David Cronenberg’s second attempt at making a movie called Crimes of the Future is arriving in theaters. In 1970, Cronenberg made a film that followed a mad dermatologist in a world without women, and 52 years later, he is back with a brand new premise and the same old title. But this time, Cronenberg dares to ask the question: what if surgery were the new sex? It’s one of those premises that titillates the senses; it’s provocative in nature and chilling as an idea. Unfortunately, the execution of such a fascinating concept leaves a lot to be desired, as we have a nonsensical, strangely directionless film from a director with a highly regarded reputation.
Story structure is a template that most films stick to like glue. Nearly every movie has a three-act structure, an inciting event, and a climax. Crimes of the Future barely has any of that. While it’s easy to admire a writer bold enough to break free from convention and tell an original, untraditional story, this movie tells a narrative so surreal and out of this world that the result is a mind-boggling heap of rubbish that becomes virtually impossible to connect with.
Not all movies must follow a story structure, but every movie should have a story. Unfortunately, Crimes of the Future meanders quite a bit, and the results are not pretty. Some may skip watching the film and instead read the plot summary on Wikipedia. However, I guarantee you that reading the synopsis for the film will buy you a one-way ticket to two emotions shared by those who chose to sit in the audience: confusion and bewilderment. The story doesn’t shock you the way Cronenberg intends; instead, it shows you strange imagery in a world you don’t get invested in.
If one were to try their absolute best to describe what happens in this film, it would come down to this: a future society features a performance artist couple, Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) and Caprice (Léa Seydoux). They grow and remove organs in front of an audience. The concept is unique, but Cronenberg’s failure comes from his inability to take the story he came up with and pull it into new directions. Instead, the film stays on one sustained note, diverging into an endless series of subplots that don’t amount to anything worthwhile.
The movie has original ideas, namely the National Organ Registry, which includes investigators such as Timlin (Kristen Stewart). But the film doesn’t use those ideas to create any tension that this sort of movie could have. Crimes of the Future has been marketed as a body horror film so grotesque that people walked out of its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. However, while a few scenes involve cutting skin and a few raw organs, this movie is relatively tame from a gore standpoint. The only reason I could imagine people leaving the theater is out of sheer boredom.
Don’t get me wrong, a movie like Crimes of the Future certainly has its audience. Fans of Cronenberg’s style will likely not be disappointed by this film. Many may adore its bold style. Unfortunately, I found it to be a lackluster, never-ending series of expository dialogue scenes where they give an actress of Stewart’s caliber nothing to do but whisper. It’s not an enjoyable film to watch and even less enjoyable to ponder. While I respect a filmmaker with an original style, this is a difficult movie to connect with and an even harder movie to sit through.
SCORE: 3 – BAD
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 3 equates to “Bad.” Due to significant issues, this media feels like a chore to take in.
Disclosure: Critic attended a press screening for our Crimes of the Future review.