly gained favor. It was so influential that by 1923 the play had been translated into thirty different languages, including English. The English translation of the title morphed into Rossum’s Universal Robots (probably in order to keep the title R.U.R.) and as such introduced the word “robot” into the English vocabulary.
Čapek’s “robots” aren’t what you might expect, however. The artificial beings he envisioned are flesh and blood rather than metal and oil and are created through genetic engineering. They look and act human – but are they human?
You can watch the R.U.R.: Genesis online now. Following in the footsteps of similarly funded feature films like Mortal Kombat, Looper, and Tron: Legacy, the short serves as just a taste of what the final film will be like. “The story in the short won’t fit into the feature film,” says Kerwin. “We’re using it to show financiers what the feel of the feature will be.” I for one am excited to see the final feature’s debut. Go-go boots, robots, and ray guns in a weird sci-fi vision of 1969? Count me in!