Limitless: Enhancement Will Be Great Until You Go Crazy and Die

By Kyle Munkittrick | March 13, 2011 10:01 am

Limitless is one of the first movies to directly take on the idea of pharmaceutical enhancement. The trailer is here and fake viral ad for NZT is here. I’m already wary of the film based on the trailer. Not because of the acting, directing, or plot, which all look good enough. Instead, my problem is that the movie appears to take the same boring old stance on enhancement: the cost of making yourself superhuman is too high.

Limitless has a simple set-up: loser/author Bradley Cooper who lives in filth and dresses like a hobo is offered a pill that will make everything all better. The pill makes him much smarter, more creative, and more driven. Thanks to this new found brilliance, Cooper makes boatloads of money and catches the eye of evil Robert De Niro, who threatens Cooper in various menacing and shadowy ways. Then the pill starts making Cooper crazy and his world starts crumbling around him. It’s Flowers for Algernon except with bespoke suits, exotic cars and international intrigue.

The reason I’m getting an overall vibe of “meh, who cares” from Limitless is that the even though the film has a great bad guy with De Niro and his shadowy mega-corporation, it takes the easy way out and makes the drug the enemy as well. Flowers for Algernon is great because the main character, Charlie, has to cope with how his intelligence-burst impacts his social life. We’re confronted with the fact that increased intelligence doesn’t mean increased maturity, worldly experience, or romantic ability. Limitless ignores these deeper issues.

Wouldn’t it be more interesting if the problem of power and wealth was that Cooper had to deal with other wealthy and powerful people, who are, in general, incredibly awful? Or what would Cooper do if the drug simply stopped working? Or how it affected his relationship with the woman he thought he loved when he becomes too smart – way too smart – for her and is bored by a person he once admired?

The theoretical enhancement drug at the center of Limitless could have allowed the writers to ask much more interesting questions than the trailer lets on. Maybe the movie will surprise me, but I doubt it.

Image viral promotional material for Limitless

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, Movies, Transhumanism

Comments (6)

  1. mark

    Have you never seen a movie about a protagonist that has to deal with awful people that are wealthy and powerful? That’s pretty much the plot to every movie.

    • Kyle Munkittrick

      @Mark, I agree! But, rarely is it because the person is already among the wealthy and powerful. I was thinking more along the lines of Cooper becoming some sort of internal demolisher of the corporate-political complex. I was thinking Enemy of the State meets Wall Street.

      @Willy: yeah, another piece of evidence this film will be a let down. Sigh.

  2. Willy

    These viral trailers look like they were written and directed by twelve year olds. You’d think a movie with such a high budget could at least create more convincing pharma ads.

  3. Mark Plus

    We do need something like a safe, effective means to give everyone an extra dozen IQ points. That could revolutionize our society for the better, not because it would make the smartest people a little smarter, but because it would make the hordes of dumbasses on our planet substantially smarter, perhaps pushing them above a critical threshold so that they started to make better choices in life, like getting an education, having responsible sexual relationships, obeying the law and saving money for the future, instead of slacking off, making bastard kids, committing crimes and going on welfare. I’d like to see the movie which shows this kind of scenario for society, and shows it as generally a good thing.

  4. dashingblock

    @Mark Plus
    Considering that IQ measures intelligence (and shadily at that), increasing IQ would probably help everyone discern between which politician can provide them with the most increase on their tax return, not so much if this politician has to screw up the lives of a bunch of other people. Social utopia is based on the ethical decisions of humans which admittedly have a lot to do with capacity for ration and logic but emotions do ultimately come into the equation. How are we going to behave if we don’t all agree on the same thing (i.e. I think welfare’s lovely, it’s currently providing my parents with the means to give me a great education and isn’t that what you supremely want in a human?); do we devise nukes until the superior nuke-creator eventually wins or do we hash it out rationally? And maybe the rational thing is to ensure your power and will’s enforcement. If this Utopia-catalyst pill could enhance the ethical, emotional, etc. portions of our brains, however, I’m all with you.

  5. Anja Strome

    Well!! Watch Full Movie For Free … Limitless (2011) view movies online … Don`t Wait anymore


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