Reel Deal: Movie creations get out of control

Robert McCune

It’s only a matter of time before every creator loses control over his or her creation.

That’s true of parents, who create new life; and even of our almighty Creator to some extent.

It also applies to young, ambitious, cut-throat entrepreneurs.

Films featured in this week’s Reel Deal column focus on a billionaire nerd, a couple of scientists and a lobbyist with one thing in common: a god complex.


JANE ... made chocolate-chip pancakes for lunch.

JIM ... is late for work.

ROBERT ... is reviewing the Facebook movie. Like? Yes.

What’s your status?

For more than 500 million people worldwide, Facebook has become a part of life.

It may have started as a college experiment, but the social networking website has become whatever we want it to be – it’s a digital diary, a high school reunion, a family photo album, a dating service, a running commentary on everything from politics to food and fashion, and a platform for selling everything from newspapers to lifestyles.

Since its founding in 2004, more people every day have logged on to update their status, post photos and link to YouTube videos of cats playing the piano – many with no clue where Facebook came from, or how.

That’s changing with “The Social Network,” Hollywood’s account of the birth of a nation of networkers.

The truth?

To turn a phrase from writer Aaron Sorkin’s “A Few Good Men (1992),” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg “can’t handle the truth.”

Sorkin (creator of the TV series “The West Wing” and writer on “The American President” in 1995 and “Charlie Wilson’s War” in 2007) based his “Social Network” screenplay largely on depositions from two separate lawsuits aimed at Zuckerberg after the ballooning success of Facebook.

Zuckerberg has cried foul – and fiction – stating that his true story is far less dramatic than what’s being presented on the silver screen.

You can’t blame the guy for trying to convince the world he’s nothing like the cold, calculating character played by Jesse Eisenberg in the movie directed by David Fincher (of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” and “Fight Club”).

Movie Mark is a snide, sour, sadistic, sarcastic status-junkie willing to stomp on the toes of his few friends to climb the social ladder.

The real Zuckerberg, meanwhile, just donated $100 million to schools in Newark, N.J., on “Oprah.” Shameless publicity play or not, it was a nice thing to do.

But then again, the Facebook founder has never been motivated by the money. That’s one thing, he’ll admit, the movie gets right.

As the film puts it, plotting a way to separate himself from all of the other Harvard students with a perfect SAT score, and get the attention of a prestigious campus club, he manages to degrade and insult his girlfriend, who dumps him on the spot.

But even movie Mark disputes the depositions of his enraged ex, cracking that he guesses she’s “the first person who ever lied under oath.”

Fact: Zuckerberg was sued by Facebook co-founder and former friend Eduardo Saverin (played by Andrew Garfield in the movie), as well as Harvard elites and twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (both played by Armie Hammer), and settlements in both cases cost him millions.

Saverin, who put up the start-up cash and for a time was chief financial officer for Facebook, claimed he was unjustly forced out of the fold.

The Winklevoss twins, meanwhile, contended Facebook was nothing more than a rip-off of their idea for an Ivy-league Internet chick magnet they called “Harvard Connection.”

But it’s clear from the start that neither litigant had anything near the vision of Zuckerberg, who took a simple line of code written on his dorm room window and turned it into a web frenzy.

Even his kindred spirit, Napster creator Sean Parker (played by Justin Timberlake), lacked a certain determination.

Parker (portrayed as a sort of villain – an interloper and manipulator with eyes on his own prize) has his weaknesses: Drugs and party girls.

Try as he might to drag movie Mark down into that debauchery, he doesn’t. But he does manage to exert some influence over his protege – the consequences of which are both good and bad.

In the end, for all that he gained financially and in status, movie Mark lost as much in true friendships and relationships.

In connecting the world, he lost some of that connection himself.

Of course, it’s hard to feel sorry for the youngest billionaire in the world. It wouldn’t be right, either, to throw a pity party for his jilted friends, who for the most part are all much richer than any of us can imagine.

But money isn’t everything, as “The Social Network” reminds us.

The movie itself is amazing – worthy of early Oscar buzz and everything you might expect from the talented twosome of Sorkin and Fincher.

Despite its subject matter – web programming and intellectual property rights – it moves at a fast clip, moved along by whip-smart dialogue and intrigue that’s the product of exquisite editing.

It’s easily the best thing both Eisenberg and Timberlake have done in film.

Suggest it to your Facebook “friends.”


Combine the movie DNA of 1986’s “The Fly” with 1968’s “Rosemary’s Baby” and add in a bit of “The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)” and you might have something close to “Splice.”

Scientists and lovers Clive and Elsa (played by Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley) break the laws of nature and create life by splicing strands of animal DNA.

First, it’s just a couple of meat puppets – fleshy, bulbous, limbless blobs with nicknames that can produce an animal protein that’s marketable by the pharmaceutical company that funds their research.

But they won’t stop there – and against orders and their better judgments, the scientists add human genes to the DNA cocktail.

Elsa seems especially obsessed with the project, while Clive is mostly going along to get along. They plan to abort before their abomination is born, but it’s on a fast track, aging months in days, and bursts out into the world before they can stop it.

It rapidly evolves from something that looks a little like a “Jurassic Park” velociraptor to a full-grown, bird-legged woman with a tail that the couple names “Dren,” which is N.E.R.D. (the research lab they work for) spelled backwards. The matured creature is played by French actress Delphine Chanéac.

Elsa and Clive dress Dren, teach her to communicate through Scrabble tiles and feed her Tic-Tacs – like all good parents. Except, they also keep her locked up (first in a lab, then in a barn) and a secret. They do so to protect her, but also because if she’s discovered, they’ll be in hot water.

They can’t seem to decide whether she’s an experiment to be poked, prodded and studied – or a child to be loved and nurtured.

It’s a dilemma for the movie audience, too.

Elsa and Clive cross the lines of morality so many times that they not only lose control of their creation, but of themselves, too.

“Splice” is science fiction with a “freakshow” attraction that you can’t divert your eyes from. It’s never really scary – unless you start to consider how real-life scientific advancements may go berserk.

Like its genetically-engineered star, “Splice” is one of a kind, and worth your time.


In “Casino Jack,” Kevin Spacey portrays real-life hotshot Washington, D.C., lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who peddled political influence and power, building a house of cards destined to topple and take White House officials, lawmakers and other lobbyists down with it.

Spacey looks to be on top of his game as the two-faced, manipulative, arrogant Abramoff, who rubbed shoulders with mobsters and thought himself as untouchable as Capone and his cronies.

The movie also stars Barry Pepper as Abramoff accomplice Michael Scanlon, Kelly Preston as his wife and Saturday Night Live’s Jon Lovitz as a mobster. It’s due in theaters in December.

Contact Robert McCune at 330-775-1124 or