Director: Josh Trank
Starring: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan
This dark, twisted thriller actually says a lot more than people give it credit for. It was undeniably a fun, exciting time that I got to experience and my phone freaked out while I was watching it which added to the experience. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the performances and was blown away by Trank as a director.
First, I would like to say that I’m not rating this movie on how it looks. It does look dated and has not aged very well. The special effects are sub-par and need serious work, but that’s not the main message of the film. I will admit that it did take away from the film’s overall appeal, though. It was hilariously terrible when your objects aren’t affected by the light that hits them and stick out like sore thumbs. As the main protagonists fly through the air, sometimes it’s apparent that they’re standing directly in front of green screens, but it’s honestly okay.
This film is really about a kid named Andrew who’s going through a hard time in his life. His father has turned into an unemployed, abusive, drunk father since his firefighting accident. His mother is dying slowly and needs to have people constantly watch her and Andrew gets bullied constantly in school. No one likes him or respects him. Andrew carries around this new camera that he buys to start recording his life. He is basically one of the first Youtube vloggers which is kinda impressive given what time this movie was released. His cousin, Matt, drags him out to this field with Steve, the school jock, and they find this weird stone that gives them powers. It’s really interesting to see the change in demeanor of the characters. Andrew and Matt gain large amounts of confidence as they start to play with their new powers, while Steve is already the school jock and shows that he’s a more caring guy than he lets on. It’s pretty interesting to see how Steve is originally the philosophical one as he references Plato’s cave right before discovering his powers to transition to Andrew thinking he is the ajax predator and justifies killing.
The cave, if you don’t know, was a story of Enlightenment originally written in Plato’s novel, The Republic. It is about a man’s journey from being in chains, to realizing the chains do not bind him, to him fully seeing the world. The main voyage of this man’s journey is returning to the cave to see where he has come from. Then he wants to tell the other men who are chained, but he can’t. They must find it themselves. This is a very rudimentary explanation, but I think it will suffice to explain its importance in the film. So the story is that after gaining their powers, Andrew, Matt, and Steve see the world differently. Originally they are just given telekinetic powers, but then they morph into something greater. Eventually they can fly! They can see the world! They see what it’s like to be to fully realize their abilities during the talent show around normal people. They have become Gods. Andrew struggles with this new God complex by deciding that he will become a predator and feel no shame in it. His character may be pushed by his abusive father or his dying mother; he no longer feels part of the human race. It’s interesting because as he comes down into the cave, he decides to attack everyone still bound instead of trying to help them. As Steve and Matt try to control him and think about his actions, he goes insane. Andrew is not Enlightened, he’s still chained to his former self. He cheated his way to freedom.
I think that was my favorite part of the film. The idea that they had cheated their way to the top and each used that new found ability differently. Steve was already at the top so for him, he wanted to bring more people to the top, hence the talent show in which Andrew led instead of Steve. Matt used his powers to understand his place more thoroughly. He wants to get the girl that he likes and he doesn’t use his powers to get her. Instead, he thinks about things differently and wins her that way. Their decisions impacted the rest of the film and I thought that was interesting.
Their downfalls were also linked to their decisions on what to do with their powers. Steve is trying to bring people up and gets too close to Andrew and ends up getting struck in the crossfire of Andrew having a mental breakdown. Andrew does feel the pain of killing Steve, but Andrew writes it off as being part of a group of predators. He justifies it with the “lion does not feel remorse when he kills the gazelle”. Which is wrong in a couple of ways. I don’t think that you can compare humans to lions because we have a conscious. A lion doesn’t live in a network to understand its ramifications when a human does. Andrew actually admits to the next fault which is that “man needs tools to kill”. A lion only uses itself so it needs no handicap. The need for tools is the thought that man is weaker or needs help to kill the thing it needs. A lion wouldn’t understand that. Yes, you are the predator, but you need a conscious to fully understand that. That’s what Andrew’s downfall is. That he believes that he is the ajax predator and he can not be stopped. His thoughts are filled to the brim with fallacies that he can’t understand and he gets too greedy and makes his mistake. Matt references Andrew’s “hubris” (fatal flaw) many times and it was wonderful foreshadowing.
Overall, this movie has way more too it than originally meets the eye. I would highly recommend it. Unfortunately, it does appear a little dated, but if you can get over that to see the greater message, it’s a great time.
Score: 7 out of 10