Yes, I saw this last night and am just writing the review now. Based on the fact no one I talked to at work today even knew this movie was coming out tells me a lot about it’s marketing. The poster (see title image) was entirely uninspired and did little to tell you what the story was. The official trailer did not really tell you much more and I am unsure now if it was a trailer that lied or aspects of the movie that were cut. Possibly both? The trailer of course, is here for your perusal if you should wish to see what the bill of goods we were sold on this was.
Sure we see the Scott Free Logo, which means of course the master of Replicants and Xenomorphs, Ridley Scott. He too has stumbled in recent years with projects such as Exodus: Gods and Kings (Prometheus is up for debate), and even in the past (1492: Conquest of Paradise). Though this time he sits in the producer’s chair not director…but does it matter?
Should they not have let Morgan out of the editing room?
Well to the first question – not really. The film is directed by his son Luke Scott with this as his debut to the general public. He did work as Second Unit Director on Exodus, but never the big chair himself. I can see the inspiration he has gained from his father. There are a lot of brilliantly directed shots in this movie where the blocking, camera work, and imagery tells a story all on its own. He also has a flaw of his father where sometimes a scene goes just a hair too long, but has also a flaw of his own in which scenes that really should be longer are broken by a cut or another event. Something that I feel took away from the effectiveness of the storytelling going on. There were so many very clear intentional choices being made in so many aspects of the film that I know there’s a good director there. He just didn’t really communicate some of the decisions well enough in action or word to let you know why it was made.
I have to blame the script for some of this though with only the indy film Peepers to his writing credit back in 2010, there’s not a lot to discern his choices. I think, but I cannot prove, that he watched Ex Machina and got an idea. The problem is he didn’t know how to execute on the idea. He wanted to do a story about synthetic life (Replicant prototypes?) and make it an American-ized thriller. The problem with this is you have to have the dialogue to support it. You have to have the flow of logic to reach ideas and to understand the underlying objective of the science. Ex-Machina is a Turing test to the next level. This lacked that. They went for an almost slasher vibe by the trailer, which the movie doesn’t support. It also requires more bad science and scientists than I can bear. I don’t mean the scientific aspects itself, they work within the context as the movie follows it’s own rules fairly well. I mean the scientific and lab procedures themselves were bad. This wasn’t a lab. It was a daycare center with an observation window.
So while the script and overall plot required stupidity to function, the actors themselves played their parts as best they could. Anya Taylor-Joy delivers a fantastic muted performance, which I am starting to wonder if they are getting too easy to play? Her work in The Witch was one of passion and emotion, while this required the reverse and again I blame the script for not giving her all the room to explore that. I really want to see more work from her in the future as this was a solid performance that sadly the request of the role is quickly becoming typical enough to have a checklist.
- Thousand yard stare – ✔
- Stilted communication – ✔
- Quirky and alienesque body language – ✔
- Muted or Manic Emotional Responses – ✔
The role itself is uninspired, even if the actor in its place acts their butt off. I think of Soldier with Kurt Russell – which is an amazing performance and more rare then than it is now. This just comes across as another creepy child and there is little Taylor-Joy can do to make it more with what she has. Kate Mara (Shooter, The Martian, Fan4stic) has a similar problem. She is quite literally asked to do little with her performance, which she does marvelously. I suppose that is the sign of talent. To have someone who can deliver complex emotions and is good at it and ask them to deliver little and be stoic despite their urges to want to deliver more.
I would talk about the rest of the cast, Jennifer Jason Leigh (Hateful Eight), Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones, The Last Witch Hunter), Toby Jones (Captain America), Paul Giamatti (San Andreas, Sideways), Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon), who all try to bring their characters to life. Try, but the characters were stillborn. The actors do what they can with characters told with so broad a stroke the brush is the size of an aircraft carrier. They don’t even reach caricature status and are so plagued by inherent stupidity that I wonder how they got their jobs. The actors are fine. The role itself – not so much.
From a technical aspect, I wish I could talk about something innovative here, but the movie was shot on the very cheap with an 8 million dollar budget (of which it made back only $2.5). With that understanding it seems to me the studio itself wanted to try the current trend of low budget supernatural horror with sci fi; again inspired by the masterpiece of Ex Machina.
It’s…ok. It’s not bad, but it is annoying with the scientists. I’d like to say it was good. I’d like to say I cared. I just can’t. I have to lay the blame entirely on the script as I can see everyone and their mother trying to do more with what they have and not being able to do much. I really wish someone had taken another pass at this and made a decision on the tone of the movie. Do you want horror? Do you want thriller? Do you want slasher? Do you want sci fi? I really don’t care, but pick one. Not all of them.
I wish they had gone further. I wish they had explored some of the ideas…any of the ideas. I wish they had done something…at all.
In the end there’s a lot of neat concepts and half hearted ideas but none of them click. It isn’t thought provoking at all.
I wish it had been. This could have been so much better than an “ok”.
Should you see it?
Y…no. Not really.
Will you buy it on BluRay?
Are you seeing Sully this weekend?
No. I am tired of movies about events I watched on the news within the past decade and a half. They are well made films no doubt, but I just am tired of Tom Hanks playing captain savior and survivor. He’s good at it. The movie is good I am sure, but I cannot bring myself to care when we had 24/7 news coverage of Captain Phillips and Captain Sully.