I Origins (2014)

(On Cable TV, July 2015)  Aaaargh: So much potential, so close to being exceptional.  At a time when science-fiction films are far more about spectacle than actual exploration of scientific issues, it’s refreshing to find a film that, at least, tries to grapple with a world-changing premise in a relatively realistic way.  There are times where I Origin’s low-key approach is a delightful change of pace, and if the movie could have sustained that tone, then we’d be looking at a far more interesting result.  But a good chunk of the film is either too silly or too obviously manipulated by writer/director Mike Cahill to inspire full admiration.  I’ll let much of the initial setup pass, as a young impetuous scientist meets a striking young woman and then reconnects with her through an amazing chain of coincidences.  If the film wants to start foreshadowing destiny-related themes, that’s fine.  The first of the film’s problems comes at the end of that sequence, though, with a scene so gruesomely morbid as to create more incredulous laughter than sadness.  After that, the films plod quite a bit – the protagonist is so obviously arrogant that it’s a given for his atheistic convictions to be shaken as the film goes on.  And so I Origins tips its hand very early, making the rest of the film feel like an often-tedious exercise is going exactly where we think it’s going to go.  I recall more or less the same core idea developed far more engagingly in Science-Fiction short stories.  Here, there’s no sense of discovery as much as long series of confirmations of what we already suspect: it doesn’t help that the film more slowly enough for viewers to race past it.  I still like much of the film’s layered thematic symbolism, its willingness to occasionally nod toward real science and a refreshingly low-key approach.  But it’s not very well-served by a fairly dull premise that seems to be holding back on more interesting extrapolations.  Wikipedia says that I Origins serves as a prequel to another film, but frankly I’d be more interested in seeing I than meandering in its prequel.  

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