I actually watched this film five days ago, before I saw Hereditary. I’m sure you can guess why I chose to review Hereditary first.
Upgrade is dumb fun. I discovered very early into my experience that I shouldn’t expect it to make any sense, and that I was here to just see some action.
And honestly? Upgrade has some pretty decent competencies. Do the competencies make up for the mountain of dumbness and thoughtlessness? In the sense that it is still watchable and enjoyable, yes. In the sense that it is a fantastic movie, obviously no.
Upgrade is part futuristic sci-fi and part action, with some extremely mild hints of horror (it is produced by Blumhouse, after all).
The action parts are the strongest elements of the film. The idea is that an A.I. takes over the protagonist’s body whenever he has to fight. The protagonist, played by Logan Marshall-Green (or “discount Tom Hardy” as many people on Film Twitter know him as), is established as a brainless mechanic who recently became a paraplegic due to a tragic incident involving the the men who killed his wife. He now is trying to find these men with the help of said A.I..
The A.I. takeover fights are very entertainingly shot and choreographed. It is also brutal and bloody.
The secondary source of entertainment comes with the dumb mechanic named Grey interacting with a monotone, objectively-minded A.I. named Stem.
One of the more transparent things the movie does is utilize this element to fill in plot holes; there are numerous moments where Grey asks something like “Wait, how are you able to do this?” or “Wait, why AREN’T you doing this?” It was a decently organic way to exposit facts about Stem’s powers, as well as rules to the universe.
However, despite their best efforts, there is still a bunch of different things the movie doesn’t even think about explaining, and their failing to do so kind of tears their universe down bit by bit.
But hey, that’s the sci-fi genre for you, a genre notorious for being bad at world building (think Valerian, Ready Player One, and trigger warning: most of the Star Wars movies).
The fact that Grey is a “dumb mechanic” does often become a tiresome element as well, as they use it to excuse the fact that he can’t get himself out of trouble often, and it made it hard to relate to him.
I guess this is as good as a segway as ever to talk about some of the worst things about this movie (sorry guys, I’m trying so hard to write this review and not be bored).
The first ten minutes of this movie is largely boring and useless.
Grey’s wife is a prop that they really only establish enough for a generic audience member to be sad when they kill her off.
Much of the script comes off as artificial, and the dialogue is often very inorganic.
A lot of the “futuristic” stuff in this movie is basically just to try to establish this world as futuristic, and not necessarily to enrich the story.
There’s also an obligatory twist in this movie that, on paper, is kind of cool, but after thinking about it for about two minutes, I realized it essentially creates crater-sized plot holes.
So yeah, essentially turn your brain off for this movie, and you’ll be fine. The violence is entertaining and satisfying, the spats between Grey and Stem are often funny, and the premise as a hole is serviceable. Everything else in this movie sucks. That said, there isn’t very much in the film that I would call “infuriating”, just lazy and irritating. If you want to go to a movie and be entertained, then see Upgrade. If you want to see a movie that thinks through its entire premise and has meticulous execution, then cease.