I just got back from seeing it and wow, was it ever amazing.
The Sphere-esque mold for a film is an excellent vehicle to dive into actually cool ideas and visuals. Arrival sort of did this recently but was not nearly as open-ended as this.
The only real cons I have with the film are its a little too character-focused, and the mystery of The Shimmer is more or less explained.
In fact, a lot of the mystery is explained. From what I understand (having not read the books), the shimmer is essentially a way of collapsing everything around it into a kind of hive mind organism? I say a kind of hive mind organism because it appears as all the living things also have a certain degree of agency. Sort of like a less violent version of The Thing? On this note, I also didn't need one of the characters to explain why the bear sounded like their deceased team member. That whole sequence was so amazing and one of the best sequences of horror for me since probably The Blair Witch Project. However, the energy of that scene gets kind of diluted when a hokey explanation of her consciousness at death being transferred to the bear gets revealed. I didn't need to know that.
I really appreciated how all the character deaths involved becoming part of their environment in some way, however this is sort of a good thing and bad thing. Whether it has intent or not is sort of irrelevant because none of it acted with any real purpose.
There was also a little too much character focus. Her cheating on her husband; all the women having some kind of damaged past...Im glad it didn't delve into these things further because they are the least interesting aspects of the film. Characters in sci-fi and horror should be HUDS for ideas and visuals and nothing more, in my opinion. As such, the final moment of it ending with the relationship of Natalie Portman and Oscar Isaac felt a little weird. We know the identity of Isaac, and had it been just implied with the whole sequence with the phosphorous grenade, it would have been 100 times better. And the questions it poses about death and/or annihilation being simply a new form of existence felt kind of hastily thought out. I didn't need it. Especially symbolized within this boring relationship between Portman and Isaac.
Regardless, since none of my friends have seen this, im super interested to read what you guys thought about it and to illuminate the film further. Im certainly missing some points, but this film is worth talking about.
The thing is I don't know what you mean a "robot that's designed to be its own person". You'll need to elaborate on that. It could be a perfect imitation but an imitation, nonetheless. The reason I keep coming back to the iPad scenario is because it (for me) best illustrates the pure artistry and fakeness of it all.
Yes, someone has input functions and hardware so that the screen behaves a certain way but it doesn't mean its behaving in that way for any reason of its own choosing. I can even go so far as to say that anything manufactured will never achieve any real sense of identity or emotion on its own.
And yes, you can say "aren't humans just a series of calculations?" and you'd be right. The issue here is that I am more willing to say human beings are just another kind of "robotic automaton" than I am willing to say a robot of any design in the future will feel about the world and itself the way we do. I am fully aware of the mistake there, but I just simply fail to see any real connection between humans and robots. You can make an argument that if we're just calculations of evolution and robots are just calculations of their creators, that we're basically the same. The issue there is that then destroying an iPad is akin to destroying a human life. Im sure both of us would disagree with with this. But It may very well be the case, in an objective sense. But as a human being I just can't really seriously argue that point. It also leads to a whole host of other issues, where would we draw the line? calculators? word processors? Also why draw the line at a digital level? I assume it is a kind of human narcism to expect relatable emotions from a robot, right? Would anything that holds a function, and has an internal logic and purpose be entitled to protection?
I go back to another post here explaining that what makes something wrong is the lingering effect it has on something. If I cut someone's arm off, there is a traumatic effect present that is both psychological and physical.
What is cutting an arm off a robot mean to it? Its a machine, presumably a product. What is its identity and self-worth? well, I guess its whatever its creators tell it. Any kind of psychological ramifications to a robot (whatever the heck that means) can be ameliorated with software. Any kind of physical ramifications to a robot (whatever the heck that means) can be ameliorated with new hardware and construction. Beyond a physical body of a robot, its just pure intellect and calculations. What is a robot's understanding of self-preservation? why would it have that impulse? The answers to these questions, I either don't understand (which is obviously possible, I'm not the brightest bulb) or are not possible.