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Movie

Finch
(2021)

 

An all-too-familiar vision of Gretageddon, in which the Earth has been rendered a superheated dustbowl, and the future lies not without our obsolete species but posthuman inheritors. Actually, the cause of Finch‘s apocalyptic hell isn’t our reliance on fossil fuels – burn those heretic screenwriters Craig Luck and Ivor Powell! – but rather a nasty “solar flare” wiping out the ozone layer. I guess it’s about time the ozone layer was dusted off again, although I’d assumed it was considered very passé and so late twentieth century (solar fares are a popular source of predictive programming, though, one even alternative circles often buy into).

FinchThe flare didn’t finish us off – we did that ourselves. Some people hid and locked their doors… tried to pretend it wasn’t really happening. They didn’t t last long. The rest of us did what we had to do to survive. We scavenged and fought over what was left behind until there was nothing left.

One thing is made abundantly clear in Finch; humans are doomed. And what’s clearer: we’ve got it coming. We learn that “When the flare hit, it completely destroyed the ozone, and then the EMP took out everything electrical just like that”. But it was humans’ behaviour, dog eat dog, that did for them.

Finch (Guantanamo Hanks, or rather, his ever-popular brother/clone/AI avatar; albeit, this is said to have been shot in 2019) is a former employee of TAE Technologies (“space energy fusion” appears on the shoulder insignia). He’s more than a little crook, suffering, per his books, “The Effects of Exposure to Ionising Radiation” (also in his library: Gamma Ray BurstsHow the Sun Can Kill UsApocalypse Survival 2028 edition, most likely setting the picture in the 2040s). He has a dependent relying on him, however, a dog called Goodyear (thankfully, not played by ILM, but Seamus). He took the dog into his possession after witnessing the slaughter of its owners. So you see, humans are bad, as even the good one is a self-professed coward. Not that anything America’s favourite Tom could do could be truly wrong, hence his words of wisdom throughout and status as the originator of the bright new future for life on Earth.

Finch needs someone to take care of his dog when he is gone, in such capacity building an intelligent robot (he also has a less intelligent one, Dewey, referencing earlier apocalyptic future classic Silent Running). Much of the proceedings are taken up with Finch educating the AI – Jeff, as it will call itself – during a road trip necessitated by an oncoming storm. Jeff, motion-captured by Caleb Landry Jones, is the opportunity for much “Komedy!” in the lineage of Chappie and Number 5, replete with prat falls, eccentric verbiage, childlike mistakes, naivety and precociousness (all of which become rather wearying fast). The picture doubtless believes this is germane and a desirable contrast to Finch intermittently coughing up gallons of blood (very Amblin).

This may be an arid, grim future, but as visualised by Jo Willems (Red Sparrow), it’s significantly less unappealing than your average Janusz Kamiński joint (you’d rather live here than Spielberg’s ’50s NYC, regardless of the 150F (66C) temperatures blistering your skin and a generally inimical atmosphere comprising acid rain and predatory fellow humans. Director Miguel Sapochnik (Repo Men, but best known for his Game of Thrones work) delivers the material serviceably, but there’s only so much he can do with the screenplay. Craig Luck penned it as BIOS, and then worked on it with producer Ivor Powell (AlienBlade Runner).

At points – the deserted city laden with traps – Finch clearly has I Am Legend in mind, while its solitary nature suggests a slightly less irradiated, desolate The Road. Vibrant, uplifting environments both, but the picture opts out of inevitable doom with the introduction of some butterflies and a low UV zone (some special flavour of San Francisco, presumably); it seems scenes shot with some nice humans were ditched in favour of something more open ended. As the director tells it, there was up to “another third of a movie”.

Introducing nice humans rather goes against the grain of Finch, though, which is announcing the posthuman ideal. In transhumanist terms, this could ostensibly represent a future state of enhanced capacities of the former human, “progressed” too far to be classed as mere flesh and blood humans any more. Or it could be your basic AI, poised to take over from us (a big thing is made of programming the robot with Asimov’s laws of robotics. Which, in Finch’s world, makes him Yahweh, and Jeff privileged to receive the Ten Commandments).

The movie was originally a Universal release, snapped up by AppleTV+ as an enticement to sign up to their meagre roster of titles. Sapochnik is currently busy with ill-advised Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon, while Guantanamo’s avatar is poised to play the corrupter/exploiter of the young and innocent in Elvis (as Colonel Tom Parker) and Pinocchio (as Geppetto). He also has Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City, which is… well, it makes you wonder about Wes. Finch is unlikely to etch out much of a rep for itself, too derivative of other, better movies (and Chappie), but I guess it gets the appointed programming job done.

First published by Now in Full Color on 01/04/22.

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