Perhaps I shouldn’t have expected much from a movie for which the trailer played like the best hits of Hugh Jackman’s career. Somehow, not only does that not translate to the actual movie for Reminiscence, but it also makes X-Men: The Last Stand no longer Jackman’s worst film.
The premise of Reminiscence is simple enough, although reeking of what must be rejected plot points from Westworld: in a post-apocalyptic world where the setting and atmosphere have almost nothing to do with the plot or the actual world-building, Wolverine is able to delve into the memories of people with technology borrowed from the world of Minority Report. Speaking of Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson is artfully wasted in this movie. But so is Thandie Newton, so maybe that was part of the grand plan of things.
Honestly, given the calibre of the cast, it’s incredibly jarring that even they could not save the movie. With an exception of Jackman, everyone else felt like they were simply phoning in their performances. Be it through the most awkward of dialogue, or simply expressions better suited to an amateur stage production, Reminiscence’s performances are best described as unnatural.
Though, given the talents of the cast, this is clearly a problem with either the writing or the directing—and it isn’t the only problem. Aside from just sounding amateur, the plot also feels unrefined and wholly lethargic, limping alongside Jackman’s character like both were the subject of an ordeal. There is some effort to prompt the story with a noir-esque tone, but the narrative device is greatly misunderstood and becomes an annoyance about two minutes into the movie. The lead’s narration is not only lazy and expositionary, but also unintentionally comical when paired with the many moments of him thinking aloud.
While it is director Lisa Joy’s feature film debut, Reminiscence feels less like a television director transitioning, and more a first timer having to deal with actors at all. Which is especially baffling given that some of the cast are from Joy’s claim-to-fame, Westworld. Instead, every performance comes across as stunted, and almost every line as clunky.
Perhaps, like many sci-fi endeavours, if the premise or the setting had been interesting enough, the less than mediocre script and story may have survived. Instead we just get the most rudimentary of mentions to an age old war, which exists entirely to grant the leading characters some form of a backstory. The post-apocalyptic “flooded world” aspect has high visual value, but is essentially inconsequential.
If anything, adapting Michael Chrichton’s Westworld for television seems to have taught Joy all the wrong lessons on world building. Her Westworld co-creator Jonathan Nolan serves as a producer here, but his usually intriguing writing is absent, leaving the dialogue to feel more like the usual groan-inducing Christopher Nolan fare. Additionally, the entirety of Reminiscence‘s script suffers from the odd choice of having Jackman narrate, and sometimes say out loud, exactly what is happening on screen.
In all, Reminiscence plays out like an extended television pilot. Perhaps, if split into three or four parts, with more time spent on individual characters and organic growth, Reminiscence may have been a decent mini-series for TV.
Reminiscence is out now in theatres, but re-watching Westworld may be the better choice.