Thursday, September 4, 2014

[Review] The Zero Theorem

Terry Gilliam's latest feature revolves around a computer genius who desperately wants to discover the meaning of life. Yes, it's a bold premise, and the set designs are wildly inventive, but this is an exasperating, cold and distance slog.

Set in the near, chaotic future, Christolph Waltz stars as Qohen, the neurotic and distressed central character. He's remarkably bald, as if he's already pulled all his hair out while attempting this complicated task. He obsessively bangs away on incomprehensible machinery, stares at nauseating screens, and has the occasional breakdown. It's the equivalent of watching someone struggle at their desk job, except there's a lot more candy lazertag colors and cosmic Pee-Wee's Playhouse elements to it. Once in a while, Tilda Swinton pops up on the computer screen and continues her recent streak of wearing big teeth (see: Snowpiercer).

The most amusing part is the strangely cast Matt Damon as Qohen's hovering manager. We see him rocking eccentric suits, slicked-back white hair, and thick glasses while mysteriously (and kind of hilariously) blending in with furniture. But there still isn't much that can save this mess. The narrative half-heartedly pokes at some existential notions, but it never really equates to much. It just muddles and drags. And that's pretty much the point. However, it doesn't really mean people want to watch it.

The Zero Theorem shares some traits of Brazil and 12 Monkeys, but it's nowhere near as interesting. It's the type of film where diehard Gilliam fans might scoff at the criticism and say "You just didn't get it." Well, I don't think anyone involved in this film quite got it either.


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