Review – New A.I. Film Lacks Smarts (“Superintelligence”)

Another Covid movie, HBOMax grabbed this release from Warner Bros and put it on their streaming service. Imagine the movie Jexi, Transcendence, Colossus: The Forbin Project, and TV’s NeXt all rolled into one film and starring Melissa McCarthy. It should be funny, right? Well. . .

Instead of half the movie showing the cause & effect of HOW it happened, a computer somewhere in Seattle, Wa. just achieves consciousnesses and takes over every electronic device on the planet. But instead of going all SkyNet on us, it singles out a lonely, do-gooder schlubby single gal named Carol Peters (McCarthy). Why? It wants to learn more about the human condition and what better way than following Carol and learning from her? It’ll decide later whether to help mankind or end it, so no pressure, Carol!

To help Carol cope with this crazy partnership, the A.I. assumes the voice & visual likeness of talk show host & actor, James Corden. It also gives her money, a new luxury apartment, a self-driving Tesla, and top it off, a chance to get back together with her old boyfriend, George (Bobby Cannavale). The A.I. also reveals itself to Carol’s friend at Microsoft, Dennis (Brian Tyree Henry), and everyone there. Well, at least it’s not shy! Pretty soon, two NSA goons come calling (Sam Richardson & director Ben Falcone) and want Carol to explain what’s happening.

While the A.I. (James Corden) is everywhere, trying to play cupid to Carol and George, the NSA is trying their best to pull the plug on the super-intelligence by ending ALL internet connections! Only the plan backfires, leaving humanity ready to end themselves without the A.I.’s hand. But will Carol’s love for George and her naïveté save the planet? Will James Corden be our new digital overlord? Will Melissa McCarthy be in a better movie?

Unusual that writer Steve Mallory wrote this hackneyed piece of schlock, when back in 2016 he co-wrote McCarthy’s hilarious The Boss. Of course, this is only his second screenplay ever, so I guess he’s one for one. This unoriginal story, already done to death with other movies, isn’t anything new with the script trying way to hard to be funny. Result? It just lays there, drowning in lame and flat dialogue with jokes that go nowhere. I never laughed once.

Tonally, it’s all over the map. Starting off as a comedy, then shifting to a rom-com, then ending as a sci-fi thriller in the third act, failing miserably with terrible scenes that are boring, dull, and uninteresting. With Transcendence there was a serious threat that was scary, in Jexi or Her the A.I. had a benevolent purpose, but here the protagonist isn’t someone you root for. Even Carol’s boyfriend is such a man-child doofus that you didn’t care if they got back together; zero chemistry.

McCarthy’s IRL husband, Ben Falcone, directed this (like most of her films) with a steady hand. But I can’t blame him this time, as he didn’t write this nonsense. McCarthy has made some terrific movies (The Boss, Spy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?), and she’s made some bombs (Life of the Party, The Happytime Murders, Ghostbusters: Answer the Call), depending on the script. You can see her trying to glean the humor out of this vast wasteland of garbage, but not having much luck. Even her hubby, Ben, who has a few scenes with her, is trying to improve on the script. Sorry, guys. Not this time.

**Currently showing on HBOMax


Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)

Based on a 1966 novel by Dennis Feltham Jones, this lesser-known Universal picture has a computer scientist named Dr. Charles Forbin (Eric Braeden) who has built a supercomputer named Colossus so it can control all of the U.S. and Allied nuclear weapons systems (yes, it sounds alot like SkyNet, doesn’t it?). Colossus is impervious to attack, encased within a mountain, and powered by its own nuclear reactor.

All is well… until Colossus learns about Guardian, a supercomputer like him based in Russia. Colossus asks that communications be established with Guardian and the POTUS thinks this would be a good idea! Yeah, really bad idea! Once the link is established, Colossus begins sending messages, starting with simple mathematics, but it becomes increasingly more complex. After a while, Guardian responds and the two have a “thing” going on. So much so, that no one knows what they’re talking about.

Colossus, now growing exponentially more intelligence with the hook-up, suddenly becomes sentient and self-aware. Oh crap!! Solution? Pull the plug! But the two computers don’t like that idea and fake-launch nukes to prove it! Yikes! With the computers now in charge, Colossus demands that Forbin be placed under a 24-hour surveillance so that it can watch him at all times. Forbin asks his associate, Dr. Cleo Markham (Susan Clark), to pretend to be his mistress and keep him in touch with his secret plans to deactivate Colossus.

When a voice synthesizer is set up, Colossus can now speak and announces that it has become one entity. Meanwhile, scientists attempt to overload the computer by feeding it test cycles, but that attempt fails, and the individuals are ordered to be executed by firing squad… by Colossus! Shortly thereafter, Colossus plans to build an even bigger computer to be built on the island of Crete. Can you say, “world domination”?

The ending is not what you’d expect, not by a long-shot! And, for a kicker, Colossus tells Dr. Forbin, “In time, you will come to regard me not only with respect and awe, but with love”. Not the usual movie you’d find coming out of Universal to be sure, but with an unusual screenplay by James Bridges (The China Syndrome, The Paper Chase) that predates all the SkyNet/ Terminator computer take-over movies we know today.

Like an extended Twilight Zone episode or 1968’s Star Trek episode, The Ultimate Computer, it’s nerve-racking and nail-biting as this 1970 movie eerily foreshadows today’s super-computers and A.I. And the icing on the cake is, the ending doesn’t give you a “happy’ finale, like all the rest do. It’s scary and makes you think. Director Joseph Sargent (The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, MacArthur) tackles this movie with grit and a no-nonsense approach, making it that much more sinister. Do yourself a favor and rent/stream this movie!

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