Published Nov 25, 2020Artificial intelligence and surveillance culture are terrifying concepts. At best, corporations are harnessing our phones to spy on us and then using the data to influence our behaviour; at worst, A.I. could pose a genuine threat to humanity's very existence. Superintelligence, on the other hand, sidesteps any sense of urgency in favour of a lighthearted comedy about a newly sentient A.I. that is pondering whether to save or destroy our species.
Melissa McCarthy stars as Carol Peters, whose only real distinguishing feature is that people keep telling her how average she is. Her apparent normality is why she's singled out by a newly sentient superintelligence, which has taken over all of the planet's online devices and is currently debating whether or not to save humanity from itself. Apparently, the best way for the A.I. to do this is by trying to reunite Carol with her ex, George (Bobby Cannavale), thereby proving humankind's value through the power of love.
Dark themes can make for brilliant comedic fodder, but Superintelligience misses the point by draining its subject matter of its seriousness. While films like The Matrix, Her and Ex Machina have given these ideas the weight they deserve, Superintelligence's futuristic elements are really just a plot device to bring the romantic leads together. This is a fluffy rom-com, not dystopian sci-fi.
There are some half-decent gags. In particular, it's pretty funny how the A.I. talks in James Corden's voice in order to put Carol at ease, and it briefly adopts Octavia Spencer's voice when speaking to her bestie Dennis (Brian Tyree Henry). Without giving too much away, there's also an adorable cameo from this writer's favourite '90s sports star.
But in order for Superintelligence to be truly hilarious, it would need to actually deal with its own themes, rather than simply using them as a springboard for a cute romance and family-friendly jokes. The film improves significantly in its final passage, when it finally loses a bit of its cloying cuteness and (ever so slightly) dips its toe into darkness.
With a little more of that gloom, maybe this could have been a biting black comedy rather than forgettable fluff. For a movie called Superintelligence, nothing about this is particularly smart. (HBO / Warner)