Just saw it at the el cheapo theater down the street.
Kosinski...wow. I have never seen a director so head over gorram heels with the "iPod curves, white plastic, neon and chrome" aesthetic that has such a blatant, naked, nasty fear and contempt
for post-70's technology!
The story wasn't much, sadly. Looks like Kosinski. mainlined a few video games (or, more likely, scolded his kid for playing a few too many video games). So, we have our alleged hero (Tom Cruise, reprising the role he always plays) in a pretty plastic house with a pretty plastic
Stepford wife planted honey pot
working partner, Vika. They're a cleanup crew maintaining technology converting what's left of Earth into fuel for a space station in orbit. But the mandatory (for "security reasons") memory wipe apparently didn't completely "take" in his case. He has dreams of New York, 60 years earlier, before the alien invasion that wrecked the Earth. He has memories of a pretty, exotic brunette that he's clearly involved with (that isn't the co-worker). He's questioning, pushing his limits. and making some unauthorized decisions, vexing. Mission control is, as always, unhelpful SPOILER... Mouse Over To Read:
(and sounds like the lovechild of Atlas and Glados...more on that in a sec)
His job is to go out and maintain the heavily-armed drones that guard the big machines stripping Earth of all her resources. The drones are armed because scavengers shoot at them and sabotage the machines. As far as he knows, the scavengers are remnants of the alien invaders. But, he finds that the "alien" scavengers have sent up a signal...and an Earth ship crashes down a day later. He breaks orders, goes to the crash site...and his drones seem to go bonkers and kill the remaining crew...save one pod. The survivor he saves and brings home turns out to be the woman of his dreams...literally. (Much to Stepford co-worker's dismay)
When hero and girl-of-dreams go back out to figure out why the drones went bonkers and to investigate the crash site, they get captured by the "alien" scavengers and...You've seen the trailers, those aren't aliens. Yup. We're taking your Trope Co. off-the-shelf package of Underground Dwelling post-apocalyptic refugees. (80's Edition, they only dress in all black when outdoors) At least Morgan Freeman seems to be having a good time earning the paycheck as their leader. Seems the humans survivors are on Earth, the alien looters are on the station, and the cake is a big lie.
It's notable to see that the technology that isn't "tainted" is all pre-1980. Otherwise, technology is an enemy, a traitor, a beautiful and deceitful distraction from anything of value or meaning.
* The high-tech, Ikea-design, comfortable home with Internet access and medical supplies is as much a trap as it a house, complete with a Stepford Wife whose only characterization seems to be trying to keep Cruise from asking any questions that don't fit mission parameters (and I'll admit, hot redhead buck naked in a neon-lit swimming pool might persuade me to forget questions for a while...).
* The "real" home is the rustic cabin Cruise's character had made for himself out in the woods, with scavenged junk and no higher level of tech than the 1978 stereo system where the real love interest ends up staying SPOILER... Mouse Over To Read:
with daughter, fathered by hero
at the end of the movie, growing tomatoes and having no apparent interest in rebuilding our sciences despite an astronaut background. Yes, once again Kosinski ends a movie full of technology porn with "turn off the goddamn computer, kids, and go outside"
* All that shiny, white plastic, neon and chrome tech? The iPod-style drones, the vaguely phallic future helicopter? It's all about hunting humans. All of the "good" technology is pre-1985. The human resistance is using stealth fighter tech (early to mid 80's), salvaged construction gear (forklifts, cranes), slugthrower rifles. Not a computer in sight. The highest-tech items the hero keeps in his unauthorized hideaway are an over-sized, circa 1978 stereo and a phonograph (I think the latest album in his stash was Duran Duran's 1982 Rio). There's the 1930's architecture and viewfinders of the Empire State building where much of the true "romance" arc takes place, as contrasted to the remote video, satellite phones, and computerized uplinks in the false romance where a couple moments reveal the hero's interactions with the false lover is more or less using dialogue trees right out of a video game with Mission Control using the same dialogue trees AND trigger phrases.
* The characterization contrasts are brought up in the form of a book (more particularly, a book of Roman verse) and a flower. It's very telling that Vika's rejection of all things lower-tech establish her as bad news where Jack's rejection of all higher tech is actually commented in the script
as the mark that makes him the guy the Resistance takes a chance on!
* Lastly, when the hero storms the alien base, all he finds are a bunch of half-built clones SPOILER... Mouse Over To Read:
designed to replace him and Ms. Stepford - there are dozens of them all over the world maintaining the kill-bots.
and one pissed off AI who declares "I AM YOUR GOD!" before the big Independence Day
shout-out. (Didn't we go through this crap with Clu?)
Top this all off with a few side orders of Fridge Horror:
SPOILER... Mouse Over To Read:
1) The "Jack" we saw was one of at least 52 dispatched. #49 was the one who had the adventure, rescued his wife, rebelled, and got himself killed. What we see at the end was Jack's wife with #49's child in their low-tech cabin. Now, #49 - that man is DEAD. What shows up at her door is Jack #52, meaning NOT the same person. Sorry, guys. I'm an identical twin. This is a sore spot. Same DNA does not make for same person.
2) The alien ship turned out to be one AI that was eye-rollingly easy to destroy. (Seriously? Not even a blast door? No shields?) If that was just a probe ship, nastier things will be on its heels. Furthermore, what the hell built that in the first place?!
3) That thing had 50 years to plunder Earth and was pretty much unimpeded. Furthermore, Earth used nukes and ghu-knows what else to fight back against the clone army it whipped up. Yay! The humans got rid of it. If they are lucky, they will end up with a desert planet and become like Dune's Fremen or the Sand People of Tatooine (in fact, it was a lot like how the Rakata took over and were driven off Tatooine, come to think on it...) . Or, they're going to end up like Taris's Outcasts - surviving for a few pitiful generations, only to be picked off by hostile wildlife, disease, and starvation before being finished off by toxic waste.