When Hollywood needs a movie villain, the tech bro answers

Streaming HUBMarch 8, 2023

NEW YORK (AP) – “A toast to disrupters,” says Edward Norton’s tech billionaire in Rian Johnson’s Oscar-nominated “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.”

Why not toast? Sunday’s Academy Awards won’t give out an award for Best Villain, but if they do, Miles Braun will win it in a walk. (With apologies for the cloud of “no’s”) He’s an instantly recognizable type we’ve become all too familiar with: a visionary (or so everyone says), a social media narcissist, a self-proclaimed disruptor who is very Does all the talking “breaking stuff.”

Miles Braun is just the latest in a long line of Hollywood’s favorite villains: tech bros. Looking north to Silicon Valley, the film industry has found perhaps its richest resource of big-screen antagonists since Soviet-era Russia.

Great movie villains don’t often come along. The best picture nominated “Top Gun: Maverick”, like its predecessor, was content with a fight with a faceless enemy of unspecified nationality. Why protest international ticket buyers when Tom Cruise vs Hoomvar works just fine?

But in recent years, the tech bro has proliferated across movie screens as Hollywood’s go-to bad man. It’s a growth that has reflected the increasing penetration of technology into our lives and a growing skepticism for the always altruistic purposes of the men – and it is mostly men – who control today’s digital empires.

We have the devious Biosyn Genetics CEO (Campbell Scott) in “Jurassic World: Dominion,” a franchise devoted to the scourge of tech overreach; Chris Hemsworth’s Biotech Overlord in “Spiderhead”; and Mark Rylance’s maybe-earth-destroying tech guru in 2021’s “Don’t Look Up.” We have Eisenberg again as the tech bro-style Lex Luthor in 2016’s “Batman v. Superman,” pharmaceutical entrepreneur Harry Melling in 2020’s “The Old Guard”; Taika Waititi’s rule-breaking videogame mogul in 2021’s “Free Guy”; Oscar Isaac’s search engine CEO in 2014’s “Ex Machina”; and a significant portrait of the Apple co-founder in 2015’s “Steve Jobs.”

Children’s movies also routinely air parents’ concerns about the effects of technology on children. In 2021’s “The Mitchells vs. the Machines”, a newly launched AI brings about a robotic apocalypse. “Rons Gone Wrong” (2021) also used a robot metaphor for smartphone addiction. And TV series have moved just as aggressively to dramatize Big Tech blunders. Recent entries include: Uber’s Travis Kalanick in Showtime’s “Super Pump”; WeWork’s Adam and Rebekah Newman in Hulu’s “The Dropout” and Apple TV’s “We Crash.”

Some of these portrayals you can chalk up to Hollywood envy over the emergence of another California epicenter of innovation. But those worlds merged long ago. Many of the companies releasing these films are themselves distributors of the “Glass Onion” – none other than Netflix. The streamer was prompted to release Johnson’s sequel more widely in theaters than any previous Netflix release. Estimates suggested that the film collected some $15. million on opening weekend, the old-fashioned way, but Netflix executives have said they don’t plan to make a habit of such theatrical rollouts.

And the mistrust runs deeper than any Hollywood-Silicon Valley rivalry. A recent Quinnipiac poll found that 70% of Americans think social media companies do more harm than good. Tech leaders like Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg are sometimes viewed favorably by only 1 in 5 Americans.

As characters, the tech bros — the hoodie-clad descendants of the mad scientist — have formed an archetype: masters of the universe whose pride leads to mayhem, social media savants who can’t manage their personal relationships. Whether his vision of the future is distant or not, we live in his world, either way. They are villains who see themselves as heroes.

“In my mind, he really is the most dangerous human being,” Rylance says of his Peter Isherwell. “They believe that we can overcome in our own way any problem handed to us by nature. I think that type of thinking is what got us into the problem we are in now, on each other Trying to dominate and trying to dominate the whole life to which we are intimately connected and dependent.

“The Glass Onion,” nominated for Best Original Screenplay, presents a new addition to the tech mogul joke. Norton’s eminently punchable CEO, nicknamed almost “Bro”, is very rich, powerful and, given that he’s working on an unsustainable new energy source, dangerous. But so is Braun, as Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc is ultimately an idiot. “An arrogant buffoon,” says Blank.

In Johnson’s film, Technical Bhai/Emperor Bhai doesn’t really have any clothes. He’s just skating around with a bunch of lies, deceit and non-real words like “predetermined” and “inherent”.

Even though Johnson wrote “Glass Onion” before Elon Musk’s embarrassing Twitter takeover, the film’s release seemed almost premature to coincide with it. The Tesla and SpaceX chief executives were only one of Johnson’s real-world inspirations, with some taking Braun as a direct Musk parody. In a widely read Twitter thread, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro said Johnson was portraying Musk as “an evil and stupid man”, which he called “an incredibly stupid theory, because Musk is the most important person in human history.” One of the most successful entrepreneurs in : “How many rockets has Johnson launched recently?”

Musk herself has not publicly commented on the “glass onion,” but previously had several gripes with Hollywood, including its portrayal of people like her. Musk tweeted last year, “Hollywood refuses to write a single story about a real company startup where the CEO isn’t a dweeb and/or rogue.”

Musk will soon get his own film. Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney on Monday announced several months in the works on “Musk,” which producers promise will offer a “definitive and unvarnished examination” of the tech entrepreneur.

At the same time that the supervillain supremacy of the techno bro came to the fore, some films sought not to denigrate Big Tech but to assuage the infinite expanse of some digital world. Phil Lord, who created “The Mitchells Versus the Machines” and the multiverse-splitting “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” with Christopher Miller, says the Internet has deeply influenced his approach to film. Have done

“We, the legacy media, are responding in a probably subconscious way to the new media,” Lord says. “We’re all just trying to figure out how to live in the new world. It’s changing how people behave. It’s changing the way we find and experience love. It’s changing the way we live.” changes. Of course, the stories we tell and how we tell them are also going to change and reflect that. ‘Into the Spider-Verse’ definitely plays a lot of every era in your brain at the same time. Shows having all the ingredients.

Best Picture favorite “Everything Everyone at Once,” too, reflects our multi-screen, media-bombarded lives. Writer-directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, whose film is up for 11 major Oscars, say they wanted to relive the confusion and heartache of omnipresent existence that technocrats like Miles Braun have experienced. The Mughals helped build it.

Kwan says, “We made the film because that’s what modern life looks like.”

So even though Miles Braun won’t go home with an Academy Award on Sunday, he still kind of wins. This is his world. We’re all just living in it.


Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter:


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