A good idea goes entirely to waste in this woefully-executed cyberpunk webseries, with the episodes now combined back into something more or less feature-length. The heroine is Maisie (White), who gets an entry-level job working in an electronics factory belonging to the murky Asteri*k corporation. They’re making “haptic” cables which allow computers to interface directly with the brain; the potential in this idea is massive, but here, it’s explored only in a few scenes of Maisie playing a VR game in which she controls a rabbit with ninja skills. There’s some kind of rumblings that the skills learned stick in your brain, so as you become good at fighting in the virtual world, you become good in the real world. Except, this doesn’t go anywhere either – although this is probably wise, considering White’s fighting abilities, charitably described as wobbly. Instead, the film diverts in its second half into her investigation of the mysterious death of her father (Strauss), a security guard who took an unwanted promotion so she wouldn’t have to work in the factory, only to be killed by a “haphead”. Maisie investigates this, and soon discovers things are not quite what they seemed.
The problems here mostly stem from the script which comes up with any number of initially interesting concepts, including the positive and negative uses of technology, through corrupt practices of big business… and then discards them without doing anything significantly more than bringing them up (never mind even scratching the surface), instead scurrying on to the next one. The end result is less a frothy cybernetic souffle, and more a leaden lump of undercooked plot elements strapped together with old USB cables, like the parkour which shows up for no apparent reason, other than someone thought it would be cool. Or, equally likely, the film-makers’ mates wanted to be in the film.
You don’t even need big-budgets or incredible effects to do something like this justice. The makers could, and should, have learned a great deal from something like David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ, which covered a fair amount of the same ground, but did so with a script which truly explored the possibilities of virtual reality – and saved a lot of money, because the VR world was very, very similar to our own one. Of course, no doubt it helped to have Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jude Law, Willem Dafoe, etc. However, a low budget is no excuse for a bad script: indeed, the reverse is true, if your means are limited, you’d better be damn sure your script is engaging and well-written. Throwing a bunch of semi-“edgy” cyberpunk elements on top of a story painfully ill-suited to handle them, is not an acceptable substitute.
Dir: Tate Young
Star: Elysia White, David Strauss, Joanne Jansen, Kwame Kyei-Boateng