By Daniel Barnes
*Opens Friday in San Francisco, Berkeley, Monterey, San Jose and San Rafael.
From the “repulsive” corridors at UCLA where scientists invented the Internet to the gleaming surfaces of Elon Musk’s rocket lab, Werner Herzog’s latest hand-wringer ponders the place of artificial intelligence and robotic autonomy in a world where humans have become increasingly reliant on machines.
As usual, Herzog blurs the line between documentary and fiction by having the interview subjects directly address the camera, often delivering pre-scripted dialogue. Of course, he legendary German director/self-parody makes for an excellent narrator and philosophical tour guide. Unfortunately, Lo and Behold… is a pretty skimpy, borderline get-of-my-lawn treatise. Full disclosure: I watched the film on…the Internet!
Lo and Behold… offers some new stuff (the poetic, nearly spiritual logic of the scientists caught my interest), a lot of throwaway old stuff (brief suites on Internet bullies and video game addicts feel simultaneously exploitative and prurient), and a whole lot of Gibney-esque dread draped in Herzog’s trademark existential exasperation.
It’s hard not to get a little skeptical when Herzog waxes all end-of-days about soccer-playing trash cans. The same goes for Herzog lingering with horror over an extremely frail robot unscrewing an empty jar. “Soon it vill be unscrewing youuuuu,” he seems to whisper in our ears.
A Wild Blue Yonder-y stretch that imagines a post-apocalyptic future full of Tweeting Buddhist monks is playful nonsense. However, it adds little in the way of credibility. An extended endpiece where Herzog asks every single person in the film the same annoyingly phrased question (“Could it be the Internet starts to dream of itself?”) required a fair amount of teeth-gritting to conquer.