Tim here. Over the course of four movies starting with The Cell in 2000, director Tarsem Singh has established a very distinct approach to making movies. This basically consists of applying extraordinary, unreal style to thin, whispy stories, not using style to replace substance, but using the absence of substance as an argument in favor of style as a primary storytelling and character-building technique. This has earned him as many enemies as fans, and I don't know if anybody genuinely liked 2011's Immortals, but he's certainly established himself as one of the most distinctive visionaries working in anything like the mainstream.
And now, we find what he just can't do. Self/less is the director's fifth movie, possibly his worst, and beyond question his most generic. The director's biggest and boldest visual gesture is to use a lot of sideways tracking shots. Is this what the loss of the magnificent graphic artist Eiko Ishioka, who designed the costumes for all of Tarsem's previous movies before her death in 2012, means to his aesthetic? Then there's no reason to ever hope for him again. But there has to be something deeper than that, for Self/less shares production designer Tom Foden from all of the director's work outside of The Fall, and he's pretty thoroughly dropped the ball here. There's only one set in the film that feels even slightly distinctive on any level, a sleek grey ultramodern medical lab, and even that feels like a slightly more austere version of a thing we can see in at least three or four movies every year. [More...]