LX 2048: Sci-fi Thriller Can’t Be Saved by a Capable Lead Performance (Review)
LX 2048 ’s premise and world introduce an abundance of interesting themes and concepts, almost none of which are satisfyingly explored.
With the state of the world at the moment, there is no shortage of crisis or impending disasters to be worried about. From a steep increase in natural disasters to political corruption across the globe, the world seems on the brink of collapse, and, if there’s one thing we can count on in uncertain times, it’s genre films attempting to make a commentary on those current events. This has given us classics such as Don Siegal’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which confronts the red scare, or George Miller’s modern masterpiece Mad Max: Fury Road, which can be seen as an exploration of faith in a world where god is absent. Done right, these films are wildly engaging and deliver their message in such a way that the audience only catches the meaning after they leave the theater. Done wrong, their attempt at relevance becomes tedious and boring, as is the case with Guy Moshe’s new film, LX 2048. It repeatedly approaches greatness but never quite arrives at the ideas it wants to dissect, resulting in a half-baked exploration of identity and the nature of humanity.
The worldbuilding for LX 2048 is decent: in the near future, the ozone layer has completely dissolved, causing the sun to turn toxic, which forces humanity to seek refuge in virtual reality (along the lines of Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One) during the day, and engage in normal actives at night. In the case of a premature death, human clones can replace an individual for a hefty price. The loss of the ozone layer functions more as a worldbuilding tool to set up the virtual reality and the cloning. The clones are immune to the harsh radiation of the sun and can survive in the daylight, making them essential personal. Virtual reality exploded in popularity due to the need to stay inside for personal safety, and now most individuals spend their days plugged in to the internet. These ideas are well thought out, and it’s not difficult to imagine a world similar to this in a few decades.
The film follows Adam Bird (James D’Arcy), a Brooker at a VR company who defies societal norms by living his life during the day (albeit under heavy hazmat equipment) and by having three children when most adults aren’t even married. One day, he is informed his heart is failing and, upon his death, his family will be supplied with a clone that is virtually identical to himself in both appearance and personality. Adam isn’t a big fan of this and inquiries about ways to prolong his life while exhibiting some alarming prejudice against the clone secretary who breaks the news. Portraying Adam as both a devoted family man and a bigot of sorts is an interesting choice: both of these character traits are crucial to the development of the plot, but leave us confused as to how to feel about him. D’Arcy, however, makes the most of the material he is given, carrying the first act of the film, which largely consists of him sitting alone in a room attending virtual meetings, acting out one side of a conversation. A majority of the film’s successes can be contributed in some way to his performance.
Unfortunately, LX 2048 quickly decreases in quality after its opening scenes [spoilers ahead]. In flashback, we see Adam being caught having a virtual affair with an A.I. named Maria, which destroys his relationship with his wife (Anna Brewster), who eventually files a restraining order against him. Once this is shown to us, Adam’s devotion to his family is put into question: why does he care so much about a family that wants nothing to do with him? Perhaps he wants to cling to a rapidly dissolving ideal of a normal family, or maybe he’s a sociopath. Both are valid guesses, as his mental state slowly deteriorates as the film progresses, due to his refusal to take a pill for depression that most citizens are on. From here, Adam is paid a visit by Donald Stein (Delroy Lindo), a former scientist who possesses knowledge of the new technology that will soon replace VR in popularity, a chip that can be injected that provides a clearer VR experience and hold a person’s memories and DNA to make a perfect clone. How this relates to Adam’s search for a way to stay alive is confusing and is the first of many subplots to be introduced and quickly forgotten, though Lindo gives a fun performance as a slightly unhinged ex-scientist.
The second half of LX 2048 is a confusing mess of plot twists and revelations that make sense in the scope of the story but feel unearned when given proper thought. Adam’s characterization bounces between the “everyman” and “chosen one” archetypes at random, sometimes taking the stance that he is a normal man dealing with extraordinary circumstances while, at other times, suggesting that he holds the key to unlocking the secret of whatever the new chip is. D’Arcy does his best to create a nuanced and stable character, but isn’t immune to the often-melodramatic exposition that pops up at the worst possible moments to inject some new bit of technobabble that the confuses both the audience and the actors. There are homages to recent classics such as Ex Machina, Blade Runner 2049, and Enemy that function less to move the plot forward and more to give the audience a moment of superiority, as they recall where they’ve heard that bit of dialogue or seen those concepts before.
The final 30 minutes of the film go from confusing to absolute bonkers in both an entertaining and exasperating way. A development earlier in the film (best left unspoiled) allows D’Arcy to play dual roles, as Adam verbally spars with his clone that appears to be an ideal version of himself. By this point, the plot has narrowed down to the point that we finally have a grasp on the story and the momentum of the scene is clear, at the expense of multiple plot points brought up earlier that remain unresolved. The two Adams engage in everything from reciting Shakespeare to guitar solos, as the original Adam ponders whether or not he truly is himself. There are some interesting ideas at play here, but, by this point, the film has bitten off more than it can chew, and it chokes at its climax. I do believe there is a good movie in here somewhere: Moshe’s script has multiple interesting ideas and concepts and the cast does the best they can. In the end, it simply tries to accomplish too much, and what would have worked better as an intimate study on relationships in an increasingly impersonal world is instead a bloated thriller that attempts a lot, but pays off very little.
LX 2048 premieres in Virtual Cinemas and North American VOD on September 25th.
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