SCREENED AT THE 2005 SXSW FILM FESTIVAL: There’s a great quote in the press notes of the new science-fiction epic, cl.one, by Francis Ford Coppola. He says that “some little fat girl in Ohio is going to be the new Mozart and make a beautiful film with her father’s camcorder.” That’s all an independent filmmaker needed to start with. But we’re moving into the next era, where computers are the window into the soul of buying your way into the big-boy world. We saw it on a grand scale when Kerry Conran delivered Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow from its hard drive roots and onto the big screen. Now it’s Jason J. Tomaric without the star power or studio backing for his vision, so a lot can be forgiven. But not everything.The opening moments of cl.one are quite striking indeed. We’ve heard the narration in some form many times before, but never experienced the beginning of WWIII through the eyes of a cheery weather report. Yes, society has managed to be obliterated once again and where there’s hope there’s technology run amok and a dictator-wannabe ready to yield it to his advantage. One such candidate is the Chancellor of New Athens University, the Ivy-League of post apocalyptic colleges.
Making a run for the Senate, his little totalitarian army have captured a resistance leader and plan to implant his right-hand man within as an impostor to stave off their terrorist attacks. This is all a lot of exposition for a plotline to disappear until late in the second act as it gives way to its titular focus. The Chancellor has been behind lethal experiments to find the one pure gene structure that will give life to thousands of frozen embryos and further the cause of human life. A student may be the key, but he first must go through a precarious journey of betrayal and being in the right place at the right time so the scientists can purify his mind and strip it down to the bare essentials.
From here on it, the pace picks up a little bit and becomes a Logan’s Run for his body and soul. Only its not fast enough to escape the basic questions that come with such an intriguing notion. If the cloning is successful enough to give each embryo their own personality and learning capacity, wouldn’t their individuality still be affected if they all look the same? The politics are also skewered on a backwards tilt. Those in power are in favor of cloning and the liberal revolutionaries are reduced to destroying baby fetuses with laser blasts. Maybe its symbolic of a world without political lines in the sand, but its impossible to understand why the good guys aren’t in favor of preserving the human race. We can’t discuss it if the discussion never begins.Therein lies the fundamental problem of cl.one. It may be a marvel of low-tech, high-tech filmmaking but on the base level still suffers on the ground where films begin. Story, dialogue, acting and pacing don’t rise to the same level as our amazement of how far a dollar can be stretched. The hero is too squirrely and the villain isn’t nearly as threatening as the music accompanying him. There’s a clear ambition by Tomaric, but too much is borrowed without expansion to make us forget about where they originated. I admire what Tomaric has accomplished and there are signs of immense talent here, but there’s a long road to travel before we know if this is the next George Lucas or the next Paul W.S. Anderson.