The other day I scribbled – you guessed it – Five things that bothered me about Her – part 1, Her being the story of a moustachioed loner (Joaquin Phoenix) and his relationship with… an operating system (voiced by my future wife and lover of SodaStream, Scarlett Johansson).
Today I’m going to rattle off the last three gripes, and address a couple of comments from part 1. Go!
Jan is current front-runner for Lengthiest Comment of 2014, but I’ll focus on this paragraph: “I reckon you're wrong. HER is not a movie about tech. It's a movie about how tech affects us. 2 very different things.”
Well, Joaquin’s relationship with cyber-Scarlett actually makes him a) happier, and b) more social (in the traditional flesh-based sense), while technology (social networking in particular) is often criticised for having the opposite effect.
As such, I choose to take Her literally. Otherwise this feature would implode *insert winky face*.
Naysayer 2: “The fact that it is set in the future when AI technology is better makes the entire article moot. Like saying that you don't like Back to the Future 2 because skateboards can only roll along the ground.”
Don’t get me started on Back to the Future. Or the various problems inherent with time travel. Having said that, I am willing to suspend disbelief for a couple of hours and enjoy what is clearly intended as a bit of fun. “MARTY!” “DOOOOOC!”
Her, on the other hand, takes itself incredibly seriously, and as such it’s hard to accept that tongues are planted in cheeks.
There is one brief, self-aware moment of: ‘How silly is this?’ when Joaquin’s ex-partner explains to a waitress: “He’s having a relationship with his laptop.” But otherwise it’s played incredibly straight.
Anyway! Back to these points. Last time I rambled on about 1. Her understanding EVERYTHING Joaquin says (a HUGE step up from current voice recognition), and 2. Her ability to speak identically to a human, down to the tiniest inflections.
3. Her emotions
Is Scarlett OS truly sentient? Or is she simply programmed to behave like she’s sentient?
Even if we accept the slightly more plausible reality of Her being programmed, can you imagine how much work would have to go into coding a sense of humour? In Her conversations with Joaquin, Scarlett OS frequently laughs. Never out of place, never at something that isn’t funny.
She’s also able to conduct a fluent conversation with three people at the same time during a double date, and make a joke pertaining to the other couple’s relationship. I’d love to see the mountain of code that weighs up the situation and determines whether or not a joke is a) potentially funny, or b) appropriate.
We're also supposed to believe that she's capable of love, jealousy, passion... No. Just... no.
4. She writes music
This follows on directly from the above, but being a pretentious musician myself, I’m giving this point its own entry.
About half way through Her, she reveals that she’s been composing a piece of music in her free time. Art, whether it’s creating music or painting a picture, is one of the purest forms of human expression. It’s something that’s unique to everyone. Art is not technical; it’s emotive. You cannot reduce art to code or define what makes a piece of music “good”.
The moment a computer can start churning out emotive classical compositions is the moment I give up and become a farmer. Mind you, they’ll probably have robots doing all the farming by that point. Stupid technology.
5. She has sex
“I can feel you inside me.” You heard me.
Ok, maybe I am taking Her too literally. I suspect Jan is right when he says there’s a “message” below the surface, but I spent so much of the movie thinking: ‘This is utterly absurd’, that I failed to see it.
Truly sentient technology is – like time travel – a thing of science fiction. Why the hell would a robot "want" to “learn” or – worse still – take over the world? Why would it “care”? Things do what we program them to.
I have no problem with suspension of disbelief. I just felt that Her was pitched too seriously, less science fiction and more: ‘Imagine what it would be like having a relationship with an operating system.’ No. Because that’s absurd.
Still, despite my many hundreds of words of criticism, Her is worth seeing. Maybe ask Siri’s opinion first though, just to be on the safe side.
Finally, for those thinking the image above is used gratuitously, ask yourself this: would you rather have a relationship with flesh Scarlett, or the OS version? Thought so.