Back to Reviews

Reviews Comments: A different take Limitless film/book review by gibberingtroper

I understand people's complaints. The main character makes a bad shortsighted decision to get ahead, the movie makes it clear he's headed for a crash. He even met his ex who told him that he could get out of this alive but he had to accept a cost of being forever damaged and unremarkable, but he refused to accept that. The movie should punish him right? He took drugs from bad people. Thats what happens right?

Well, I think that's a good theme to reinforce in general but I don't think its wrong to every now and then show that someone who took a stupid risk or one that society deems stupid stumbled across something awesome. That happens all the time in real life and, more importantly, people like this guy do change the world for the better all the time through stupid mistakes that lead to cool new things. We have a trope for that, Achievements In Ignorance.

I think its worth risking the life of one willing man to test out this kind of a possibility. Just think of how our world would change if many or most of us could be boosted to this level of intelligence. Nootropics is a thing and its something we're going to have to think about as that field gets more advanced. Heck, there are drugs now that offer some benefits, mental energy, alertness, improved memory, focus. Some of this only works for some people and some of it was designed to fight mental deficits in the elderly (for example some drugs that help fight senelity and dementia also positively impact normal functioning brains).

And he was the right man beat the system. He was creative and well read even before the drug. Its telling that after even the first time the drug kicks in, he gets an immediate benefit because he remembers stuff he read. With his creativity and above average intelligence, he might find something that a less creative but more rigorously disciplined scientific mind wouldn't. Not to say science doesn't allow for creativity but discipline is so much more important in that field.

If he was taking a drug to boost, say, his strength, that would be one thing, but its always bugged me that in stories about people with boosted intelligence that these boosted people couldn't figure out how to solve the problem. It was nice to see it work this way for once.


  • DeviousRecital
  • 29th Aug 13
Those aren't quite the problems I had with it. One was the ending, as a prior reviewer stated, was a bit of an asspull, and secondly, how much work did the protagonist actually do? It doesn't feel like he earned any bit of what he gained because it was all under the drug's influence instead of his own.
  • gibberingtroper
  • 30th Aug 13
In a sense he did some of the work. If you remember, the story he was writing was about a utopian future, the drug just helped him think through his ideas and turn it into a story. Then at the end of the movie, he has enough analytical abilities to make his vision a reality.

Also, he did as much work as a man born with genius. Nobody earns their raw brain power. If you look at him, he is working. He's doing stuff. He just has an easier time figuring out what he needs to do. Geniuses aren't automatically hard workers. Its like in Mass Effect 2, what Shepard tells Miranda, its not your talents, its what you choose to do with them. And at the end, he chooses to make the world a better place just like he always wanted. Before the drugs, he had the power to create a better world in his head, but now he has the power to make it real.

What could you or I have accomplished a hundred years ago without what modern technology enables us to do? This is hardly any different.

As for the asspull, I can sympathize with that, I really can. But we do see the hints earlier in the movie that he adapts when he discovers the drug's setbacks. He adjusts dosages, he adjusts his diet. There are hints that he can analyze how the drug is affecting him.

And as I mentioned in the review, it has always bugged me in stories where someone becomes super smart and then faces the prospect of losing their intellect or dying (Phenomenon) or suffering other bad side effect, why can't they use their amazing new intellect that lets them learn things and figure things out so quickly to solve their problem? So for me it was nice to see it go this way for once.

I know not every such problem is going to have a solution, but in this case it really seems like there should be one. If a pill can make you super smart, there has to be a way to keep that effect going and surely a super smart guy could figure it out.
  • DeviousRecital
  • 30th Aug 13
The thing about this is that he didn't exactly earn the NZT either. It was just given to him. If he'd been smart enough to invent the drug on his own, then I would have been okay with it, but what happens is that he's given the drug by someone else, he gains abilities that he doesn't earn by taking it, and the story loses most of its conflict afterwards. The guy almost always knows exactly what to do what he's on the drug, and there's no tension because of it, in spite of the things the movie tries to set up otherwise. It's like the story is handing him all the solutions on a silver platter. The most tense moments were when he was off NZT, but those were few and far between.

I get that Fridge Logic can inspire you to want stories to go like this one did, but the execution makes it seem like the protagonist, and by extension, ourselves, would be absolutely worthless and we would never get our lives together had miracle drug not come into our lives and blessed us with super intellect. I don't like this moral.
  • shiro_okami
  • 2nd Sep 13
The guy almost always knows exactly what to do what he's on the drug, and there's no tension because of it, in spite of the things the movie tries to set up otherwise.

That's probably why Eddie's drug supply (or lack thereof) is the main conflict of the movie.

I don't like this moral.

Who said there was a moral?
  • gibberingtroper
  • 24th Sep 13
Exactly. I like that this is the subversion of a moral. Thats more interesting. He did everything that our morals would normally recommend against and both he and the world are benefitting from it. Its enough to make you ponder the idealism vs cynicism thing.
  • DeviousRecital
  • 24th Sep 13
There wasn't a moral at all, nor does the movie present there being one. I probably should have used the word "implication". It's what I took away from this movie, and it doesn't sit right with me, even being a pro-drug use person. It's practically the equivalent of a sports film being pro-steroids.
  • gibberingtroper
  • 27th Sep 13
See, I think a pro-steroids sports movie could be done in an interesting way. Do you know how far teams will go to condition athletes for optimal performance? They prescribe specific diets for weight loss and weight gain, train specific muscle groupings so that the most muscle is devoted specifically to what the athlete needs. I'm sure they're on dietary supplements. But we won't let them use drugs when sports are about seeing the best at their best.

I know drugs generally have side effects but what if they didn't? Or what if the side effects were minimal? Why are we married to what is naturally possible when athletes are already unnatural (without the support of dieticians and trainers, these athletes would not be as good as they are.)
  • DeviousRecital
  • 27th Sep 13
Because seeing someone rewarded for hard work and being able to accomplish extraordinary feats on skill alone is ultimately more impressive than seeing someone cheat and shortcut his or her way to victory? That there's inherent more tension in it for a story? That's the difference between dieticians and drugs. Easy way and hard way. NZT and studying.

It's almost offensive to me as a student. Those idiots that work hard by going to class and studying and trying to process difficult information? Total losers that'll never amount to anything! If only they could use those smarts to go into the criminal underground and take miracle drugs, then they'd actually be going somewhere.
  • shiro_okami
  • 27th Sep 13
Devious Recital has a point. Even if Eddie was able to wean himself off the drug without crashing, he still ended up being "better" because of the drug. In real life, when people stop taking steroids their bodies go back to the normal limits of human strength. It would have been a better ending if Eddie had weaned himself off the drug without crashing, but didn't keep any of the positive effects of the drug; that way he could still laugh off the blackmail attempt but the movie would have a more realistic and less pro-drug ending.
  • gibberingtroper
  • 8th Oct 13
Offensive to you as a student?

Do you know how many students use Adderall and other nootropics to cram already? Or even caffeine for that matter. When the Olympics was looking to admit chess as a sport, they considered banning caffeine as a performance enhancer. Someone with access to these things has an advantage over someone who doesn't.
  • supergod
  • 5th May 14
Yeah, that "student" thing is a bit silly. Most of us, including the people behind the film, were probably students at one point anyway. I doubt the film is setting out to say that drugs are the answer. It just was an exploration of what something like that would be like. It's like complaining about superheroes that don't really "earn" their abilities. What's the difference between this and the super-soldier serum?
  • methodoverload
  • 31st May 14
Also remember this guy did go to school. One of the first things the drug does for him is start making connections to bits of knowledge he picked up in school and through his research. There's a reason why the drug works so much better for him, an already reasonably bright and educated writer, than it does for the others who take it. There's more useful information already in his brain for the drug to work with.

Tell me, are you as a hardworking student offended by geniuses who can effortlessly coast through? Shall we make them sniff lead till they're down to your level? How is this any different?

In order to post comments, you need to

Get Known