Despite how popular his feature films are, they only make up a small part of Spike Jonze’s career as a writer and director. He’s perhaps best-known for his work as a music video director for artists like Fatboy Slim, R.E.M., Bjork and The Chemical Brothers, and was famously responsible for the bizarre but irrepressibly cool video for “Weapon of Choice”, in which Christopher Walken dances stylishly through an empty hotel.
After directing a handful of short films, however, Jonze is now returning to feature film once more. His latest project, which he both wrote and directed, is a near-future science fiction romance film called Her, which stars Joaquin Phoenix and a collection of some of the most interesting actresses currently in Hollywood – Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde and Samantha Morton – in a tale of a man in love with his operating system.
The film is now set for a US release on November 20th, 2013, according to Box Office Mojo‘s release calendar. This was probably not the best release date for Her to have ended up in, since it means that Jonze’s film will be directly competing with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which is out two days later. The title, while it may or may not have particular significance with regards to the plot, is not exactly eye-catching, but the subject matter certainly is. Here’s the official synopsis:
“In the not so distant future, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), a lonely writer purchases a newly developed operating system designed to meet the user’s every needs. To Theodore’s surprise, a romantic relationship develops between him and his operating system. This unconventional love story blends science fiction and romance in a sweet tale that explores the nature of love and the ways that technology isolates and connects us all.”
Unconventional though it may be, the concept of love of between a human and an AI is not a new one. Charlie Brooker’s satire series Black Mirror recently tackled the developing intelligence of technology in an episode called “Be Right Back” – the story of a grieving woman who begins using an online service that almost perfectly imitates the speech and personality of her deceased boyfriend, based on everything ever posted on his social media accounts. The idea can be found in literature as early as E.T.A. Hoffman’s short story “The Sandman”, published in 1816, in which a young man falls in love with a beautiful but nearly-mute woman, only to later find out that she is an automaton.
In other hands, this kind of material could carry the threat of being superficial or overly sentimental, but Jonze has a talent for directing humorous but thought-provoking material, such as the weird and wonderful Being John Malkovich, the brutally self-conscious metafilm Adaptation, and the beautiful but depressing adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s children’s book Where the Wild Things Are. Having said that, he was also one of the original creators of Jackass, so his work isn’t always necessarily highbrow.
Her will explore territory that is currently very rich, with artificial intelligence getting continually more sophisticated and quite a lot of people already in an unofficial love affair with technology – whether it’s their smartphone, their laptop or their Blu-ray (to be fair, who doesn’t love Blu-ray?). The release date is set for around the same time as the launch of Microsoft’s Xbox One - which is also being touted as a machine “designed to meet the user’s every need,” and which functions by interpreting the user’s verbal commands and body language.
Her may end up being one of the better sci-fi films to come out this year, but considering the competition at the box office in November, it’s going to take some pretty heavy marketing for it to be a commercial success. Do you plan to see this next-generation romance when it arrives?
Her is out in US theaters on November 20, 2013.