Did you know that there are whole channels dedicated to movies on TV?
Ah, modern life. We have all of these conveniences that bring things to us. We can experience the world, looking at everything around us with fresh eyes and different perspectives. That’s why we usually just focus on a rectangular box that creates images and worlds that don’t exist.
Hypocritical? Yes. I am lamenting the modern age’s convenience on a blog about watching movies and talking about them to my friends. That, however, is what happens when you sit down to consider the things that come out of the box into which we stare.
HBO and Showtime are the premium channels to which I subscribe, so frequently, I’ll catch a movie that I didn’t even know exist, or end up watching Six Days, Seven Nights for the third time because wanting to murder David Schwimmer is the rack upon which I torture myself. Oh, and watching Harrison Ford be grumpy on camera is quite enjoyable. Enough about Six Days, Seven Nights the entire collective universe says though, even though it’s a perfect example of this ephemeral crappy movie that no one will remember in five years.
So, one evening, I had the … pleasure? Is pleasure a good word for watching a movie while realizing, over time, that it’s nonsensical garbage going nowhere? Sure. The pleasure of watching a movie so forgettable that I have to go to IMDB to look up the name of it right … now.
Yeah, that was it, title me! Self/less (it sure is going to get annoying having to put that slash in there every time I say the title, thanks title gods) is a movie starring Ben Kingsley and Ryan Reynolds. It purports to be a science fiction movie, but then does nothing with it’s science fiction premise.
You see, in the near future/the past (stupid new cars as status symbols in movies), Ben Kingsley is a big swinging Wall Street capitalist. He has pushed all relationships to the side to make a bunch of money, but when he starts to feel his mortality, he googles living forever and finds a grad student who assisted an aging, wheel chaired professor in his research about immortality.
Dr. OldSoulYoungBody tells Ben Kingsley that he can put his brain into a younger body, grown from clone stock in a vat, and that he can live as a young Ryan Reynolds for the price of a small fortune. Ben Kingsley takes the deal, goes to a restaurant with his friend, and keels over, where he is taken to the brain transfer CAT scan room.
He wakes up as Ryan Reynolds. They fabricate a backstory for him, he adopts a new identity and then he is given a bottle of pills and is set up with the rich man’s ideal young life. He has money, an apartment, a bunch of expensive toys, and seems very happy using Ryan Reynolds’s face to get all the ass he can. He meets and befriends Anton, a guy with a couple of pictures of kids and a pretty baller Mustang, at a Basketball game.
So, we have our set up. Now, so far, this is kind of a cool little Sci-fi story, right? What would you do if you were young again? What kinds of things would an old man in young body be able to achieve? What are the pills about? Why am I watching this montage of him being delighted with his shallow life? Is this movie just wealth porn?
Act Two: In Which Everything Is NOT WHAT IT SEEMS?!
Because this is a movie, we need to have ourselves a plot. Ryan Kingsley forgets to take his medicine one day and has a hallucination of a bunch of disparate images. He brings this up to Dr. NotMyRealName who reveals that he knows more than he is letting on about these hallucinations, which leads to Ryan Kingsley finding out about Ryan Reynolds who, shocker, wasn’t a clone and was actually AN AMERICAN HERO, with A SICK DAUGHTER, who GAVE UP EVERYTHING FOR HER AND HIS WIFE. Which, of course, instantly makes Ryan Kingsley very sad, because he thought he was getting himself a clone.
Additionally, because this movie needs to become an action movie, it is revealed that instincts and other basic traits are carried in the brain and slowly wiped away by the pills. So, Ryan Kingsley has about a year to decide whether to be Ryan Reynolds or Ryan Kingsley. There is an action scene, and in our first twist, Anton isn’t who he thought he was! Anton actually works for the Doctor! The Doctor turns out to be the Old Guy from the first part of the movie! The friend that went to lunch where Ben Kingsley died used the Doctor to put his paralyzed son into a new body!
It better be an action movie!
Ryan Reynold’s wife and kid have been kidnapped by the bad guys, so Ryan Kingsley stops taking his medicine to figure out where they took her. He ends up finding a warehouse and attacks it using his army skills. Action scene. He gets captured, and Anton is going to be put into him, but he puts a piece of metal into his mouth, which prevents the CAT scan from doing its work and putting Anton’s brain into Ryan Reynolds’s brain over Ben Kingsley’s brain. Then, Ryan Kingsley fakes being Anton, grabs a flamethrower, and flamethrowers the doctor, saving the wife and kid. Then, he sends them to the Caribbean, figures his life out, reconnects with his daughter and gives her a letter, and then stops taking the drugs so that Ryan Reynolds will come back.
Really. The end of the movie is Ryan Reynolds getting back together with his wife who thought he was dead and then met a man wearing his skin as a suit. It’s a weird movie.
Why is this movie so bad?
So, here’s the thing. Stories like this can be very interesting. Any time people can not be who they seem, or they can move from body to body, you can make a story that is all about identity and who people are. I mean, Being John Malkovich is all about body swapping, and that movie is great! The problem with this movie is that the premise promises a bunch of cool ideas, but it withholds them to have them tell a stupid story.
What if, instead of the process being one way, the process is an actual swap of the bodies? We have young Ryan Reynolds trapped in a dying old man’s body, knowing that he did the right thing for his dying daughter, but ends up regretting his decision and attempting to find and convince Ryan to swap back.
Or, what if Anton got pushed into Ryan Reynolds’ body, but Ryan Reynolds’ had destroyed the pill supply, and Anton was seduced into giving up his life as well? The third act would be insanely cool to me then.
Or, what if both Ryan Reynolds and Ben Kingsley’s personalities were transferred into Anton’s body, and they ended up protecting the wife, but unable to touch or express their love for her?
See, the movie isn’t bad on it’s own. It’s a serviceable piece of work, but the premise could go so much farther. You could do so much with just a little thought, and each of your actors could get a little further down into the rabbit hole of playing characters. Instead, everyone just acts like they act anyway.
This movie had a lot going for it. I just wish that it had gone further into the weird and interesting, instead of being a basic action movie.