Monday, March 21, 2011


I'm a sucker for superhero films of all types, so it's no surprise that last night we headed out to see this superman-via-superdrug flick. I wasn't at all sure, however, what plot arc to expect.

In retrospect, I should have been. (Warning: spoilers ahead.)

The trailer told the set-up: smart but failing loser acquires miracle drug and turns into uber-successful genius winner. The question was how to resolve the problems that such a drug was almost certain to cause, problems that would have to include dependence and some serious side-effects if the film was to have any drama at all.

Twenty or thirty years ago, the answer would have been clear: the man must give up the drug, compete on his own, and either win or at least show well, but always on his own. He could not win from something as cheap and, in the mood of that time, basically immoral as a magic pill.

Limitless looked for a time as if it would follow that same trajectory. Bradley Cooper's Eddie Mora is definitely a loser, becomes a huge winner, experiences serious side effects (including possibly committing a murder, something we're never sure if he has really done), crashes a lot, blacks out, loses his girlfriend for the second time, and so on.

What happens then, however, is the sign of these times: he kills the bad guys who come after him--but only by regaining his drug-made smarts by literally drinking some of the blood of one of them so he can get some of the drug into this system. Then, in a matter of a minute or so, the film flashes to today and a very cleaned-up Eddie. He's got a new short haircut, he's the clear front-runner for a U.S. Senate seat, he beats a business adversary, and he gets back his girl, who no longer seems worried about the drug usage that caused her to leave before.

Did he drop the drug? Hell, no; he perfected it. That conclusion is quite logical. After all, if he's one of the smartest people alive, he should be able to do better than the people who invented or possibly even find another way to up-fit his brain. The ending is also, however, a reflection of a world in which taking a drug to fix any problem is fine. Part of me hates that world. Another part has to admit that if I could pop a pill that with no side effects would let me have Jeni's ice cream at every meal and remain at my perfect weight and have rippling abs of steel, I would do it. It would bother me, but I would do it.

I enjoyed taking the Limitless ride, but I also left the theater surprisingly deep in thought about the worldview it espouses.


Joint said...

I've read your other recent movie reviews, and I agreed with your opinion that although not entirely a bad thing recent cinema has been all about the fun ride. I couldn't help but think that Limitless might be that movie that breaks that trend. I haven't seen it yet, so I only read the beginning and conclusion of your post here. It seems you liked it though. Was it a movie to break that trend?

Mark said...

I wish I could answer fully without giving spoilers, but I can't. So, rather than give spoilers, I'll have to answer partially. To some degree, it was, but not entirely. More interesting, to me, were the underlying reasons for its ending.

Okay, that's really vague, but it's all I can do without spoilers. Sorry I can't help more.

J. Griffin Barber said...

How about working hard and long to get what you want?

Man, I sound a curmudgeon there, don't I?

Mark said...

Yeah, that's pretty much the point that the movie ultimately decries.


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