Upgrade (2018) creates an ultimate blend of sci-fi and vigilante justice.
So I went into the theater hoping for a grind house movie right out of the 70s based on the two previews I saw. What I got is one of the canniest science fiction movies of recent times. It takes place in a very familiar near future and tells the tale of technology gone wrong. The movie is Upgrade.
The Set Up
Upgrade tells the tale of a tech-phobe named Grey who works on restoring old cars. He’s married to a woman who does research at one of the big tech companies. One night, he takes her along for the delivery of a classic car to a reclusive billionaire. On the way home, their self driving car is hijacked and they are brought to a secluded location.
Grey’s wife is murdered right in front of his eyes and a bullet trough his spine leaves him a quadriplegic with no movement below his neck. The mystery becomes why was his wife murdered. The solution may be that reclusive high tech billionaire who offers him a way out of that wheelchair.
For those of us old enough to remember, this movie is a modern update of the Six Million Dollar Man. In that 1970s TV show, an astronaut is given bionic limbs after a crash and goes to work for a secret government organization. Here, our hero (played by Logan Marshall-Green) is given a microprocessor called STEM that takes over his nervous system and bypasses his injury and allows him to walk again.
STEM is the new HAL
As in the best science fiction, the technology has unintended consequences as STEM becomes sentient, much the same way HAL did in 2001. It begins conversing with Grey and accesses technology that give him the clues to begin the hunt for his wife’s killers. But not only does the STEM restore movement, but it allows the human body to move in the most mathematically efficient manner possible. This allows us to see what the human body is capable of in all it’s ass kicking glory!
As the plot unfolds, it turns out a rival tech company to Grey’s wife has been weaponizing catastrophically injured soldiers. They actually have guns implanted in their arms and can shoot butlers out their palms of their hands and can spit nano-bytes at their enemies. And yes, this movie actually pulls off this absurd concept as the movie rockets to multiple final confrontations as the mystery is unraveled.
Unlike horror, there is a dearth of classics in the sci-fi genre in recent years. So here is one with the dark underbelly of Blade Runner, with the distrust of technology of Terminator, combined with the new flesh concepts of David Cronenberg during his heyday. Dumped in the summer movie season, it opened with a six million gross its opening weekend despite an 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. All of you need to go find a drive in and discover this modern classic right out of the 1980s!
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