People who see a lot of films (and especially those that write about them) know that a mediocre movie is, in many ways, worse than a bad movie. Straight-up bad movies give us the chance to enjoy their badness, to revel in them even (at times). They give us unintentional comedy, bad acting, dreadfully yummy terrible dialogue, and sometimes all of the above. Mediocrity breeds contempt – we’re left with something not good enough nor bad enough to love or hate.
What’s worse is potential spoiled. Think Lindsay Lohan or an athlete with all of the tools save a head that keeps them away from trouble. Sci-fi films seem to bask in this area, with the squandered corpses of Daybreakers, Repo Men and Surrogates just the most recent victims. Potentially brilliant films that piss away their talents in favor of mindless gore or wooden acting or convoluted stories.
In Time is particularly vexing. It comes from the mind of two of the premier sci-fi-lite stories of the last 15 years, Andrew Niccol, the writer-director of Gattaca and the writer of The Truman Show, two films that caught audiences’ imaginations and hearts. Since then, he took a stab at a techie fantasy (S1m0ne, which bombed miserably, both critically and commercially) and a crime thriller (Lord of War, which was a mild success but didn’t catch on culturally like his earlier work; it also starred Nic Cage, which couldn’t have helped). In Time, from the get-go, appeared to be a spiritual sequel to Gattaca, another DNA-laced, futuristic thriller, complete with vintage vehicles this time around, too.
Methinks he doth cling too much to his past, whilst learning nothing from it. Where Gattaca was graceful and beautiful, In Time is clunky and laden with more manufactured drama than helices of DNA. It might well have been called Countdown: The Movie.
In the world of In Time, humans have (somehow, just go with it) figured a way to cease the aging process at the ripe old age of 25. There’s a catch, though, as time has literally become money, a conceit that’s pounded into our heads so many times I can’t escape the puns. For whence you turn a quarter-century, a magical implanted (or something) timer on your arm starts to count down to 0 seconds from one year – in other words, you only get to live to 26…unless you purchase and/or steal time from others, a tactic so hastily plotted that the loose ends build up like, uh, sands in an hourglass.
This is the setup we’re sold, and while Niccol probably convinced himself that the commentary on class warfare was noble, and the 99/1 per cent seems awfully relevant, especially in light of real-world events that have transpired since the film finished production, the film instead turns into a futuristic Robin Hood tale…just with heaps and heaps of manufactured ticking clock drama.
Also of note:
* If there’s one reason to see this for sure, or to at least keep an eye out on YouTube for in a few months, it’s what might just be the worst practical effect I’ve seen in a big-budget film in years. A car crash so unbelievably fake and obviously done using scale models that it goes from “not even funny, just sad” to “wow, that’s hilariously bad.” There’s something off with the sound editing or something, it’s just…it has to be seen.
* Amanda Seyfried is forced to run for so long whilst wearing high heels that even my feet hurt for her, not to mention my ability to believe that anyone could run that far or that fast while wearing said footwear. All in the name of fashion and/or making her appear closer to her co-star’s height, I suppose.