The human race is constantly looking towards the future, and film is one outlet used to craft any future that one can imagine. Hollywood is constantly churning out films about the future in so many different shapes and forms that it can often seem like a gimmick. There are dystopian futures in films such as Blade Runner, technological futures depicted in Minority Report, futures that, ironically, we look back on and giggle at like Back to the Future II, post apocalyptic futures like Mad Max or to be more current, The Hunger Games, and then there is the quaint, not so loud future of Spike Jonze’s, Her.
Her is a futuristic love story. Theodore Twombly, played by Joaquin Phoenix is a broken man, unable to handle human interaction and proceeds to fall in love with his operating system, Samantha. It’s a fresh take on romance and is very futuristic in itself. Theodore has incredibly awkward sex scenes with Samantha, and there is also the appearance of an operating system sex surrogate. Sex surrogates are not a thing of the future, so the appearance of one in the film just adds to the believability of the future depicted. The story of Theodore and Samantha is an important one, but not the greatest part of the film.
The environment, and the world these characters live in is where the film is at its best. There is no evidence in the film of the year or time period, it’s just simply in the future. It is one of the most believable and not so distant futures depicted on-screen. Before Theodore decides to replace his operating system with Samantha, it seems as if he is using a version of Siri or Google Now that is eerily proficient. His smartphone looks a bit sleeker than the ones we use today, The video games he plays are advanced to the point that they are just out of reach of technology we use today. This future feels like it’s no more than ten years away. Then Samantha enters the picture and technologically, Theodore’s life could not be any simpler. No more weeding through Spam emails or wondering about appointments. He now has his own personal assistant synced across all his devices and accessible anywhere. At points it may even seem annoying how close the technology in the film feels. Jonze also changes up the fashion in the film. Theodore, by today’s standards is a hipster, with his thick rimmed glasses, high-waisted pants, and loafers, Phoenix almost looks like he took the role on ironically.
The people in the future of Her are already being crafted today. The fact that we already rely so heavily on technology, has disconnected people on an interpersonal level. We use Facebook and Twitter to voice our opinions, argue about politics, or check in to restaurants on Foursquare. Everyone knows where everyone is and what they are doing all the time. We have become obsessed with the internet and documenting every little thing we do. We are becoming more disconnected as a society as time passes. Everywhere you look there are people in groups, and instead of sharing a conversation they are checking social media. The human connection is slowly dissipating. It’s even less prevalent in the film. Theodore is divorced and emotionally broken. He only has two real friends, and hangs out with his coworker a couple of times in the film. He falls in love with his operating system because he is so disconnected, yet yearning for a connection. Everyone in the film appears to be broken in this way. Theodore’s job is to write letters. He doesn’t write letters for anyone he knows. He works for a company that people pay to write letters to their significant other because they are too disconnected or simply do not have the time. Theodore connects with them in a strangely disconnected sort of way, being the catalyst for the relationships of others. Early on in the film, he is walking through a Subway or bus station and not one person seems to be connecting with anyone but themselves. It’s a bit depressing but at this point in our technological evolution, and obsession with connecting online, instead of offline, this future feels too realistic to not come to fruition.
I mentioned earlier that the future depicted in Back to the Future II is laughable. I like the film. That’s not the point. It’s just a very different world than what people though it would be thirty years from 1985. There are no flying cars or holograms yet. Entertainment is similar. Marty Jr. comes home and wants to watch several channels on TV at once and that is possible today. The reason why that future is more of a swing and a miss than the future in Her comes down to the technology available when both films were created. The film industry of today and that of the 1980’s is worlds apart. Without CGI and all of the other leaps and bounds made over the years Her would probably look laughable as well. It still may. Who knows how much things will have changed in thirty years. It may look as cheesy as Flash Gordon. Back to the Future II was never really striving for believability the way Her was. It’s more of a sci-fi action comedy, and maybe a bit outrageous. Her is a sincere attempt at a futuristic love story. Regardless, the commentary of Her should stand the test of time when comparing it to society as we live in today. Or maybe it won’t. Maybe the Millennials will decide. We will just have to wait and see..