Monday, 17 February 2014

Review: Idiocracy

Last week I reviewed a webseries that took place in the sort of near future we typically predict in films and television - a highly technically advanced one. The film I am reviewing today stands out by looking at the opposite end of this scale, by asking - what if instead of becoming smarter, humanity just became more and more stupid? 

Idiocracy (2006) is a satirical comedy directed by Mike Judge and starring Luke Wilson as Joe Bauers, an average American solider who is used as a test subject for a deep freeze experiment. Meant to frozen for only a year, he instead wakes up five-hundred years later, into future of automated services, and really dumb people. 

I think my favourite thing about this film is the brilliant, fully realised, dumbed-down world. The crumbling unmaintained buildings, the rubbish piled in the street, the buckets of mush that the people eat and the particularly the insidious advertisement. Yes, advertisements are everywhere now, and in other future worlds too, but I've yet to see another world were branded wallpaper is plastered over the walls of a hospital. Or one where an energy drink has replaced water - completely. It's perhaps a little stereotypical at times, but it gets its point across.

What I also think is good about this film is that it doesn't become mean. Yes it is a comedy and yes, the majority of characters are complete idiots, but they are not bad people. They live in an uneducated, semi-automated world were no-one questions anything any longer - and that's the truly worrying thing. 

In other frightening futures' it is organisations or ideologies run by smart people that control society but in Idiocracy there is no-one running the show, its simply a lack of comprehension and understanding instead. Which is disheartening, because at least in the former worlds you can have rebels. In the Idicracy future no-one has the ability to change anything because they have evolved from the least brightest - as explained in the opening. 

Forunately the film does have a hero in Joe who, though he can be quite naive - he believes his a prostitute called Rita (played by Maya Rudolph) when she lies about being a painter - sees that human society helps need. 

His arc is pretty typical and you can sort of see what's coming, but the message I think is a still a worthy one - that you can't remain passive forever. 

The only thing that bothered me about the film, other than the average plotline - a guy arrives, tries to go home, is made to help society etc - was the voice-over. The narration did provide useful information occasional and did enrich the film somewhat, but it also sometimes felt unnecessary to me. After all, the characters may be dim but the audience can guess, without someone telling them, that the court case they've just seen is ludicrous and the justice system imbecilic - there was a hooting crowd for starters. 

In summary: An interesting film that can either be viewed as a slightly crude, silly comedy, or as a rather clever satire that challenges the typical sci-fi idea that our future is going to be one of scientific achievement. I'd recommend watching this at least once, even if it is just to see what the film industry has been reduced to in that world - its worse than you think. 

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