by Jef Burnham
Available on DVD and Blu-ray July 6 from Image Entertainment.
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The mind conjures up numerous images when it processes the title, Eyeborgs, not the least of which is an image of its star, Adrian Paul, in full-on Highlander mode battling cycloptic, killer cambots with a katana. Eyeborgs could have, and should have, been a lot of fun to watch— if for nothing else than the opportunity its premise presents for a heavy dose of cinematic cheese. However, our good times are hindered by the film’s belated topicality, its inactive protagonists, and the relative lack of action, which consequently renders the film’s handheld cinematography unnecessary.
Mind you, it is definitely possible for a film to be topical and timely, yet retain its relevancy past the era which it was to initially critique. Consider M*A*S*H by Robert Altman. M*A*S*H, made in 1972, is an obvious response to America’s involvement in the Vietnam War (though it is set during the Korean War), but retains its potency even today through a universality of its anti-war message. Eyeborgs, released in 2009, focuses thematically on the loss of freedom through government intrusion into our privacy. Specifically, this is manifested in the film by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) invasion of Americans’ privacy through the adoption of ODIN, a nation-wide surveillance system which monitors everyone at all times. The film so specifically correlates with the activities of the DHS under the Bush Administration that it leaves the viewer unable to disconnect one from the other. Even upon the film’s 2010 DVD release, Eyeborgs’ attempted timeliness feels downright stale (I use the word “attempted” here as the film’s attack on the DHS under Bush actually came after Bush left office, with the film premiering well after President Obama had already been elected).
To make matters worse, this theme is expected to drive the story, as the characters float through the film at the whim of the Eyeborgs. By this I mean that the characters make no real decisions unless the Eyeborgs act first, nor do they take any action substantial enough to further the plot, with the exception perhaps of Barabara Hawkins, a reporter (Megan Blake, Dawson’s Creek). It is apparent early on in the film that the Eyeborgs are acting on their own without the authority of the DHS, going so far as to falsify video recordings to cover their tracks. As such, movie logic dictates that the characters must band together to stop them and they eventually do. However, the three main characters are so disparate that none believe the others about the Eyeborgs until they personally see falsified Eyeborg videos of either themselves or someone they know really well. This takes so long though that once they’re all in the same boat, there’s maybe a quarter of the film left. And by this point we’re tired of watching these people meander into danger.
Moreover, because it takes the characters so painfully long to realize the threat posed by the Eyeborgs, the Eyeborgs operate mostly in the shadows, meaning that there is very little action until the conclusion. Thus, the constantly shaking, Bourne-style cinematography is severely out of place. And when this type of cinematography is used in a film for which it has not been factored into the screenplay (as is the case with Eyeborgs), it comes off less as a stylistic choice and more like a crutch for talent— masking a lack of artistry.
The Eyeborgs may be watching you, as the tagline suggests, but you should avoid watching them.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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