Upgrade

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Just like the main character of this film, Upgrade is a blend of man and machine.

The “man” portion is the most interesting part – and, unfortunately, it’s hardly explored. There is little contemplation on Grey (Logan Marshall-Green) being forced to commit acts of violence against his will by the AI that controls him.

We are shown the portions of humanity that hold out against the technological age, but we aren’t told anything about them. For all intents and purposes, characters like Cortez (Betty Gabriel) may as well be robots for all the personality and depth they’re given.

And why, exactly, are these people holding out against technology? Unlike other cyberpunk settings, we’re not shown any downside. I can understand the poor not being able to afford automated cars, but why would someone like Grey be against technology?

The “machine” portion of Upgrade, unfortunately, is what commands this film. Upgrade rushes through a plot that is the mechanical conglomeration of several predecessors. The characters utter poorly written lines in robotic, cold dialogue.

I’m not sure if the script was solely to blame, but the acting felt incredibly forced at times. I couldn’t decide if Logan Marshall-Green was attempting to be Tom Hardy. Asha (Melanie Vallejo) referring to Grey as ‘husband’ was both unrealistic and cringeworthy.

The world of Upgrade certainly holds the potential to be incredibly interesting. I wanted to learn more about it, to discover the hidden possibilities and lore of this cyberpunk setting. Instead, all of the cliches were neatly ticked off without any kind of depth. Even the color scheme was reminiscent of other cyberpunk media. There were certain scenes with a lot of yellow that reminded me of the game Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Speaking of video games – STEM (Simon Maiden) sounded exactly like something out of a game. I understand that STEM is a machine, and thus needed to sound robotic… but something about the portrayal came off as contrived to me.

Overall, Upgrade feels like a film that had the potential to be really good, but just couldn’t quite get there.

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