The unique visual style of Upgrade and how it hints at the future of sci-fi 

Sayan
Upgrade (Image via Blumhouse Productions Goalpost Pictures)
Upgrade (Image via Blumhouse Productions Goalpost Pictures)

With famous sci-fi movies such as Dune, Avatar, and Furiosa hitting the headlines, Upgrade, from 2018, pushed the envelope a bit far. It raised the bar for most sci-fi films to come as it has rediscovered the genre with a unique visual style and thought-provoking storytelling.

Leigh Whannell's masterpiece was released in 2018 when the concept of Artificial Intelligence was considered vague.

Along with being a critically acclaimed science fiction movie, Upgrade was a box office success too. The film brought in over $16M to Blumhouse Production, as per Box Office Mojo.

According to critics, the movie stands out because of its special look and the way it shows us what might happen with more advanced technology pushing the benchmark of sci-fi movie expectations to the edge.


What is Upgrade all about?

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The movie was set in the future. The protagonist Grey Trace, a technophobe, preferred things old-fashioned and hands-on. His world turned upside down following a tragic event. While returning home, they were attacked. Asha got killed, and Grey was left paralyzed.

The twist in Grey's fate came with an offer from a tech innovator, Eron Keen. He proposed implanting an experimental chip called STEM into Grey's spine which was designed to bridge the gap in his spinal cord, allowing him to regain control of his limbs. However, STEM was not just a medical device but also possessed artificial intelligence, which could communicate directly with Grey.

Grey started adjusting to his new abilities. STEM helped Grey move and offered computational power that aids in combat. But soon he got tangled in a mission to avenge his wife's death. With STEM's capabilities, he turned into an unlikely vigilante, equipped with enhanced physical abilities far beyond a typical human.

As Grey went deeper into the motives of those who attacked him, he started to uncover some shocking truths about why STEM was really created.

The movie poses big questions about who's in charge, whether one can still call oneself free when technology can make choices for them, and what happens when technology starts wanting things for itself. It makes the viewer think about how blurred the line is getting between humans and machines, especially when AI starts showing it can think and plan on its own.


What makes Upgrade stand out from other sci-fi films?

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Unlike many sci-fi films that may feel distant or purely speculative, Upgrade offers a gritty, visceral experience that is both relatable and unsettlingly plausible.

The film's distinctiveness starts with its visual style. The use of body-mounted cameras, moving and tilted camera angles, and frequent Dutch tilts immerses viewers into the physical and psychological turmoil of the protagonist, Grey Trace.

This cinematographic technique is not merely for aesthetic value; it is deeply integrated into the storytelling, reflecting the control exerted by the AI, STEM, over Grey's actions. The camera's calculated and robotic movements during action sequences visually represent STEM's influence, enhancing the story of a man battling for control over his own body.

Also, Upgrade talks about AI in a way that's deeper than many movies. STEM isn't just a background thing; it's more like another character who talks to Grey and influences his decisions. It makes the viewer think more about how technology affects them and their choices.


You can stream Upgrade on Netflix after the site recently brought it in on May 16, 2024. Along with that, it is also available to be streamed on Amazon Prime Video, both with subscription.

Edited by Divya Singh
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