Creative Control's familiar story has already been told more compellingly

<i>Creative Control</i>’s slick aesthetic can’t make up for its faux complexity.

Creative Control’s slick aesthetic can’t make up for its faux complexity.

Not to blow your mind or anything, but it turns out that the technology we use to connect to one another can actually have the opposite effect. Crazy, right? Creative Control is the latest low-key sci-fi drama to treat this common knowledge as a grand revelation from on high. It's the kind of movie that can feel hard to describe — not because its ideas are complex but because its presentation thereof underscores how thin they really are.

Co-writer/director/star Benjamin Dickinson plays David, an ad man overseeing the marketing push for a new product called Augmenta. Google Glass-like in design, it projects a constantly updating layer of information and graphics atop the physical world in front of the user. After procuring a pair for himself, David does what any douchey guy would do: uses Augmenta to create a virtual version of his friend's beautiful girlfriend.

Like the similarly middling Ex Machina, Creative Control is a speculative account of how we mediate ongoing tensions — public and private, physical and digital. It also dares to ask how long it'll take for tech gurus to start having sex with their creations.

This is probably fairly realistic and plausible as these things go, but that doesn't make it especially edifying to watch — especially since both Her and an episode of Black Mirror recently covered similar ground more compellingly. (Side note: If you're in the mood for this kind of thing and have yet to watch Black Mirror, go watch every episode on Netflix. Like, now.)

Dickinson's film lacks the resonance of either of those predecessors. Its above-it-all sense of humor precludes any genuine emotional stakes. That David isn't especially likable isn't a problem unto itself, but the fact that he's so uninteresting is. It's hard to care what happens in Creative Control for the simple reason that there's little cause to care about what happens to him. The movies are full of robots and other forms of artificial intelligence with far more dimension than this bro.

He and several of his cohorts are the techy version of aimless Bret Easton Ellis characters, minus the poignancy. One will use Mercury being in retrograde as an excuse for her unusual behavior. Another postulates that humans are more comfortable with loops than spirals because we want to know where we'll end up.

Movies about how technology has changed our daily lives face an uphill battle; sci-fi narratives that actually explore new ideas are rare, and those that explore old ideas in new ways equally so. Creative Control doesn't really do either, though its slick aesthetic adds a sheen of sophistication to its familiar headiness. This is the present as near-future, an Apple commercial come to life. (It's even in black and white for some reason.)

Treating thinkpiece wisdom as a revelation isn't Creative Control's only glitch. It also overuses onscreen visualizations of text messages and overestimates its characters' cleverness (to say nothing of its own). Worst of all, this faux-complexity is presented as a feature rather than a bug — a miscalculation in a film full of them.

Creative Control
Directed by Benjamin Dickinson
Opens Friday, Lagoon Cinema