Emma Watson and John Boyega essentially do the Black Mirror thing.
Bad things are sure to come to the characters wrapped around The Circle, James Ponsoldt’s adaption of Dave Eggers’ novel of the same name. Do you know where else bad things happen to people? Black Mirror! The cult science-fiction program that Netflix managed to steer into the mainstream and turn into something of a joke has now become the sell for Ponsoldt’s follow-up to The End of the Tour (2015).
Or so the second trailer for The Circle would have us believe. From the very start, STX Entertainment goes for the guns here, giving us evil Tom Hanks at the very start and even letting us catch a quick glimpse at Patton Oswalt, whose role in the movie has been described as that of a “sinister tech mogul.” Within minutes we’re blasted with shots of Karen Gillan as a trusty coworker, and Ellar Coltrane as a slacker friend of some kind. Emma Watson is quickly elevated to an important position in the company and soon John Boyega begins to appear prominently and takes her down to the dark and creepy cavern where the titular Circle company stores all of our precious, precious data. She looks very shocked and, basically, that’s the whole movie.
Now, I haven’t slogged through Eggers’ novel but I did save myself the effort and skipped ahead to the last three pages and, lemme tell you, that’s basically where it ends. There’s, like, a bit after where someone sympathetic-sounding gets betrayed in the name of the greater good. It’s kinda like that one book Orwell wrote. Ah, fiction! The weirdest thing about the movie, from what we know now, is that its Helen Lovejoy-role will be filled by Coltrane.“We used to have adventures, we used to have fun and see things. And now it’s all filtered through this,” he chides in the trailer, “does this really seem okay to you?” Its weird, namely, because in Boyhood, he played the kid you knew in high school who told everyone they deactivated their facebook. Wasn’t that movie about growing up or something?
A lot of money and star power has been poured into The Circle and marketing it to everyone suddenly buying copies of 1984 and who consider Black Mirror a serious television show is a savvy move. Those people, however, might be disappointed. “I wouldn’t even call this science fiction,” Ponsoldt, who also wrote the adaptation, told Entertainment Weekly yesterday. The central concerns of the movie, he explains, won’t be all the cool future-lookin’ gadgets that have filled both trailers (the first one, which came out a month after the election, featured shots of floating holograms and a glimpse of Watson drinking from a pouch of slush-colored space food with the Circle’s logo on it) it’ll be “basically about the world we live in right now.” Humbly, he compares it to The Graduate.
The issue with adapting Eggers’ novels, which everyone suddenly wanted to do a few years ago, is simply that, while Eggers is an expert stylist and/or copier of other people’s styles, his books come to feel pretty paltry when it comes to having cool things happen. The first of his works to hit movie theaters near you also featured Tom Hanks, though less evil, in Tom Tykwer’s A Hologram For The King (2016). Adapted from the novel of the same name, the movie was forced to turn into a slightly less glib alternate version of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016) with equally regrettable casting choices. But what else was Tykwer to do with a hip Beckett homage about a man waiting around in Saudi Arabia? One random guy on Rotten Tomatoes called it “as exciting as mayonnaise.”
Really, what a Dave Eggers book needs is a cute mumbly art house feature with shaky cameras, all unknowns and long monologues about society today overlaid. But he’s too money for that. Also unfortunate: while The Circle marks the second Eggers adaptation to feature Hanks, there still remains a total of zero starring Daniel Radcliffe. Come on!