Read Richard’s current thoughts about transhumanism and related fringe topics here.
[Commentary] | [Spoilers]
Science fictions movies do not need to be about a realistic future. If the creators have something to say, they might use the trappings of science fiction.
Able Edwards, the first movie shot completely against a green screen and released the same year as Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, has something to say. Set in a future just after the decimation of humans by a biological agent and the survivors relocation to a space station, Able Edwards wants to tell us about individuality, reality, and childhood innocence. It might also have something to say about cloning and virtual reality. Like the obvious clash between the real actors and the digital backgrounds, the movie fails miserably.
Able Edwards is a mogul based on Walt Disney, a maverick who brings joy to the public through animation and theme parks. The Edwards Corporation survives his untimely death and the near extinction of the human race to become a monopolistic robotic firm. In an effort to shake up the establishment and put the company in growth mode once again, the board decides to clone Able Edwards and raise the child to take over the corporation when he turns 25 years old. A hint of climatic events in his first 25 years make him the man he becomes, something like the original Able Edwards but haunted and driven by doubts about his own individuality. After a gruesome accident that claims the life of his girlfriend, Able begins to rage against societies focus on virtual reality. When he finally takes over the company, Able has a plan: develop a physical theme park on the space station, complete with real, albeit cloned, animals, rides, and exhibits.
As his personal life unravels and clone discrimination rears its ugly head, the theme park becomes a huge success, leading to more theme parks and a senate race. In the midst of all this change, one thing becomes obvious: this cannot be the future!
While science fiction can be used only as a setting, the success of the film depends on whether or not the future is reasonable, given the plot. The future depicted in Able Edwards is not reasonable, and this becomes more and more obvious as the story’s timeline moves through the years. In one scene, Able sits at a kitchen table next to his wife who is stirring and sipping coffee in a mug. They are on a space station with homes right out of “Ozzie and Harriet”! Occasional badly designed CGI robot and space station exterior shots, bullet train, and holographic video displays are the extent of futurism in this tale. Oh, and the androids that are different from humans only because they have ugly contact lenses and their hair is slicked back.
These science fiction trappings fail to invoke anything of the future, and the story of the clone fails to invoke any emotion other than sentimentality: Able sings softly to his baby sleeping in a not-at-all futuristic crib; someone snarls that he is doing a good job “for a clone”; his wife grows distant, because a big jump in time has occurred between scenes and she is inexplicably angry all the time now; etc.
What ultimately does the movie have to say? The future will be little different from the present. Humans will not change, and we will take our modern foibles, with a nice dash of the 1950’s, with us to space. Clones will question their existence off screen while androids passively stand doing nothing in their freaky contact lenses.
In other words, nothing is said about anything. I give this movie 2 out of 5 stars, only because out of all the bad acting, Scott Kelly Galbreath is surprisingly engaging as Able Edwards and his progenitor, despite most of his angst occurring offscreen.