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“Her” Prioritizing between video games and internet porn

Robert Huelsman, Video Editor

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I like Michael Bay movies. Right about now you are asking what that has to do with “Her.” You are correct in thinking it means absolutely nothing, except that if you take exception to this review, just remember I like Michael Bay movies and my opinion really means nothing.

“Her” is not a dystopian type of movie, where the society is undesirable or frightening, but it very well could be. There is negligible focus on the outside world and even in todays age of constant connection the setting for this film takes that even farther.

The “Her”  world has the feel of being 1984-like yet, in a Brave New World sort of way where pleasure is the means to control.

We as a society are already attached to internet and instant gratification in almost every place we go and “Her” is simply the next step. It is a near future that people of an older generation are fearing, but one that is slowly becoming inevitable.

In the world of “Her,” Spike Jonze’s fourth feature as a director, every person is connected to their computer through an earpiece and a small handheld device.

Theodore Twombly, played by Joaquin Phoenix, is a man going through a divorce who works as a letter writer at Handwrittenletters.com. Through Twombly we see how this world operates with these new computers. The computer is used by speaking commands such as saying ‘play melancholy song’ which makes the earpiece then play the selected song.

This phrase is uttered by Theodore in a crowded elevator which would seem like something out of place in todays world, but as you get absorbed into the world of “Her,” it is simply a matter of fact.

In shots of crowds, you slowly realize that everyone is talking to themselves and that the insular obsession of using a phone has been replaced by talking to an earpiece. When in a crowd, you never hear the din of others in the area as you the viewer are solely focused on the life of Theodore and his computer. It is not until Theodore decides to upgrade his computer to OS 1, a new AI operating system, that his life begins to change.

The premise of “Her” is this idea of “what is love?”

In a world increasingly devoid of one-on-one interaction, how does one love? Love has never simply been a physical idea but a mental condition as well. Theodore’s relationship with his OS named Samantha, voiced by Scarlett Johansson, goes through almost the exact steps that one would expect in a Hollywood movie, but it really becomes something more and leads to some interesting thoughts about not only the future, but about what makes us human.

There is the obvious debate about how she is not physical and how in some aspects she is not “real.”

There is also an interesting juxtaposition within the movie between Theodore’s job and his growing relationship with his OS. Theodore mentions how many years he has been writing letters for other people and that he knows them as if they were close friends or family. If something as personal as a handwritten letter is farmed out to a stranger on the internet for a fee how real is that love? In the end, is a human connection really greater than a virtual one with AIs and video games?

Visually, “Her” is a film that makes itself standout. The use of color helps to give a life and feeling to a world that otherwise is very bleak. By focusing on what is almost an internal relationship between Theodore and Samantha, the world is portrayed as almost empty, and while there are interactions with other human beings when they are in a crowd, the crowd is very much in the background. As the movie goes along, you begin to notice just how many people in a crowd are talking to their computers, but even in the most packed of areas, they do not seem to make a sound. The viewer is solely focused on Theodore and his OS that almost all other sound from the world is ignored or at best selectively heard.

Spike Jonze not only directed this film, but also wrote it. “Her” is a movie where the writing can truly shine, because during almost the entire movie, it’s the dialogue that carries the action and story. It is almost hard to believe that Jonze is a creator and producer for the Jackass franchise when you see that he can create a film such as “Her.”

The performances of Phoenix and Johansson are fantastic. Their dialogue creates a feeling of a physical romance and a connection that makes it feel all the more real on screen. As a viewer, it is almost a drawback that they chose an actress such as Scarlett Johansson as each time you hear her voice, you cannot help but think of her physical form and not just as an ethereal AI.

There is a question in the back of my mind about what if they had used an actress that an audience would most likely not be familiar with. Instead of being able to create your own version of Samantha, or what the viewer thinks is Theodore’s version, most viewers already have a clear vision and that makes the love with a virtual being easier to understand. Samantha becomes a human attempting to be an OS, not an unknown OS attempting to be human. This visualization of Samantha’s form does perhaps make it easier for the viewer to accept the relationship and spend less time questioning if this could actually happen.

“Her” is a fantastic movie that is certainly thought provoking. It creates a version of the future that some will leap toward and that others will shirk away from. It all really depends on how you love.

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The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.
“Her” Prioritizing between video games and internet porn