‘Landscape With Invisible Hand’ review: Asante Blackk shines in soft sci-fi adventure
Forget alien invasion through sneaky infiltration or bombastic bombing of national landmarks. Landscape with an invisible hand unfolds a sci-fi story that plays out more like a nerve-wracking but amusing alien gentrification.
Imagine a not too distant future where alien rulers have descended. But instead of conquering or serving politicians, they bought up humanity by teaming up with corporations and promising new technologies and new heights of status. Specifically: picturesque utopias that float above the surface of the earth and treat everything below like a dump. The dumped world below is where Landscape with an invisible hand paints a coming-of-age story that is uniquely compelling and excitingly unpredictable.
what is Landscape with an invisible hand around?
Adapted from MT Anderson’s novel of the same name,(Opens in a new window) Landscape with an invisible hand revolves around Adam Campbell (Asante Blackk), a black American teenager scraping by on an earth now ruled by an alien race known as the Vuvv. While those living in a literal upscale version of gated communities rejoice in innovation and wealth, those below – like the Campbell family – are clawing at millions of jobs being rendered obsolete by Vuvv technology. Adam and his lawyer mother (Tiffany Haddish) scramble for jobs they can find, while his little sister tries to grow her own food, fed up with the nutritious but unsavory cubes that have become the norm for lower-class homes. But her life changes forever when Adam falls in love.
Within hours of being seduced by new student Chloe Marsh (Kylie Rogers), Adam has suggested that she and her family move into his basement with no shelter. Tensions are mounting between two households crammed under the same roof. But there’s a reprieve when Chloe and Adam decide to turn their budding romance into a live stream for alien entertainment. These “courtship shows” add a vicarious thrill to the vuvv – who produce asexually and have no notion of romantic relationships. For the Marsh and Campbell families, this means lots of money, financial security and more real Eat. But how can young love resist not only the prying eyes of extraterrestrial onlookers, but also the pressure to support their families through a futuristic intrusive brand of reality TV?
Landscape with an invisible hand elegantly tells an intricate sci-fi story.
Writer/director Corey Finley, who received praise for the teen thriller thoroughbreds, carefully sprinkles detail around this character-centric drama. For example, instead of an aggressive news montage about the alien invasion, artwork by Adam in the opening credits shows its progress. A crayon drawing here, a pencil sketch there; Each shows the Earth before and after the vuvv appeared. Throughout the film, delicate chapter breaks emerge from close-ups of his work. Each drawing not only brings focus to a moment that was profound for our protagonist, but elegantly explores his emerging understanding of this world and his role in it. While Adam struggles to put his feelings into words, his drawings speak volumes.
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As for the Vuvv, an educational video will be played at the school to explain to us and the students who they are and what their business is in general. However, it quickly emerges as light-hearted propaganda that ruthlessly ignores the widespread poverty and desperation that its buyout has caused around the world.
Pockets of this impact surface in casual conversations about 3D-printed flesh, a debris field of discarded lacrosse sticks, and the shrug that publicly committed suicide evokes. Act Two features sci-fi extravaganzas like spaceships, shiny tech, and even the mysterious Vuvv, aptly described as “sticky coffee tables.” To Finley’s credit, his film’s modest budget doesn’t detract from the tangibility of these other-worldly elements. This is solid soft sci-fi though. So the aliens and their technology, while fascinating, isn’t the point. This is all about Adam.
Asante Blackk stands strong as a leading man.
Against this busy backdrop of alien invasion, human tragedy, exploitation, first loves, artistic inspiration and family conflicts, Landscape with an invisible hand unapologetically follows a young black man who finds himself in a world of adversity. Whether at home or at school, with his girlfriend, family or a vuvv playing the tourist, Adam is constantly challenged to determine his own values and worth. Will he be like the neurosurgeon who left his calling to become a Vuvv chauffeur? Will he risk ostracism by rebelling against Vuvv’s demands for feel-good entertainment? What does it mean to thrive or survive in a world where the haves treat the have-nots as something new?
Blackk, who has previously appeared in such announced shows as This is us and when they see usShe shoulders the burden of these worries with a solid demeanor and bright eyes. Even when Adam is at a loss for words, Blackk’s gaze screams about the pressure, pain, and even joy that collide in Adam’s journey. Rogers suits him as Chloe, a bubbly naïve when the vuvv are watching who slips into a tense stance of fear when they’re not — when she can be genuine and genuinely concerned. Haddish brings some smirking humor as the no-nonsense mother, while Josh Hamilton – as Chloe’s distraught father – bravely plays the fool, as demanded (by the film and the vuvv). Overall, the ensemble cast creates a world that feels eerily familiar, even when the slimy aliens show up to cause headaches and social shudders.
The fascinating sci-fi details, which Finley drops like breadcrumbs, lead us into the curious adventure Landscape with an invisible hand. The performances ground the heartache throbbing at its core, while the theremin music trembles in its score, conveying a sense of vulnerability and alien sound. But perhaps what’s most exciting about Finley’s latest novel is that — unless you’ve read the book — there’s no way to predict what might come next, or where Adam might go. The future may seem bleak, but its details feel wild – thrilling – uncertain.
So let’s check out the drawings that are along the way to get a sense of what’s to come. Wisely, Finley doesn’t give us easy answers. However, he leaves us with a soft sci-fi gem that’s awesome, fun, and excitingly fucked up.
Landscape with an invisible hand was reviewed after its world premiere at Sundance 2023.
https://mashable.com/article/landscape-with-invisible-hand-review ‘Landscape With Invisible Hand’ review: Asante Blackk shines in soft sci-fi adventure