Review: Finch

Mixed results from Apple’s latest Science Fiction effort

Directed by Miguel Sapochnik
Written by Craig Luck & Ivor Powell
Starring
Tom Hanks… Finch
Caleb Landry Jones… Jeff
Marie Wagenman… Daughter (Flashback)
Lora Martinez-Cunningham… Mother (Flashback) (as Lora Cunningham)
Oscar Avila… Truck Driver (Flashback)
Emily Jones… Warning System (voice)
Seamus Seamus… Goodyear

Apple Original Films, Amblin Entertainment, Reliance Entertainment, Walden Media

Where to start? Perhaps mentioning that there will probably be spoilers throughout is as good a place as any. Also that there are sequences of flashing lights that may negatively affect people with photo-sensitivities.

I was originally going to suggest that this film is worth watching, though except for the tugging at the heartstrings (signature Amblin) was mostly forgettable; I was then going to discuss the unlikely nature of even the most accomplished engineer (and, obviously programmer, as well as heuristics developer, sensory developer, etc., etc., built a self-aware, self-learning, two-legged, cute and appealing robot while inhabiting an underground bunker from which he also has to operate scavenging forays and avoid specified dangers and threat, while living in a virtually uninhabitable post-apocalyptic future and leave it at that (OH, I’d also have mentioned that Tom Hanks puts in his usual competent, of not completely effective performance), but then I read a few other reviews (I always do in order to find out how far from the mainstream my own take is) and another reviewer mentioned the film based on Harlan Ellison’s short story A Boy and His Dog and everything kind of fell into place:

Finch is the conclusion of a novel that begins with Ellison’s piece and ends here.

There’s little continuity to suggest this is the case: Finch is not “Albert/Vic” and the dog – Goodyear – is not Blood. And Jeff is most definitely not Quilla June, though he might be a little Jason Robards, but there is certainly some connection between the two.

Ellison’s piece is a simple story of survival and love, of learning, through trial (and combat), what the really important things in life are. And just as Blood teaches his teenaged charge Vic what life, the universe and everything are all about, so does Finch teach Jeff.

There are mighty parallels here; perhaps the message is that no matter what form your post-apocalyptic landscape takes (nuclear hell-hole or environmental hell-hole), humans are going to be the same no matter what.

Perhaps the real message is that a Clifford Simak future, where robots and dogs work together to lament the passing of the species that gave birth to both of them, is preferable to Ellison’s imagined landscape of buried cities and radioactive craters, or even Interstellar’s world-wide dustbowl.

Or maybe that’s all bollocks and Finch is just a movie that was originally slated for broad release and ended up on a streaming service that seems to be hell-bent on burying the thoughtful, intellectual nature of science fiction underneath a welter of “great looking visuals”.

Finch (which has nothing whatsoever to do with Jeff VanderMeer’s novel of the same name – a quite good one at that) will entertain, will pull at all of your emotions. Two days later, you’ll struggle to remember how and why. Worth watching, won’t create a franchise.

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