Blockbuster Antidote: UPGRADE Gives Us Exactly What We Need

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Somewhere in the dirge of gigantic blockbuster comic book or STAR WARS movies and serious, poignant indie films, we have forgotten how to just have fun. Now don’t get me wrong, I am a sucker for a well-constructed time travel film that challenges the nature of our reality, or an existential journey through space, but sometimes I don’t want to challenge my perceptions or expand my consciousness. I could just crack on a comic book or STAR WARS film, but while they are visually exciting and have certain elements of humor, it all feels so joyless and corporate. It’s that kind of mandated fun like when a restaurant forces its employees to sing and dance every 25 minutes, or how characters at Disney theme parks cannot take off their heads or break character lest they be put in an adorable jail cell or whatever other themed punishment they dole out. Sometimes I just want to watch something fun. That’s where movies like UPGRADE come in.

The plot of UPGRADE is relatively simple. In the near future, a tech-phobic classic car mechanic, Grey, and his wife are set upon by mysterious criminals who murder his wife and leave him a quadriplegic. The police are no help at all, but a tech-mogul former client of Grey’s has a solution: A radical new type of implant called STEM, which will bridge the gap between Grey’s brain and his spinal cord, giving him control over his own body again. Done in secret, Grey quickly finds out that the STEM implant has given him more than just his body back, and he uses his new-found power to hunt down the men that murdered his wife.

Genuinely fun and joyous, UPGRADE indulges in the inherent silliness of its premise, never takes itself too seriously, while also taking the audience through a complex and well-constructed journey of intrigue and mystery. In short, UPGRADE is the perfect mid-budget film, and exactly the kind of thing we love here at Other Worlds. 

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UPGRADE is free of the bombastic, forced set pieces of STAR WARS or any Marvel picture that feel like a slow, cynical studio tour where a guide points to little animatronic scenes and says “Look everyone! There’s Character X! You love Character X! Look at them doing the things that you love!” 

UPGRADE is a fabulous film that feels natural and deliberate, as if everyone involved believes in the story and nobody is just there cashing a paycheck. There’s no billionaire producer puffing his cigar and stifling the originality to satisfy stockholders and placate the lowest common denominator. If we keep going to films like these, if we keep talking about them and recommending them to others, I promise people will keep making them for us.

© 2014 OWA SciFi Film Fest, LLC