Google in the time of Cholera

Once all is revealed, nothing falls into place.
Reported on 22nd of November, 2016

I usually have no idea as to what is coming out when, avoiding trailers and even synopses if I can. My dream is the dream of the gourmand: let the chef decide. In the case of 2016, the chef is the lovechild of McDonald’s and Flunch, and Flunch is already related to McDonald’s but I remain steadfast: I don’t want to know what’s coming.

Not so lucky in the case of Inferno. By virtue of the inverse relation between studio expectation (low) and media saturation (high), I had seen the trailer for Inferno in France and in America many times. Like Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, it was always the last trailer, which I imagine costs more. Somehow they knew ahead of time that both films would be trumped by Tyler Perry’s Boo: A Medea Halloween.

Which I also saw.

Despite knowing everything that was going to happen (and I really didn’t), I was going to see Inferno anyway. In all humiliation, I’m writing a virus movie, a rewrite of the only script I have ever sold. Inferno is a virus movie, and part of me didn’t want to see it, the flopsweat of having one’s idea rendered redundant like so many Prefontaine‘s, Job‘s or Deep Star Six‘s.

But I had to, and so marked in my calendar its release date with the subtitle ‘It’s for work.’ In the way of things conspiring to make me think that things conspire, and being that I use an Apple product, every time I opened the note to find showtimes, the phone would attempt, and succeed, to geotag the location ‘it’s for work’. It is, and I shit you not, located on Alkenstiege in Nordholm, Germany. You know, near the Cafe Extrablatt.



This touch of Schlimmbesserung was a harbinger to say the least, an augur I relied on to psychically endure the first two-thirds of the movie, curiously ordinary. But at minute eighty, something happens.

Something wonderful.

I’m going to explain the joke and ruin its magic. You’re not going to see it, and so my failure is on you. But there’s no WAY I’m going to stay silent after coming up with that title.

There is running around away and towards and amnesia and falling through ancient roofs. Then the reveal rewrites everything that you have just seen, and not at all in the way intended. It’s like wiping away a Hirst to reveal it was painted on a big-eyed Jupiter Eats His Kids.

No really, this movie is that much fun. Plus, you got to destroy a Hirst.

At first, and as it must be, Inferno is singularly bland. We are introduced to reliable movie albatross Mr. Ben Foster, who wants to kill billions of people with his supervirus. As an advocate of depopulation, he has thousands of cult-like followers. As an advocate of depopulation, I can tell you we are possibly the smallest and least relevant political movement since The Green Party (Sorry, Greens, but if you’re reading this, it merely proves how far you’ve fallen).

The fact that /r/overpopulation has 11,370 members might seem terrifying to you, but only if you fail to consider that /r/bitchimabus/ has 50,615.

And which one did you click?

Thought so.

After Mr. Foster jumps off a church and turns into a CGI ragdoll to his death, Mr. Tom Hanks has amnesia and is saved from an assassin by his doctor Ms. Felicity Jones. He finds a virus tube. Yep, a virus tube. You know, a tube that contains viruses. Sounds pretty real, huh? He opens the virus tube with his fingerprint, making it seem even more plausible, and finds, as one does whenever one encounters viruses and overpopulation and amnesia, a riddle about Dante.

There are many barely noticeable attempts as misdirection, constantly showing characters in close up with ominous trumpets and giving lines like I need better. Work harder. Work smarter. Don’t trust anyone. Let’s do that.  In this case, line courtesy of the I’m-glad-she’s-getting-work-but-enough’s-enough-and-let’s-put-a-stop-to-Brian-Grazer-writing-dialog Frk. Sidse Babett Knudsen. Will she turn out to be the villainess? Who can say?

I can, and of course she won’t.

The wondrous experience of the San Bruno Tanforan 20 (see here) had led me to use the proto-Brutalist parking lot as a jumping off point for BART. Having returned from an extremely silly trip to San Francisco, where my passport was finished, but the office was closed, I arrived back my car. Faced with a choice...nevermind. There was never a choice. Just ask fate.

The wondrous experience of the San Bruno Tanforan 20 (see here) had led me to use the proto-Brutalist parking lot as a jumping off point for BART. I returned from an extremely silly trip to San Francisco – my passport was finished, but the office was closed. When I buzzed the guy on the intercom, he answered on his cell phone, miles away, with no intention of returning that day. In my desperation to save the day – and avoid my family – I googled showtimes in the intermittent underground service and low battery life, arriving five minutes before the film started. Just enough for a mediocre bowl of Dreyers. I’ll miss you Tanforan 20!

Ms. Jones and Mr. Hanks run about, avoiding various government and conspiracy types, and find puzzles wrapped in butcher paper inside armoires. This is what we expect from our one-note national treasure – or is it our one note National Treasure: Book of Secrets – Mr. Dan Brown. After a google search at one point, they finally discover the location of the super virus that Mr. Foster had planted previously and…

…well, we’re at minute eighty and guess what? Ms. Jones was in on it the whole time, and is in fact Mr. Foster’s paramour and co-conspirator. But how, one might ask, is this possible?

It isn’t. Not even a little. And that’s why the movie is so great.

Once this is revealed, nothing falls into place. That assassin at the beginning? It was just a plant, a fake to get Mr. Hanks to help her with the improbable Dante puzzle. Even mentioning the Dante puzzle sucks us on a joyous brain loop that reminds one of some poem that some guy wrote who can say. But I’m going to stay on point as much as I can. Why does said assassin continue pursuing them, this time attempting to kill them for real?

There is no reason.

It’s staggering.

Up to this point, Mr. Foster’s plan is a mystery. But now the film must explain, and explain it does. It seems he has created his super virus which he intends to release and kill a bunch of people. How does he intend to do this?

I’m so glad I forced the hypothetical you to ask. Airport? Nope. The crowded and tourist filled streets of Venice, which our heroes beat a high-speed train to by taking a gondola? Nope. No, he’s going to plant it a fairly small underground sewer in Instanbul, in a plastic bag, next to a bomb. He’s going to do this because, like Mr. Hanks, he’s obsessed with medieval concepts of doorways.

I can’t tell you how happy I am not to be making any of this up.

Mr. Foster now does and does not do what any villain/hero would do. And not. Do. He does not tell his paramour the location of the supervirus, but he does conceal it in an elaborate series of Dantian clues that someone else is qualified to solve. Anything is a better plan. What you’re doing right now is a better plan, because like me, you’re doing nothing. See, if he had, either 1) not left any clues, or 2) just fucking well coughed on somebody, it would have been smarter.

Having mentally rewound and re-experienced the film a second time, we find ourselves again at the reveal moment, where Ms. Jones gives away her super identity to Mr. Hanks. Now this is standard movie fare, villains laying out the plans to the heroes. And who else are you going to tell that ‘you’re a lot like me’? Me? You’re nothing like me, you bastard!

What’s extraordinary here is that within the film, they’ve been chasing clues from location to location, each revealing another clue. At this point, there is no reason for her to believe that the new location won’t be another riddle, for which she will need Mr. Hanks. In this tenth circle, as your brain is flattened across a möebius strip of wonder: even the implausibilities have implausibilities.

As if released from the shackles of respectability, the movie then becomes straightforwardly and extremely silly. Ms. Jones has revealed the location of the supervirus to the WHO (which has a SWAT team, by the way, or SWATWHO); instead of just doing nothing, she contacts the one of the millions of anti-population fanatics (see above) to protect the exploding plastic bag (see above, also).

The WHO, now knowing the location of the virus which they wouldn’t have if the bad guys had simply done nothing, goes to the site. Here’s some more things that they don’t do. They don’t evacuate the area or wear protective gear of any kind. They enter, in street clothes, a crowded concert, a moment maraschino’d nicely by a chamber orchestra that continues to play throughout the shenanigans.

Again, I feel I bit like the boy who made fun of the wolf. Trust me. This is what happens in the movie.

There is much running around in picturesque underground structures, and Ms. Jones gets herself blewed up. No great shakes, but she is replaced in the climatic fight by a completely anonymous character who we’ve known for all of five minutes and hasn’t even had a single line. The final boss is some nameless dude who must have pissed off the producers something fierce that he wouldn’t even get TAFT/AFTRA’d. It’s not exactly satisfying and yet it is. The movie hasn’t just abandoned logic; it’s abandoned movie logic.

Eventually the virus is put into a box that turns green. Like any great climax, there is a slight change of color on a box. And so the denouement is various types talking about how the LEDs were green, so no need to quarantine anyone in the area. They were green. You saw it. Why take a chance, a chance of saving the world.

‘The world that made this movie?’ part of me wants to say. But in the joyous ride home, smiling ear to ear, I thought back to Godzilla, the Nobel Prize winner for boneheadedness of 2014. The film had made me so, so, so happy. I no longer want to kill the world in case it makes another movie. About killing the world.

I’m working on it. The film.

Fine. I’m working on both. Ya gotta hedge your bets.

The Take

A minor point, but what the hell, there’s really no way to fit it all in. At one point sinister shadow organization runner Śrī Iffran Khan says: ‘What do you think you’re doing? What if he has a head wound?’ Not so spectacular, but ones knows at the time that it was Śrī Khan who was behind the plot to give him the head wound. You learn later that it was a fake head wound, meaning that he not only knew it was a head wound, but he knew that it wasn’t.
Everything that led to the out of body sense of cognitive wonder, above.
Total Profits
To reiterate, it is terrible, and you will not feel the artificial and desperate sense of relief that ‘someone didn’t totally stole your idea, man.’ What can I say? I was glad that there was nothing in this movie like the one I am writing. That is because there is nothing in this movie that relates to real life or movies.
It’s fantastic.
Total Losses

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