We all have our own opinion on what could change the world and make it better. Should we reform politics, change our own behavior, let nature run its course?
Mason, Chris Mason (Broadchurch (TV), Legend), the protagonist of Mad Genius, has his own solution all prepared: map the human brain and hack it to eliminate hate and destructive behaviors altogether.
However, another hacker, Eden, Faran Tahir (Iron Man, Star Trek), is after the technology Mason needs for the same reason but a far more destructive end: destroy humanity. The catch? Mason is not only a genius hacker, he is also a bit mad.
After experimenting on himself, his mind starts projecting Finn, Scott Mechlowicz (Mean Creek, EuroTip), a man visible and audible only to Mason whose impulsivity both help and hinder Mason’s plan.
The real question therefore is: how much of what is happening is real and how much comes from Mason’s troubled brain?
With Mad Genius, writer and director Royce Gorsuch (Those Screams (Short), Typeshift (Short)), throws a lot of questions and ideas around. He is clearly trying to push the boundaries and create a work of science-fiction that will leave its trace on the genre and on people’s minds.
Unfortunately, the result is an ambivalent film with some clear qualities but otherwise riddled with flaws and, in the end, more forgettable than memorable.
The film is well-shot and filled with interesting effects and techniques: fast cuts let us know about what Mason is thinking about in a very clear and effecting way, and the glitching effect that happens during some of the interactions between Mason and Finn is also really well done.
The special effects overall are good, with again great visual ideas although not as present as you could expect it.
Some cool techniques are also used, like informative text appearing on screen to let us know the extent of Mason’s knowledge and his way of thinking, or a scene in which Mason and Finn literally explain to the viewer – looking directly into the camera – the science behind their plan.
Unfortunately, these two ideas are only used once, like the director wanted to try them then threw the ideas away right after.
This lack of cohesion isn’t too much a problem because all the choices made regarding the editing and the effects benefit the movie greatly as it makes it more fast-paced, entertaining and interesting, but it is a problem that reappears constantly in the movie.
For example, the relationship between Mason and Finn is incredibly fascinating and has its share of twists and surprises, opening before our eyes a multitude of possibilities, of moral and scientific dilemmas, and an excitement at what could possibly happen next.
But the movie just seems to quickly forget about them and continue with a new idea, that again isn’t explored as fully as it should, rinse and repeat.
Even what could be the key to the movie and its success (the idea that this could all be inside Mason’s mind, who would be hacking himself) is brought about too vaguely to be as captivating as it should be.
Same goes with the premise of the movie: are the roots of all evil really trapped inside our mind and is it really possible to rewire it? Is it ethical? What would it mean to play God? All these questions are touched upon but in the lightest, most cliché and most unchallenging ways possible.
By the end of the movie, we’re feeling more cheated and frustrated than awe-struck.
As for the characters, Mason and Finn carry the movie, but the rest lack realism. Eden is a charismatic villain thanks to his actor, but he feels too one-dimensional, like taken from a comic-book, which contrasts with the rest of the movie that feels more grounded.
Another main character is Sawyer, Spencer Locke (Resident Evil: Afterlife, Cougar Town (TV)), Mason’s new neighbor, but she is the least developed of the four and a cliché so extreme she becomes ridiculous, despite a twist she brings with her in the very last minutes.
In the end, Mad Genius is a film that looks cool and is rather entertaining, but never goes beyond or deeper into the few ideas it brings to life.
Hardcore science-fiction fans might still enjoy it, though: you will probably be disappointed overall, but still find some gems within.