‘Reminiscence’: why the ‘Westworld’ creator’s neo-noir’s catastrophic box office is bad news for the older sci-fi
Go ahead a truism that in principle would not be necessary to specify, but you never know: it is not a problem that there is science fiction for the family or for all audiences. Marvel movies or ‘Star Wars’ belong to a tradition that has given us great classics of the genre: Within those same two franchises, in fact, there are quite a few examples of great movies, and it is good that they are.
Nor is it a problem that, systematically, family science fiction cinema chains one success after another. It is designed for that. And although large franchises sometimes notice the springs of products generated in dispatches, by themselves they should not pose a threat to the genre. ‘Doctor Who ‘is family science fiction, as are the LEGO movies,’ Honey I’ve shrunk the kids ‘,’ ET the Alien ‘,’The Iron Giant ‘and a lot of Pixar movies like’ Wall-E ‘or’ The Incredibles’. Classic and more classic.
The problem is that there is a very fine line between the brute who gives you a joke shove and leaves you turulato in the schoolyard and the genuine bully who is going to make blood. The drama is coming when that familiar sci-fi is so overwhelmingly successful it devours the rest of the genre. Because nobody wants to see or produce anything else.
At the end of the day it makes sense from the point of view of the production companies: why would Disney want to make R movies – only for adults – if moderating violence, controversial content, and smoothing out script roughness so that everyone will like it, young and old, do you get much more success? From an industrial point of view, it makes sense. From a creative point of view, it has its problems.
Great little sci-fi
There are always going to be independent productions that take risks. We will not miss films like ‘Ex Machina’, ‘Coherence’, ‘El infinito’, the Spanish ‘El hoyo’, ‘Melanie. The Girl with All the Gifts’, ‘Vivarium’ or ‘The Vast of Night’. Movies about size between medium and miniscule that dare to go further in the daring of their proposals. Television is a great testing ground for riskier science fiction, sometimes even with very generous budgets, as we have seen in ‘Westworld’, ‘See’, ‘Counterpart’ or the upcoming ‘Foundation’, to name just one. small sample.
But the cinema mainstream is somewhat more stagnant in the creative section of science fiction, overwhelmed by the concatenation of successive phases of Marvel and DC, sequels -failed or not- of ‘Star Wars’ and franchises like the Monsterverse of Kong and Godzilla propping up show narratives mammoth and for all audiences. It’s a shame, because in this way only the more adult science fiction and less oriented to the pure show find accommodation when it comes backed by box office names like Christopher Nolan or Denis Villeneuve.
In these circumstances comes ‘Reminiscence’, a film that also has a relatively well-known name behind it, that of Lisa Joy. It is her debut as a director and screenwriter in the cinema, but her fame comes from her role as a producer, showrunner (and occasional director and screenwriter) of the series ‘Westworld’, one of the most ambitious and prestigious products of the HBO post-‘Game of Thrones’ wave.
Warner relied on her for this genre production that, like ‘Westworld’, it has more thought than action, but has had no luck at the box office. In fact, its debacle has been spectacular: it has become the worst premiere of all time for a film released in more than 3,000 theaters. In other words, in its first weekend it grossed $ 2 million in 3,265 theaters, a meager $ 612 per movie theater. With a $ 68 million budget, the bills are far from over.
Finding culprits is a tremendously complex task: the situation is still complicated in the United States, the premiere date in the middle of August is not the most attractive and, of course, there is the policy of Warner that all its premieres go through theaters at the same time and HBO Max. A policy that is increasingly finding more detractors, both outside Warner (Sony and the MPA were the last companies to take a critical position) and within (as both Denis Villeneuve and Patty Jenkins have recently stated). It is a strategy that is not yet clear that it will be positive for the box office.
An undeserved failure for a different science fiction
Lisa Joy’s movie isn’t perfect, and it’s not even particularly original, but it didn’t deserve the box office debacle. It proposes an approach to science fiction that in the eighties and nineties was more common, but due to the dominance of the science-fiction spectacle that we related above, it is placed closer to independent cinema than to the large studio production that it really is.
In it we will meet Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman), who runs a memory recovery business. With his partner Watts (Thandiwe Newton) he investigates the memory of his clients and relives the moments of the past that they desire. Until a new client (Rebecca Ferguson) He shows up to retrieve some lost keys and begins a complicated relationship with Bannister.
‘Reminiscence’ presses many keys of the genre noir, and it does so by playing with old-fashioned topics and reformulating them in that excellent setting that is the Miami of the future, half flooded by climate change: the fatal Woman from Rebecca Ferguson, the starting point of the lost object, interactions with both the police and the underworld, the double and triple betrayals, the city itself as a setting with personality and that raises an interesting background of social commentary …
It is obvious that ‘Reminiscence’ drinks from films like ‘Blade Runner’, which already they imposed the cliché of mixing detective films hard-boiled, raincoat and scabby office included, with science fiction concepts and based on cult classics like ‘Lemmy against Alphaville’ or ‘Soylent Green’. In genre literature, cyberpunk reinforced this idea with classic works such as ‘Neuromancer’, and over a couple of decades, films such as ‘Brazil’, ‘Dark City’, ‘Gattaca’ or ‘Level 13’ had an impact on it.
That setting alone justifies the trip to the world of ‘Reminiscence’. Despite excesses that border on involuntary caricature (having Ferguson work as a jazz singer in a night club is to force the machinery a little), the aforementioned city of Miami and the gentle style of investigation that unfolds before the viewer has an unspectacular tone very estimable. A perfect cast (especially them) does the rest.
‘Reminiscence’ is far from perfect. In addition to the neo-black It’s a stimulating environment but one that leads the script too often to fool around with clichés, Lisa Joy’s writing isn’t always as sharp as it should be. The movie It takes time to start up and absolutely all the action is underlined by a leaden and over-explanatory voice-over. by Hugh Jackman, who does not leave a single one of the film’s themes untouched.
Nevertheless, is a film that presents an alternative atmosphere and development to the Hollywood sausage factory, and he would have deserved better luck. Unfortunately, the late claim is not going to save its box office, but it would be a shame if its virtues were lost blurred between mammoth adaptations of classics, space operas family and superhero sagas clones each other.