"UPGRADE Is a Downgrade"
UPGRADE is a science fiction thriller about a paralyzed man who gets a special computer implant that helps him avenge his wife’s death.
The story’s inciting incident occurs after a car crash, where Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Greene) and his wife, Asha (Melanie Vallejo), are dragged out of their car by four men with masks. These men leave Asha dead and Grey a paraplegic.
After three months of recovery, Grey struggles to find life’s purpose now that his wife is dead. His limbs are useless, and the detective on the case is nowhere closer to tracking down the murderers. A previous connection of Grey’s offers him the chance to reconnect his brain with his spinal cord, by inserting a small implant in his neck, a cockroach-looking machine called Stem.
After receiving this “upgrade,” Grey realizes he not only can walk and function normally but also has extraordinary capabilities whenever he lets Stem take control. The detective working his wife’s case fails to bring justice to the men who murdered Grey’s wife. So, Grey decides to take the law into his own hands. Along the way, he realizes he isn’t the only person who’s been upgraded.
UPGRADE follows the classic revenge story outline, but without much creativity, depth or unexpected twists. The protagonist just eliminates bad guys one by one. This revenge story is combined with the classic creator versus creation and man versus machine science fiction plots. Writer and Director Leigh Whanell tries inserting some comedy into the story, but at times it was hard to tell whether certain moments were supposed to be comical or serious. Thus, many times UPGRADE feels like a comical Frankenstein movie. Also, although there’s a plot twist at the end, the movie’s simplistic storyline and lack of character development or deep motivation makes twist rather predictable.
From a technical effects standpoint, however, the movie is well done. The action sequences are tight and well-choreographed, the special effects and engineering for the movie were unique and done without flaw, and much of the modern technology portrayed could plausibly be where society will be 20 years from now or so. The acting is serviceable concerning what little the script offers the actors.
UPGRADE espouses a humanist worldview. Man is the measure of all things, man is creator and creation, only the material world exists, and only the fit will survive. Grey Trace, along with the help of Stem, finds himself in the position to be sole judge and executioner for the murderers, and the audience watches a meager moral battle. He knows that murder is wrong, but does it anyway, at least to the people who deserve it, and there is always the justification “well, they deserved it” and “no one else will give me justice.” Other upgraded people aren’t using their gifts as a means of vengeance but to clear out a society of people who are “less than,” in other words those people who don’t have upgrades. This is the typical kind of elitism that seems common to humanist philosophy.
That said, UPGRADE does ask some interesting questions. Is the will-power of man greater than the control of a machine? Is a human’s soul stronger than a computing system?
However, UPGRADE is also extremely violent and bloody, showing bullets going through people’s bodies and faces being carved by knives, and most of the time making it seem comical. It shows little or no respect for human life.
UPGRADE tells the story of Grey Trace, whose wife is murdered by four masked thugs, who paralyze Grey. A friend gives Grey a chance to fully live again and avenge his wife’s murder, by implanting a tiny artificial intelligence device called Stem in his body. After the device reconnects his brain to his spinal cord, Grey realizes he not only can walk and function normally, but he also has extraordinary capabilities whenever he lets Stem take control. The detective working his wife’s case fails to bring justice to the men who murdered Grey’s wife. So, Grey decides to take the law into his own hands. Along the way, he realizes he isn’t the only person who’s been upgraded.
UPGRADE is a well-choreographed, designed movie when it comes to its fight scenes and special effects. However, it lacks a compelling story, complexity and character development. Also, its comic relief is not so funny. Finally, there’s no sense of loss, awe, triumph, or meaning to the story. UPGRADE has a strong humanist worldview, excessive violence, foul language, and no respect for human life.