“Mr. Jennings is not not a super agent. He is an engineer.”

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I saw Paycheck yesterday and was pleasantly surprised after such stunning misses as Minority Report and Impostor. Here are a few of the pros, cons, and things I felt indifferent to. There may be spoilers, but the DVD has been out for a while (…I think…) and the previews tend to give away a lot, anyway.
PRO: Much more near-future and believable than the world of coast-to-coast rocket flights of the original short story.
PRO: The love interest is Uma. She is not a simple generic character and plot device (secretary, I believe it was?), but a biologist and a more key to the plot–still serving the same story function, just more intertwined with events.
IND: There was a good amount of action, but it was not overwhelming.
CON: The pole fighting stuff was a little unnecessary.
PRO: The collection of “mysterious objects” increased from about eight to twenty. This was mostly, I think, to pad the short story to movie length. While most of the items are different in the movie version, the ingenuity and mystery behind them all was just as great. They managed to make it NOT feel like a video game level (“okay, the red key opens the red door and the blue key opens the blue door, now I need to find a green door to match this key”).
PRO: The silly climax of a skill-crane “time scoop” dropping from a wormhole and snatching an object from the bad guy was not used. Every time I read that part, all I could think of was those booths at the arcade that let you try to pick up trinkets with a mechanical claw on a cable. My mental image even included the claw humorously snatching and missing on the first attempt–even though this was not part of the story. In some ways, I am quite relieved that this got changed.
IND: A climax that was slightly less visually silly, but initially much more intellectually confusing was used. (It took a second viewing to realize the reason for the ending was not Afflek's doing, but Uma's–which then brought up a whole new set of questions about freedom of choice and whether we should have seen this ending in the time scope).
PRO: That weird Ministry of Big Brother or whatever the heck the government organization was in the story was a little over the top. Switching to a less police-state FBI was a bit more real for a near-future story. The attorney general is an evil assclown.
PRO: Switching the main character from a mechanical engineer to a reverse engineer is much more cool.
PRO: More labs need robotic arms. More fight sequences need gun-snatching industrial equipment.
PRO: Seeing yourself get killed five seconds before it happens has got to be a sucktastical way to go.
CON: Part of the story started to stink with the foul odor of Minority Report. The threat of preemptive war is not too different than pre-crime incarceration.

Obviously, the movie brings up a lot of philosophical issues: Are we deterministic cogs in a machine with only the illusion of choice? Can we really change our destinies? You know, all the standard questions raised by this sort of pop-culture story and medium. It also brings some interesting Intellectual Property scenarios into the foreground that were not quite present in the original story.

Overall, I was fairly happy with the film. It is not my newfound favorite film or anything, but neither is it a steaming pile of monkey poo to be flung at the director and screenwriter.

On an unrelated note, I think the harmonica in Underworld's “Bigmouth” is causing a neighbor's dog to go insane.

Posted in: Movies

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