Impressively resolute in its gloom but hopelessly dispersed in its approach, the sci-fi film Warning consists of half a dozen storylines that are so at war with each other that they never blend into a movie. Each of Agata Alexander’s film thumbnails could be developed into an intriguing feature film. In fact, one of them is basically a shortened version of Brandon Cronenberg. Possessor. Corn Warning presents these ideas too quickly and superficially. As soon as they get interesting, the film overtakes them, with little connective tissue in between. The result is admirable as it is dark in its many facets, but overall, Warning is too disjointed and underdeveloped to really make an impact with its dystopian warnings.
Alexander has a good grasp of what we expect from science fiction, and she and cinematographer Jakub Kijowski are collaborating on a number of disturbing images. It’s a shame that they are also so familiar. An astronaut floating in black space, a brutalist mansion nestled in the woods, a pair of almost naked bodies connected by tubes and pipes, a cyborg moving with precise robotism. These are archetypal moments that have bounced around this genre for a long time, and Warning presents them effectively. Some of them are even surprisingly emotional, like a pair of robot butlers doing a stiff waltz with each other to pass the time. Or annoying, like a man in a VR headset, covered in what looks like black oil, writhing in pain under the intensity of a memory.
But at the same time Warning puts the cornerstones of the genre together, Alexander doesn’t build on them with a lot of creativity. That’s especially clear in the script, from Alexander and co-writers Jason Kaye and Rob Michaelson, who flirt with a common genre idea through subplot, but then move on to something new instead of digging deep. Yes, humans consume more than they need, too often rely on nostalgia, and act selfishly and tribally – but reciting these facts doesn’t make up a real story.
One of the best concepts Warning imagine too briefly that AI could be the same way, and that humanity’s worst qualities – meanness, classism, hypocrisy – could be passed on to the descendants of cyborgs we conceive of. Still Warning practically sprints away from anything that would require more effort than eliciting a simple “Hmm, interesting” reaction. And the way each subplot ends with a “Does it suck to be alive?” Message, indicates a reluctance to push anything here any further.
Located in a “not too distant” future, Warning takes place both on a version of Earth with a few more invasive technological devices and reporting of COVID-19 outbreaks, and in space far from Earth, but with a line of sight towards it. Artificial intelligence is everywhere and has largely replaced human-to-human contact. While repairing a satellite, maintenance technician David (Thomas Jane) communicates with an AI system that quickly shows their comparative values. (His company has determined its value at $ 500,000, while AI’s is $ 40 million.)
Meanwhile, a huge space storm that produces eerie red clouds and crackling lightning bolts behind David as he works is also causing a series of thunderstorms on Earth. As David complains about his job, his life, and everything else to AI, Warning moves to the Big Blue Marble.
In what appears to be exclusively the United States, people and robots are trying to carve out a flourishing existence in a dark time. The engaged couple Nina (Annabelle Wallis) and Liam (Alex Pettyfer) visit her wealthy and critical parents for dinner. Robotic Shelter Keeper Brian (Tomasz Kot) tries to find placements for his wards, including the eager to please Charlie (Rupert Everett), who dreads being downgraded.
Also: Ben (Patrick Schwarzenegger) and Anna (Kylie Bunbury) are in a seemingly idyllic relationship, but a sort of black figure follows Anna, questioning her idea of ââreality. Claire (Alice Eve, doing a pre-lit Kristen Bell version of Eleanor from The right place) obsessively relies on his divine apparatus (voiced by James D’Arcy) to regulate his life and measures his self-esteem in the accumulation of his sins and good deeds.
And besides: Teenage Magda (Garance Marillier), by accepting a gig through a service called Second Skin, gets the upper hand in a business relationship that sometimes proves that men only want women for their bodies. (The film includes a scene of an unnecessary attempted rape, filmed from the perspective of the attacked woman.)
Some subplots are better than others. The Ben / Anna story is yet another tiring man slog, and the Claire / God-device satire is toothless. On the other hand, the Brian / Charlie story would make a heartbreaking animated film, and if the Nina / Liam duo were expanded, it could look like the really good one. I am your man. But there is only one main common thread connecting these characters, and it is repetitive: almost every one of them questions the existence of God. The existence of a religious question in Warning isn’t a problem, but the superficiality (and assumed Christianity) of his approach doesn’t leave viewers much to counter all the desperation.
On the one hand, Warning seems to say that technology has replaced all of our value and belief systems, so we have forgotten an essential component of what humanity is. (Claire not knowing how to pray “manually” is the funniest part of this segment.) On the other hand, such a heavy question deserves more energy than Warning provides.
An angry monologue followed by a melancholy monologue followed by another angry monologue ages quickly, though there is some amusement to Jane’s arrogant delivery of David’s call to God, “What’s the lesson.” here ? What, am I selfish? I already knew that! âUnfortunately, Warning is full of sci-fi conclusions that genre fans are already familiar with, and the film’s title says it all.