Reviews: Limitless

A different take

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.


After watching the film Limitless yesterday, I was struck by two things. One was that the premise is an awesome idea: What would happen if genius itself became an addiction, one that could kill you? The other was, "Well, he got off easy."

The movie begins In Medias Res, with our main protagonist, Eddie Morro, about to jump off a cliff as some very brutal people begin barging into his house. We then cutback a few months to find him a washed out writer, not even able to even start his book. Then an old friend comes and offers a miracle treatment: A pill called NZT that increases intelligence, memory, and understanding to enormous amounts. Eddie takes the pill, and our movie startys.

The camera work is pretty nice. I liked the transitions between normal Eddie's world (Drab colors, blue lighting) and uuber Eddie's world (Brightened colors, yellow lighting). Although some of the special effects for the effects of NZT are cheesy or ugly looking (Especially the letters falling from the ceiling), a lot of them were very exhiliarating (Such as the zooming camera through the city). The violence is a bit over the top, but is pretty well-handled; the only scene that didn't quite look right was when one of the Mafiya died and began bleeding Hershey's chocolate. The acting is okay, with the strongest performance by Robert De Niro's businessman character. The Eddie's actor varies; sometimes he can be very good, and at other times he gives vacant looks of Dull Surprise at inopportune moments. The rest of the cast is throughly average.

Unfortunately, this movie suffers from a real problem: The protagonist is a jackass. On the influence of NZT, he acts smug, manipulates several people including his girlfriend, makes deals with Russian gangsters, takes mind-altering drugs, and breaks into the business world just by being that good. His decisions all look as if they should have real, tangible consequences, and they do. However, at the end, we suffer an enormous asspull: The main character got off the drugs offscreen, but retained all the capabilities. Why? Because he came up with Phlebotinum offscreen. Fuck that.

It really says something about the film's protagonist when my favorite scenes are when people tell him off (De Niro's scene in particular was an epic The Reason You Suck Speech). I just couldn't like him, and thus I couldn't like the film.

A deconstruction of the Escapist Character

This review has a problem, I saw this movie in a bus trip, so I didn’t get the beginning nor the end of it. However, the part I have seen I liked very much.

The whole point of this movie (at least, before the Ass Pull ending) was the deconstruction of the Escapist Character that our protagonist is. He begins as This Loser Is You, but then gets some drug that makes him super intelligent… and instead of enhancing his life, it ruins it.

I think this movie had very good scenes that were really the mark of a superior movie: Eddie loses significant part of the conversation with De Niro’s character that obviously show that there is another NTZ’s consumer in Wall Street. Even when he is now cooler than cool, his needy ex-wife and his old flame reject him. De Niro’s give him a The Reason You Suck Speech and Eddie ignores him completely. Even when he is cool, he gets rejected time and again.

There is a reason for that: his skills, ultimately, didn’t matter. What matters is who you are, how are you affecting the people that surrounds you and if your actions make them happy or hurt them. This little truth – betrayed by the end of the movie – is the mark of a great movie. I think they must have chose the Darker And Edgier ending. Sure, nobody likes a movie with a Downer Ending, but nobody is impressed by a Executive Meddling imposed Happy Ending. I fear this movie will be forgotten very soon.