The Zero Theorem (2013)
October 9, 2014 9:41 AM - Subscribe

Terry Gilliam's newest dystopian sci-fi kaleidoscope, starring Christoph Waltz.
posted by HeroZero (9 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I cannot quite figure out whether it's a satire of blow-your-mind/what-is-reality movies like The Matrix or just an especially who-gives-a-shit nonsensical example of the genre. It's littered with film references, not just to The Matrix (Bob quotes it) but also Avatar (the ponytail mental attachment cable), 2001: A Space Odyssey (the black hole space-fetus journey), and a ton of others I'm already forgetting.

It looks great. Christoph Waltz is great. Its gender politics are pretty appalling.
posted by HeroZero at 10:17 AM on October 9, 2014

If high-school me could see me now, NOT rushing out to see a new Terry Gilliam movie (and it is playing near me), he'd probably be appalled. But the last Gilliam movie that I really liked was 12 Monkeys, 20 years ago...Fear & Loathing I gave a mulligan because I also wasn't a fan of the book so I just considered it to be not for me, but Brothers Grimm and Tideland were genuine bummers. IMO Doctor Parnassus almost reached back in time to classic Gilliam, and maybe it could have reached closer if we hadn't lost Ledger, but it still was just a blip compared to his best work from the 80s and early 90s.

So now I'm scared to give any more time to the man. I've never seen Waltz give a bad performance, he would be the biggest bait to pull me in.
posted by doctornecessiter at 12:27 PM on October 9, 2014

I had a conversation with a guy in the popcorn line about how we wanted to like Terry Gilliam more than we actually like him.

For what its worth, my wife was totally won over by the visual inventiveness of Zero Theorem, saying that its admittedly conventional plot was beside the point.
posted by HeroZero at 7:11 PM on October 9, 2014

I thought Tideland was great, but Doctor Parnassus was insufferable crap. I'll still give this a shot, though.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:21 PM on October 9, 2014

Yeah, Tideland felt to me like a fairly crucial facet of Gilliam's overall body of work and a pretty serious film. I think it's way underrated, though it's certainly not a lot of fun to watch.

If anyone else had directed The Zero Theorem, my response would have been, "Heh, nice try, but you're clearly no Terry Gilliam." Sometimes I wonder what might have been had Gilliam raised proper financing instead of an apparently shoestring budget, but the Melanie Thierry character would have been pretty uninspiring at any price. Maybe Gilliam respects other writers too much to completely rework their screenplays, maybe he's of a generation that's just blind to the sexist stereotyping, but he's above it and he should have known better.
posted by Mothlight at 8:24 AM on October 10, 2014

Visually fantastic and Waltz was excellent as usual but the film felt more like a sequence of pretty vignettes than anything I could claim to really love. Gilliam seems like he still might have a great film in him, but unfortunately living up to his own legacy is still alluding him so far.

The budget limitations may have hampered this one, because the world did have a flair for the absurd a la Idiocracy, but we didn't see enough of it for my taste.
posted by haveanicesummer at 2:29 PM on October 10, 2014

Agreed that the skimpiness of the budget showed, in places.
posted by HeroZero at 6:07 AM on October 11, 2014

I watched this last night thanks to Canadian Netflix, and halfway through I said to my wife "I can't believe I've reached a point where I want to bail on a Gilliam movie." She was a bigger fan than me of the set dressing and world-building -- Transmetropolitan was mentioned a couple of times -- but the whole thing felt like a ham-handed tribute to Terry Gilliam by somebody who can play the notes but doesn't understand the music.

A non-plot, Waltz playing a miserable John Malkovitch, and a sexual dynamic that felt like an old man trying to convince himself that he's still viable. "Manic pixie dream girl falls for old decrepit weirdo for no discernible reason at all" is (a) so 199x that it hurts, and (b) ugh, eww, ugh.

When your favourite part of a movie is Matt Damon's suits, it's not a great movie. When your favourite part of a Terry Gilliam movie is Matt Damon's suits, that's just goddamn tragic.
posted by Shepherd at 5:33 AM on November 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

I haven't seen this yet but I had to say that Pat Rushin (the screenwriter) was my thesis advisor and he is a great guy, and he wrote this thing SO LONG AGO. It is so, so depressing how these things often go. Way back when, Ewan McGregor was attached to the project. But when he dropped out, the film went into this maddening limbo for years and years.

I will say I am sorry to hear the negative reactions in here, and some if it sounds a bit troubling! I will have to see what I think.
posted by Glinn at 4:14 PM on December 28, 2014

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