Written by Alexander Reams
Most films about the future wish to remember the past as if it was better. Oftentimes the past is the teaching moment for the times ahead, something the future always forgets. Much like Lisa Joy’s directorial debut Reminiscence. In a now flooded Miami, a man (Hugh Jackman) searches for his lost love through an inception-like machine. With these floods came heat, and with that the population became nocturnal to escape the sun. All the while, the rich, colloquially titled “Barons”, live on their own secluded island and leave everyone else to rot. With a film as heavy loaded with CGI, one would assume that they would be great effects, considering who is behind the camera, Joy is one of the co-creators of Westworld, that has some of the best effects on television, and rivals a lot of major studio films. Unfortunately they are mildewed with sets that seep with rushed work. While they elevate some scenes, one standout being a fight in an underwater performance house, they often reminded me I was watching a CG laden film. Especially in action/sci-fi films, I don’t want to remember I am watching something. I love to be swept away in a world of illogical decisions, unrealistic premises that become all too real, and all too personal by the end.
There are countless films that have taken a piece of this premise and done worlds better in almost every aspect of filmmaking. Lisa Joy clearly has a flair for the science fiction genre, but it felt as if Warner Bros did not want her to take what she learned from creating the massive world in Westworld, instead making a paint-by-numbers picture that clearly was inspired by Inception, but worlds apart in terms of the marrow of filmmaking ie. acting, writing, execution. Hugh Jackman has been slowing down his output, and he was one of the leading reasons I was excited to see this film. He rarely turns in mediocre performances, but unfortunately it does happen here. Always feeling like he is sleepwalking, and never commanding the screen like he has done in the past with such films as Les Miserables, Bad Education, or any of his turns as “Logan/ Wolverine”. The same can be said for most of the cast, except one, who is reduced to a glorified cameo, Daniel Wu. As an Asian-American, cajun, gangster, who could be a typecast and stereotypical role, Wu takes it and has the most fun out of the entire cast.
Lisa Joy has a way with telling grand stories on an even grander scale, evident by her creativity throughout Westworld. Even with this, Reminiscence fails where films like Inception and Tenet succeed. Playing with time is a difficult task to even play with, let alone succeed and make it work for the audience. Joy wants to, but she is compressed from a 10 hour season to a 2 hour film, and she continually introduces new concepts up until the credits roll. I don’t blame her, I blame Warner Bros. They have a very public reputation of going in and recutting films, screwing over some of the most brilliant filmmakers of our time (i.e. Zack Snyder, I will never forgive what they did to him). Let us remember when the runtime was posted online for the first time, 148 minutes. That sounds about right from what the trailer showed us. Then as the release date became closer, it dropped to 116 minutes. That began to scare me, and when my fears came to pass, those fears turned to frustration. I wish I had more positive things to say about this debut, but I don’t. I still have great things to say about Lisa Joy, this does not undo everything she has created with Westworld. This had the potential to be a great film that would influence other filmmakers for years to come, instead we were given a disappointing, boring film that left me feeling empty, like the story was incomplete.
Reminiscence is currently in wide theatrical release and streaming on HBO Max.
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