'Creative Control' is a cautionary tale about getting too personal with tech
The film explores how tech has taken over our lives by dropping us into a world where devices are see-through and everyday augmented reality is no longer just a pipe dream.
Caitlin PetrakovitzDirector of audience
Caitlin Petrakovitz studies the Marvel Cinematic Universe like it's a course in school, with an emphasis on the Infinity Saga years. As an audience expert, she rarely writes but when she does it's most certainly about Star Trek, Marvel, DC, Westworld, San Diego Comic-Con and great streaming properties. Or soccer, that's a thing she loves, too.
What happens when reality is no longer real, when the one truth you've based life decisions on comes crashing down?
Ben Dickinson's "Creative Control" explores this and is pretty darn close to perfect for the tech-loving millennials the world is courting these days.
Now in select theaters, the star of "Creative Control" is a device called Augmenta, a new-age distraction that's kind of like a fashionable evolution of Google Glass. The human star, David (played by writer-director Dickinson), works at a marketing firm and is granted an opportunity to figure out just how to sell this upscale distraction to the Main Street masses.
Augumenta is a pair of augmented-reality glasses, that actually look like glasses (boggles the mind, I know). In a ploy to get out of his firm's usual marketing rut, David enlists Reggie Watts ("Late Late Show with James Corden," "Comedy Bang! Bang!") to help flesh out the more...artistic potential of AR.
Once David takes home Augmenta, he begins to experiment and learn the product, and, as one is wont to do, he creates a holographic version of his best friend's girlfriend and falls in love with her. It's not exactly as strange as it sounds. OK, it's exactly as strange as it sounds. But it works.
"If you are practiced in the subtle art of psychological manipulation," Dickinson said after a screening in San Francisco last month, "you could get all kinds of people feeling like their animal needs are being met by buying a product, for example.
"I don't think technology is responsible for that; technology is just a tool."
Are we to blame for our own communication breakdowns? Is technology driving a wedge between our personal connections? Onscreen for David, it's certainly not helping.
Safely behind his Augmenta glasses, David is more brazen than his normal self and more removed from the happenings around him. His girlfriend (played by Nora Zehetner of "Maron") pleads with him to give up his increasingly stressful job. As he retreats into his augmented reality, he loses touch with what he is and is not experiencing -- and who with.
The shortfall of his reality is so confusing to David that even his fantasy starts to crumble. You're not sure he can accept the reality he's inadvertently built for himself.
In between lines and phrases such as, "You're a genius!" "No, I'm just younger than you," and having "A boner for the new tech," the film nails exactly what's so cyclical about the tech-fueled lifestyles so many of us have chosen for ourselves.
"We're at an accelerated point where technology...seems to be going down the hill and we're no longer in control of it," Watts said after the screening. "We've let go of it."
"Creative Control" is all about coming to terms with the fact that even without robots, tech runs our lives; we do not run technology.
Filmed in black and white, the movie is visually stunning. In the midst of well-choreographed one-shots and intimate close-ups, the lack of color and ubiquitous clear devices add to the dystopic feeling of the tech-centric film.
All of the tech used onscreen in the film is transparent, and the only pops of color are there to differentiate the augmented world from the real. At first, they draw you. After the first hour, you start to get lost in the color, much like we get lost in our devices every day, and the line between real and not blurs for the viewer nearly as much as for David.
The film is scary in its details, especially in regards to both how terrible and great it will be to augment your reality. With its beautifully designed interface, you almost wish Augmenta was real just so you could try it out -- the danger of "enhancing" your reality is just a bonus.
Life does get wild and crazy sometimes, and tech is usually the perfect escape. But what happens when you can't tell the real from the fake? What happens when you need an escape from the escape?
That is exactly what "Creative Control" seeks to answer. It reminds you that no one has all the answers, not even your devices, no matter how good you are at Googling.