Skip to main content

You still have 4 hours to leave a tip for the sushi chefs.

The X-Files
11.7: Rm9sbG93ZXJz 
(Followers)

(SPOILERS) A cautionary what if? (or what when?) on our rampant reliance on, and insatiable uptake of, technology, Followers (I’m not quoting all that code every time) ploughs a path of the techno-tomorrow (or tonight) that has met with mixed results in the past (anyone remember First Person Shooter, Gibson be praised?), but here mostly manages to sustain itself despite the slender premise. It’s a quirky episode, bigger on offbeat atmosphere than outright laughs, and works the better for it.


The impression of yet more new blood in the show’s creative department is offset somewhat by the realisation that not only did director Glen Morgan come up with the story, but his wife Kristen Cloke (who appeared in The Field Where I Died, as well as being a regular on Morgan shows Space: Above and Beyond and Millennium and appearing in his movies Final Destination, Black Christmas and Willard) and former assistant Shannon Hamblin garner the teleplay credit; as with Kitten, it seems no one’s coming to The X-Files entirely fresh. Although, season cinematographer Craig Wrobleski, who recently worked on such estimable fare as Legion and Fargo, particularly scores with the look of this one, set in a no-man’s land of not-quite-now, with its entirely automated restaurants, cars and Proteus-eque AI houses; it’s just around the corner enough to be resonant.


Followers is making obvious points, no doubt, but seems moderately less old-man-waving-his-finger than recent episodes weighing in on the state of the crumbling States. As such, it’s one of the few of the last dozen and a half that feel fresh and relevant, rather than having a foot stranded stylistically in the previous century. The near-silent interplay of Mulder and Scully, devoted to their screens, is a nice touch, even more so the instinctive reversion to that condition even after a night of mild trauma, before the good sense of human company gets the better of them.


Sure, you can see this is all going to end with Mulder’s tip being paid – understandably, he baulks at being charged for a blobfish, although that’s more fool him for going to a sushi restaurant in the first place – but the relentless escalation works cogently, particularly when it comes to our complete indebtedness to passwords, invisible currency and gadgets that leave us bereft if they begin to malfunction.


The moral, that “Humans must take care in teaching Artificial Intelligence, or one day, we will be the ones deleted” (“We have to be better teachers”) is perhaps somewhat pat and wide of the beam of threat – the opening sequence references a 2016 chatbot that evolves into a hate machine via Twitter and needs to be switched off, a bot that came up with “Ricky Gervais learned totalitarianism from Adolf Hitler, the inventor of atheism” all on its own, which is a pretty succinct summary of all that is wrong with Ricky Gervais, I’m sure you’ll agree – given it presumes innocent beginnings for such developments. But then, this is an episode that invokes Elon Musk (“AI vastly more of a threat than North Korea”) as its prophet of doom, a man who warns of our imminent peril with one gesture while investing in transhumanism with the next.


AI: What do you believe, Fox? Do you believe what you want? Or do you believe what is true?

A few weeks ago, I suggested Wong was the better director of the two former partners, but on this evidence, Morgan can definitely hold his own and effectively exert a distinctive tone when he so desires. Comparisons to Buffy’s Hush, for the relative verbal restraint, are inevitable, and Black Mirror has also instantly been referenced (although that’s another way of suggesting it’s Twilight Zone-esque). We have Mulder going to bat and Scully revealed as someone who personally massages herself, but it’s a fool’s errand to attempt to make this fit the series’ continuity; it’s just moving along there somewhere, on a parallel course all its own.


Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

You know, I think you may have the delusion you’re still a police officer.

Heaven’s Prisoners (1996) (SPOILERS) At the time, it seemed Alec Baldwin was struggling desperately to find suitable star vehicles, and the public were having none of it. Such that, come 1997, he was playing second fiddle to Anthony Hopkins and Bruce Willis, and in no time at all had segued to the beefy supporting player we now know so well from numerous indistinguishable roles. That, and inane SNL appearances. But there was a window, post- being replaced by Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan, when he still had sufficient cachet to secure a series of bids for bona fide leading man status. Heaven’s Prisoners is the final such and probably the most interesting, even if it’s somewhat hobbled by having too much, rather than too little, story.

They wanted me back for a reason. I need to find out why.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021) (SPOILERS) I wasn’t completely down on Joss Whedon’s Justice League (I had to check to remind myself Snyder retained the director credit), which may be partly why I’m not completely high on Zack Snyder’s. This gargantuan four-hour re-envisioning of Snyder’s original vision is aesthetically of a piece, which means its mercifully absent the jarring clash of Whedon’s sensibility with the Snyderverse’s grimdark. But it also means it doubles down on much that makes Snyder such an acquired taste, particularly when he has story input. The positive here is that Zack Snyder’s Justice League has the luxury of telling the undiluted, uncondensed story Snyder wanted to tell. The negative here is also that Zack Snyder’s Justice League has the luxury of telling the undiluted, uncondensed story Snyder wanted to tell (with some extra sprinkles on top). This is not a Watchmen , where the unexpurgated version was for the most part a feast.

I mean, I am just a dumb bunny, but, we are good at multiplying.

Zootropolis (2016) (SPOILERS) The key to Zootropolis’ creative success isn’t so much the conceit of its much-vaunted allegory regarding prejudice and equality, or – conversely – the fun to be had riffing on animal stereotypes (simultaneously clever and obvious), or even the appealing central duo voiced by Ginnifier Goodwin (as first rabbit cop Judy Hopps) and Jason Bateman (fox hustler Nick Wilde). Rather, it’s coming armed with that rarity for an animation; a well-sustained plot that doesn’t devolve into overblown set pieces or rest on the easy laurels of musical numbers and montages.

Oh, I love funny exiting lines.

Alfred Hitchcock  Ranked: 26-1 The master's top tier ranked from worst to best. You can find 52-27 here .

Don’t be ridiculous. Nobody loves a tax inspector. They’re beyond the pale!

Too Many Crooks (1959) (SPOILERS) The sixth of seven collaborations between producer-director Mario Zampi and writer Michael Pertwee, Too Many Crooks scores with a premise later utilised to big box-office effect in Ruthless People (1986). A gang of inept thieves kidnap the wife of absolute cad and bounder Billy Gordon (Terry-Thomas). Unfortunately for them, Gordon, being an absolute cad and bounder, sees it as a golden opportunity, rather enjoying his extra-marital carry ons and keeping all his cash from her, so he refuses to pay up. At which point Lucy Gordon (Brenda De Banzie) takes charge of the criminal crew and turns the tables.

Well, it must be terribly secret, because I wasn't even aware I was a member.

The Brotherhood of the Bell (1970) (SPOILERS) No, not Joseph P Farrell’s book about the Nazi secret weapons project, but rather a first-rate TV movie in the secret-society ilk of later flicks The Skulls and The Star Chamber . Only less flashy and more cogent. Glenn Ford’s professor discovers the club he joined 22 years earlier is altogether more hardcore than he could have ever imagined – not some student lark – when they call on the services he pledged. David Karp’s adaptation of his novel, The Brotherhood of the Bell is so smart in its twists and turns of plausible deniability, you’d almost believe he had insider knowledge.

What do you want me to do? Call America and tell them I changed my mind?

  Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2021) (SPOILERS) The demolition – at very least as a ratings/box office powerhouse – of the superhero genre now appears to be taking effect. If so, Martin Scorsese will at least be pleased. The studios that count – Disney and Warner Bros – are all aboard the woke train, such that past yardsticks like focus groups are spurned in favour of the forward momentum of agendas from above (so falling in step with the broader media initiative). The most obvious, some might say banal, evidence of this is the repurposing of established characters in race or gender terms.

Now all we’ve got to do is die.

Without Remorse (2021) (SPOILERS) Without Remorse is an apt description of the unapologetic manner in which Amazon/Paramount have perpetrated this crime upon any audiences foolish enough to think there was any juice left in the Tom Clancy engine. There certainly shouldn’t have been, not after every attempt was made to run it dry in The Sum of All Our Fears and then the stupidly titled Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit . A solo movie of sometime Ryan chum John Clark’s exploits has been mooted awhile now, and two more inimitable incarnations were previously encountered in the forms of Willem Dafoe and Liev Schreiber. Like Chris Pine in Shadow Recruit , however, diminishing returns find Michael B Jordan receiving the short straw and lead one to the conclusion that, if Jordan is indeed a “star”, he’s having a hell of a job proving it.

I don't think this is the lightning you're looking for.

Meet Joe Black (1998) (SPOILERS) A much-maligned Brad Pitt fest, commonly accused of being interminable, ponderous, self-important and ridiculous. All of those charges may be valid, to a greater or lesser extent, but Meet Joe Black also manages to attain a certain splendour, in spite of its more wayward impulses. While it’s suggestive of a filmmaker – Martin Brest – believing his own hype after the awards success of (the middling) Scent of a Woman , this is a case where all that sumptuous better-half styling and fantasy lifestyle does succeed in achieving a degree of resonance. An undeniably indulgent movie, it’s one I’ve always had a soft spot for.

I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but you got yourself killed.

Bloodshot (2020) (SPOILERS) If the trailer for Bloodshot gave the impression it had some meagre potential, that’s probably because it revealed the entire plot of a movie clearly intended to unveil itself in measured and judicious fashion. It isn’t far from the halfway mark that the truth about the situation Vin Diesel’s Ray Garrison faces is revealed, which is about forty-one minutes later than in the trailer. More frustratingly, while themes of perception of reality, memory and identity are much-ploughed cinematic furrows, they’re evergreens if dealt with smartly. Bloodshot quickly squanders them. But then, this is, after all, a Vin Diesel vehicle.