Remember the '90s? Writer/director Pedro de Lima Marques sure does. His film, 'Tales of Tomorrow' ('Contos do Amanhã'), is replete with blocky computers that emit shrieking dial-up sounds and mobile phones the size of house bricks. For some, this cyberpunk drama will be a stroll down memory lane to view a small slice of the thicc technology of the past.
In 2165, less than a fifth of the world's population is alive after an environmental disaster. The city-state of Porto 01 is the last bastion of humanity. The Core, a technological McGuffin that runs the city, is under threat from an enemy known only as Zero, who is seeking someone called the Ghost to further his nefarious plans. There's also an Exclusion Zone and a lot of other sci-fi jibber jabber.
In the year 1999, Jefferson (Bruno Barcelos) is a quiet high school student in Brazil and fan of the Seattle grunge band Alice in Chains. He realises that he's connected to this bleak future world after discovering some mysterious files and witnessing his best friend Bia (Duda Andreazza) being kidnapped.
The '90s were when the internet emerged from the underground and became a thing everyone was expected to hack into. Like all new media, the 'net was subject to a lot of hype, and a lot of trepidation. Movies began using cyberpunk tropes to explore virtual reality, hacking, cybercrime, and questioned what this brave new virtual world was going to do to the human spirit. de Lima Marques' film embraces these tropes wholeheartedly, reflecting both the optimism and anxiety about the boundless possibilities of virtual reality and artificial intelligence. Unfortunately, it also shares the flaws common in the genre - most notably, some Johnny Mnemonically bland characterisation and sluggish pacing.
Despite a few similarities between their basic premises and titles, 'Tales of Tomorrow' is the anti-'The Tomorrow War'. It's a muted small-scale drama, and the special effects in the Joss Whedon-esque dystopia are well-utilised on what was obviously a tight budget. There is no overload of unrealistic "travelling through the mainframe" animated sequences or anything like you'd find in 'Hackers' or 'The Net'. There aren't any elaborate battles sequences pitting humans against atonally laughing killdroids in 2165. There is no Chris Pratt pulling a Rambo face in slow-motion. Instead, 'Tales of Tomorrow' flashes between the past and the future until de Lima Marques is prepared to reveal his clever twist, which manages to reconfigure the entire film. Not in some major 'The Matrix' way. If anything, it's somewhat reminiscent of a teen-orientated take on Josef Rusnak's 'The Thirteenth Floor'.
There aren't any elaborate battles sequences pitting humans against atonally laughing killdroids in 2165. There is no Chris Pratt pulling a Rambo face in slow-motion.
Despite some decent low-budget effects and an unexpected turn of events leading into the final stretch, the screenplay for 'Tales of Tomorrow' holds it back from being a story that you'll be thinking about the next day.