From HAL in 2001 to Skynet in The Terminator, it’s always been a Very Bad Thing when computers achieve consciousness.
That sci-fi truism gets turned on its head in Her, the newest film from quirky auteur Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich). Joaquin Phoenix stars as the lonely Theodore, a writer who composes personalized love letters for a wide-ranging clientele. Once happily married but now dodging his estranged wife’s divorce lawyer, the depressed Theodore gets way more than he bargained for when he buys a new brand of computer whose gimmick is a Siri-like operating system that interacts and bonds with its owner.
Theodore christens his OS Samantha (sexily voiced by Scarlett Johansson), and gradually becomes enamoured of her playful, inquisitive and funny personality. Samantha not only reads Theodore’s emails in order to better understand him, but keeps evolving both on her own terms and as a partner. Then one night they end up having some heavy-breathing cyber-sex (which probably qualifies as a cinematic first). And by the time Samantha becomes jealous of Theodore when he decides to meet with his wife in person to sign the divorce papers, their enchantingly odd and undeniably sweet relationship suddenly begins to seem all too human.
Jonze clearly wasn’t interested in making a science fiction movie – perpetually smoggy skies and frequent images of humans unnervingly absorbed with their personal devices are the only hints that we’re a bit in the future. Instead, Her is focused entirely on the emotional landscape of its characters, and how the nature of love and need, rapture and romance, isn’t particularly changed even when computer consciousness gets thrown into the mix. That this premise works at all is almost entirely to the credit of Phoenix, who is marvelously soulful as the vulnerable Theodore (although sometimes he’s a bit too squishy for comfort). And while Johansson may not be a great actor, her persona and vocal talents are put to superb use here. That said, the premise is just a bit too preposterous to buy into. Her is well made, subtle, and thoughtful – and just like Samantha herself, a bit too self-aware. It’s been getting glowing reviews, but two movie-loving friends of mine walked out halfway through on opening night because they found it colder than a Toronto ice storm.
Stars Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson Directed by Spike Jonze
(Continues at the Odeon & Landmark Uni 4)
The classic sci-fi cautionary tale from 1987 about a half-human/half-robot crime-fighting machine blasting its way through a city full of bad guys gets what should be an edgy and violent reboot.
The Lego Movie
Hollywood joins the Lego cult via this tale of an ordinary Lego figure that gets conscripted to help stop an evil tyrant from gluing the universe together. With the voices of Jonah Hill, Will Ferrell and Morgan Freeman.
Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil) goes from zombies to gladiators in this sword-and-sandals epic about an ex-slave who struggles to save his true love from a corrupt Roman senator. Oh, and Mount Vesuvius evidently has a cameo.
Mary Shelley’s legendary monster gets rather improbably caught up in a centuries-old war between two different demon clans. The previously handsome Aaron Eckhart plays ol’ zipperneck, and Bill Nighy is along for the ride.