Advantageous: How Not to Tell a Story

Jennifer Phang’s Advantageous is a highly ambitious film. The film manages to tell its story on a Kickstarter-sized budget, which is very impressive. Phang also builds her world through solid visual storytelling. The film looks great compared to other low-budget movies. However, Advantageous is not a film focused on its action or visual effects. Advantageous is a movie with a message. The film has repeatedly been described as an intelligent, thinking person’s sci-fi by many critics.

But what is the message Jennifer Phang is trying to express? What is Advantageous trying to say? Well, it’s hard to tell. The film tries to focus on so many different themes that the end result feels like a mess. The film brings up issues with mortality, gender, age, identity, relationships, sacrifice, discrimination, desperation, consequences, and the dangers of technology. Advantageous presents its audience with all these themes and more during its 90 minute runtime.

However, Advantageous manages to make its 90 minute runtime feel like four hours. This film is a perfect example of biting off more than you can chew. The film tries to address a multitude of themes and messages, but does not spend nearly enough time exploring any of them. The film has a very bad habit of showing something on screen, then leaving the image and never returning.

Movies with ulterior messages are important to addressing problems in society. Some would argue that without a message, no movie would even be worth watching. Earlier this semester, we watched movies that conveyed a message. Melancholia dealt with depression and Wall-E offered a warning against hyper-consumerism. Compared to these two films, Advantageous just feels confused.

Jennifer Phang’s film is so bogged down with its army of themes and messages that that it doesn’t allow itself time to explore the themes it presents. How much is too much when it comes to telling ulterior messages and themes through film?

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