J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Singularity: John Cusack Hates People

It represents the maybe not so theoretical point at which artificial intelligence surpasses the old fashioned human variety. The implications for humanity are pretty scary, but at least the exponentially upgrading AI would not make a moronic movie like this. Mankind is done for, but we only have ourselves and John Cusack to blame in Robert Kouba’s Singularity (trailer here), which releases today on DVD.

Robotics industrialist Elias Van Dorne is about to solve the world’s problems by switching on Kronos, a supposedly utopian AI program. Unfortunately, Kronos immediately decides the only thing wrong with the world is all the people, so it naturally begins exterminating all us pesky buggers. You would think a genius like Van Dorne would have seen that one coming. Actually, he sort of did. That is why he took the precaution of uploading his consciousness and that of his craggy associate Damien Walsh into the Matrix, or whatever.

Ninety-seven years later, the Van Dorne and Walsh analogs oversee the hunt for the remaining human remnants. When we last saw Andrew Davis, he was returning from a visit to his mother on Armageddon day, wondering why he didn’t have more chances to direct films after he was nominated for The Fugitive. Consequently, he is quite confused to wake up in the post-apocalyptic Czech countryside.

Thanks to the hybrid AI programs’ exposition heavy chit chat, we quickly realize he is a trojan horse they have developed. The idea is he will hook up with the Hunger Games wannabe Calia, who will lead them all to the fabled human refuge, Aurora. For some reason, she thinks a crossbow is the best weapon to use against hunter-robots (maybe she found it in the crossbow range on the grounds of Prague Castle). She is not inclined to trust, but Van Dorne 2.0 was fiendishly clever, endowing Davis with a moral compass and free will, making it a lead pipe cinch he will win Calia over.

Kouba tries to dress the film up with some big concepts in Singularity, but it is still dumber than a bag full of hammers. No wonder mankind is so perilously close to extinction—intuition has completely disappeared. It also represents a new nadir in John Cusack’s current string of straight-to-DVD or “excuse-me” stealth theatrical releases. Reportedly, he shot his evil digital overlord scenes years after the rest of the film was in the can.

Cusack’s screen time might be brief, but he is still awful as Van Dorne, not that he has much to work with. The character might have been somewhat provocative is he were some kind of over-population worrywart, like Warren Buffet, but there is no real reason provided for his apocalyptic betrayal of humanity. As Davis, Julian Schaffner looks like he could fly off with a strong gust of wind. Veteran character actor Carmen Argenziano looks visibly bored as the Walsh digital-construct, but can you blame him? Only Jeannine Wacker’s Calia/Katniss shows any signs of life, but it definitely comes in a losing effort.


The maddening lack of resolution is obviously designed to spur enthusiasm for the intended epic space opera follow-ups, but it is hard to imagine anyone who watches Singularity will be eager to come back for more. That’s what happens when you do not concentrate on the task at hand. Not recommended, Singularity releases today on DVD.

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