Tuesday, September 3, 2013

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Spike Jonze's HER Is An "Artificial Intelligence" Sci-Fi Romance Film, But How Will It End?



While perusing the "Fall Movie Preview" issue of Entertainment Weekly (August 16/23), I learned about HER, a forthcoming film written and directed by Spike Jonze (BEING JOHN MALKOVICH). It stars Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlet Johansson. If this is the first time you've heard about this film, check out the premise (via the official movie site):
Set in the Los Angeles of the slight future, “Her” follows Theodore Twombly, a complex, soulful man who makes his living writing touching, personal letters for other people. Heartbroken after the end of a long relationship, he becomes intrigued with a new, advanced operating system, which promises to be an intuitive entity in its own right, individual to each user. Upon initiating it, he is delighted to meet “Samantha,” a bright, female voice, who is insightful, sensitive and surprisingly funny. As her needs and desires grow, in tandem with his own, their friendship deepens into an eventual love for each other.
Like, OMG WOW! Another science fiction romance film! As of this posting, HER will be in U.S. theaters November 20, 2013.

Sci-fi romances featuring A.I. characters fascinate me to no end. So I was thrilled to learn about HER. And the "Genres" tags at IMDB are comedy, drama, romance, and sci-fi!

Check out the scrumptious trailer:



Fantastic, isn't it? I hope the story's near-future setting translates to increased appeal for mainstream audiences.

Here's the thing: I really, really hope this film has a Happily Ever After. Why? Well, I'm thinking back to THE TWILIGHT ZONE episode "The Lonely." In that story, the protagonist and his android lover were denied their HEA (in a violent fashion as well). Tragic love stories have their value, but non-tragic cinematic romances featuring A.I. characters are painfully rare. Given that it's now the year 2013, will HER have the guts to go a different route and embrace the concept of an unusual romance that ends on a positive note?

In the EW article, Spike Jonze had this to say about the story: "On one level it's about technology and the way we're living our lives…But hopefully it's more about the way we long to connect." You can also grasp a sense of his vision for the film in the article Spike Jonze on "Her" Femininity and His Vision of the Future (no spoilers).

Be still my beating heart! It'd be epic if HER captured the spirit of a science fiction romance in such a straightforward, unabashed manner.

The premise and trailer certainly pose a number of intriguing, SFR-themed questions. Who is this man Theodore? Why is he drawn to an artificial construct? Is the fact that he falls in love with an operating system indicative of a mental disorder? Is Theodore nothing more than a gullible social misfit?

Because he's a writer--an artist by trade--does his relationship with Samantha simply mean his imagination is running wild? Or perhaps he's incredibly open-minded, nonjudgmental, and has a progressively broad definition of "person."


HER might even touch upon issues that authors like Catherine Asaro (ALPHA) have been exploring for years, namely, the evolution of artificial intelligence and its intersection with love and relationships. Maybe Samantha, the operating system in HER, is in the process of becoming a sentient being. Might Theodore be the first person to make this discovery? And if so, how much of a role will he play in guiding or influencing Samantha's development?

Will anyone else learn about their romance? Will an external force threaten their relationship? My goodness, how the plot thickens!

How will HER position the romance, I wonder? Will Theodore and Samantha's relationship be depicted as healthy or dysfunctional? It'll be very interesting to see how the film articulates and addresses the various issues. It might have a crystal clear agenda, or it might be ambiguous in nature. In the end, maybe the film will invite the viewer to decide what this kind of romance implies.

Oooh, I love a good mystery! When HER releases, I'm going to rush right out and see it to learn the answers to my questions. What about you? 

Joyfully yours,

Heather