Impressively determined in its gloom, but irretrievably absent-minded in its approach, the science fiction film warning consists of half a dozen storylines that are so at war with one another that they never merge into one movie. Every single one of the vignettes in Agata Alexander’s film could be expanded into a fascinating full-length film. In fact, one of them is basically a shortened version of Brandon Cronenberg’s owner. but warning presents these ideas too quickly and superficially. As soon as they get interesting, the film pulls past them with little connective tissue in between. The result is admirable in how gritty it is in its multi-faceted nature, but overall warning is too disjointed and underdeveloped to have any real effect with his dystopian precautions.
Alexander has a strong sense of what we expect from sci-fi, and she and cinematographer Jakub Kijowski are working on a number of disturbing images. It’s a shame that they are so well known. An astronaut floating in pitch-black space, a brutalist villa in the forest, a pair of almost naked bodies connected by pipes and tubes, a cyborg who moves with precise robotics. These are archetypal moments that have long circled this genre, and warning
But during warning puts together the cornerstones of the genre, Alexander does not build on it with a lot of creativity. This becomes particularly clear in the script by Alexander and co-authors Jason Kaye and Rob Michaelson, who flirt with a common genre idea for each subplot, but then jump to something new instead of digging deep. Yes, people consume more than they need, too often rely on nostalgia and act in selfish, tribalistic ways – but reciting these facts doesn’t make any real story.
One of the best concepts warning too briefly introducing is that AI could be the same and that the worst traits of humanity – pettiness, classicism, hypocrisy – could be passed on to the cyborg offspring we developed. Yet warning practically sprints away from anything that requires more effort than just evoking a “Hm, interesting” response. And the way every subplot starts with a “Doesn’t it sucks being alive?” Message, indicates that nothing is being advanced here.
In a “not too distant” future, warning takes place both on a version of the earth with some more invasive technological devices and news reports of COVID-19 outbreaks, and in space far from but with a view to it. Artificial intelligence is ubiquitous and has largely replaced human-to-human contact. When repairing a satellite, maintenance technician David (Thomas Jane) communicates with an AI system that quickly shows comparative values. (His company has set its value at $ 500,000 while the AI is $ 40 million.)
Meanwhile, a massive space storm that creates ghostly red clouds and crackling lightning bolts behind David as he works is causing a series of thunderstorms on Earth. While David complains about his job, life and everything else to the AI, warning moves to the Big Blue Marble.
In seemingly exclusively the United States, humans and robots are trying to lead a fulfilling existence in gloomy times. Engaged couple Nina (Annabelle Wallis) and Liam (Alex Pettyfer) visits their wealthy, judgmental parents for dinner. Brian (Tomasz Kot), the caretaker of the robot shelter, tries to find a place for his wards, including the eager Charlie (Rupert Everett) who is afraid of being shut down.
Also: Ben (Patrick Schwarzenegger) and Anna (Kylie Bunbury) have a seemingly idyllic relationship, but a kind of black silhouette follows Anna around and questions her idea of reality. Claire (Alice Eve, identifies a version of Kristen Bell’s pre-enlightened Eleanor The good place) obsessively relies on their God apparatus (voiced by James D’Arcy) to regulate their lives and measures their self-worth in the accumulation of their sins and good deeds.
Plus, Teenage Magda (Garance Marillier), who accepts a gig through a service called Second Skin, gets into a business relationship over her head that proves that sometimes men only want women for their bodies. (The film contains an unnecessary scene of an attempted rape, shot from the point of view of the assaulted woman.)
Certain subplots are better than others. The Ben / Anna story is another tiresome man, and the Claire / Gott device satire is toothless. In contrast, the Brian / Charlie story would be a heartbreaking animated film, and if the Nina / Liam duo expanded it could look something like the very good one I am your man. But there is only one main narrative thread that connects these characters, and it is a repetitive one: almost every one of them wonders about the existence of God. The existence of a religious question in warning is not a problem, but the flatness (and pretentious Christianity) of its approach doesn’t leave viewers much to counter the desperation.
On the one hand, warning seems to be saying that technology has replaced all of our values and belief systems, so we have forgotten a core component of what humanity is. (Claire, who doesn’t know how to “manually” pray, is the funniest moment in this section.) On the other hand, such a weighty question deserves more energy than what you do warning offers.
An angry monologue, followed by a melancholy monologue, followed by another angry monologue, gets old quickly, even if Jane’s snotty lines with David’s appeal to God are somewhat amusing: “What’s the lesson here? What, am I selfish? I already knew that! “Unfortunately, warning is full of science fiction conclusions that genre fans will already know, and the title of the film says it all.