Our story begins in a bleak San Francisco future where computers are doorstops, mobile phones are trash in the street, and everyone sits around looking really, really bored. Through this wanders Max Waters (Paul Bettany), a man who, with no internet to distract him, has plenty of time remember how this all started, five long years ago… Wait: this story about how we have to be terrified that computers are going to take over the world is only set “five years ago” and not in 1991? That’s when just about every theme and piece of technology seen here first started turning up in movies – and movies usually lag a good decade or more behind written science fiction when it comes to ideas. If you’re going to make a scary cautionary tale about how computers will become our masters, it would help to put a new spin on this and not just be rehashing, say, The Thirteenth Floor.
Anyway, in this thrilling past where the internet is king, the scruffy because brilliant Will Caster (Johnny Depp) is at the forefront of research into creating artificial intelligence, largely because a sinister terrorist group has murdered everyone else in the field while he was off giving a TED Talk. Unsurprisingly, considering when asked “aren’t you trying to create a god” he replies “sure, why not”, he then gets shot. Initially he seems okay, but it seems the “radical neo-luddites” shot him with a radioactive bullet and now he’s dying. According to his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall), obviously the solution is to upload his brain into one of the supercomputers they just have lying around, so they hole up in a grubby abandoned school and have Will read chunks of the dictionary aloud while electrodes scan his brain.
Good news: it works. Bad news: Will 2.0 now wants to be linked in with Wall Street, which even Max thinks is seriously evil. But who cares what he thinks, because he’s promptly captured by R.I.F.T. and thrown in a cage for two years while the entire middle act of the movie goes on without him. And it’s all even further downhill from there, as Evelyn sets up a new base for Will 2.0 in a crummy desert town where he starts to turn the locals into Wi-Fi-linked zombies.
With bland performances (Hall gets to emote a little, but that’s basically it) and a script that’s muddled when it’s not just listing cool yet evil things a self-aware super computer could do, this isn’t silly enough to be fun or smart enough to take seriously.
Written by Anthony Morris