How about a toast? Sunday’s Oscars won’t be giving out a prize for best villain, but if they did, Miles Bron would win it in a walk. (Apologies to the cloud of “No”.) He’s an instantly recognizable guy we know well: a visionary (or everyone says so), social media narcissist, self-proclaimed disruptor who talks a lot about “breaking Things “.
Miles Bron is just the latest in a long line of Hollywood’s favorite villains: the tech bro. Looking north to Silicon Valley, the film industry has found perhaps its richest resource of big-screen antagonists since Soviet-era Russia.
The great villains of the cinema do not come often. Best Picture Nominated Top Gun: Maverick like its predecessor, was content to fight with a faceless enemy of undetermined nationality. Why upset international ticket buyers when Tom Cruise vs. Whomever works just fine?
But in recent years, the tech sibling has proliferated on movie screens as Hollywood’s go-to villain. It’s a rise that has reflected growing fears about the growing reach of technology in our lives and growing skepticism about the not always altruistic motives of men – and it’s mostly men – who control the digital empires of people. ‘Today.
We had the snarky CEO of Biosyn Genetics (Campbell Scott) in “Jurassic World: Dominion, a franchise dedicated to the peril of tech overreach; Chris Hemsworth’s biotech overlord in “Spiderhead”; and Mark Rylance’s possibly Earth-destroying tech guru in 2021’s “Don’t Look Up.” We had Eisenberg, once again, as bro tech-style Lex Luthor in “Batman v. Superman” from 2016; Harry Melling’s pharmaceutical entrepreneur in 2020s ‘The Old Guard’; Video game mogul breaking the rules by Taika Waititi in 2021’s “Free Guy”; CEO of Oscar Isaac’s search engine in “Ex Machina” in 2014; and the critical portrait of the Apple co-founder of “Steve Jobs” in 2015.
Children’s films, too, regularly channel parental concerns about the impact of technology on children. In 2021’s “The Mitchells vs. the Machines,” a newly launched AI causes a robotic apocalypse. “Ron’s Gone Wrong” (2021) also used a robot metaphor for smartphone addiction. And TV series have rushed just as aggressively to dramatize Big Tech gaffes. Recent entries include: Uber’s Travis Kalanick on Showtime’s “Super Pumped”; Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos in Hulu’s “The Dropout”; and WeWork’s Adam and Rebekah Neumann in “We Crashed” on Apple TV.
Some of these portrayals could be attributed to Hollywood jealousy over the emergence of another California epicenter of innovation. But these worlds merged a long time ago. Many of the companies that released these films are disruptors themselves – nothing more than netflix, distributor of “Glass Onion”. The streamer was persuaded to post Johnson’s sequel more widely in theaters than any previous Netflix release. Estimates suggested the film raked in some $15 million over the old-school opening weekend, but Netflix execs said they don’t plan to make a habit of such rollouts in halls.
And the mistrust goes deeper than any Hollywood-Silicon Valley rivalry. A recent Quinnipiac poll found that 70% of Americans think social media companies do more harm than good. Tech leaders like Meta Chief Mark Zuckerberg were sometimes viewed favorably by only 1 in 5 Americans.
As characters, the tech bros — descendants of the hoodie-wearing mad scientist — have formed an archetype: masters of the universe whose hubris leads to disaster, social media savants who can’t handle their personal relationships. Whether their visions of the future come to fruition or not, we end up living in their world anyway. They are villains who see themselves as heroes.
“In my mind, he really is the most dangerous human being,” Rylance says of his Peter Isherwell. “He believes we can dominate our way out of any problem nature throws at us. I think it’s the same kind of thinking that gets us into the problem we find ourselves in now, trying to dominate ourselves and all of life to which we are intimately connected and dependent.
“Glass Onion,” nominated for Best Original Screenplay, features a new escalation in mockery from tech moguls. The eminently punchy CEO of Norton, with a name so akin to “Bro”, is immensely wealthy, powerful and, given that he’s working on a volatile new power source, dangerous. But Bron is also, as Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc ultimately deduces, an idiot. “A conceited jester,” said Blanc.
In Johnson’s film, the brother tech/brother emperor really has no clothes. It just skates around with lies, deceptions and a bunch of unreal words like “predefined” and “inspired”.
Even though Johnson wrote “Glass Onion” long before The chaotic takeover of Twitter by Elon Musk, the film’s release seemed almost supernaturally timed to coincide with it. THE You’re here And SpaceX the chief executive was just one of Johnson’s actual inspirations, some have taken Bron as a direct parody of Musk. In a widely read Twitter wire, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro said Johnson was dramatizing Musk as “an evil, stupid man”, which he called an “incredibly stupid theory, since Musk is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the history of the ‘humanity”. He added: “How many rockets has Johnson launched recently?”
Musk himself hasn’t publicly commented on “Glass Onion,” but he’s had plenty of trouble with Hollywood before, including his portrayals of guys like him. “Hollywood refuses to write even one story about a real corporate start-up where the CEO isn’t dumb and/or evil,” Musk tweeted last year.
Musk will soon have his own movie. Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney announced on Monday his several months of work on “Musk,” which the producers promise will offer a “definitive and unvarnished examination” of the tech entrepreneur.
At the same time as the tech brother’s supervillainy supremacy emerged, some movies sought not to ridicule Big Tech but to soak up some of the endless expanse of the digital world. Phil Lord, who with Christopher Miller produced ‘The Mitchells vs the Machines’ and the multiverse ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’, says the internet has profoundly influenced their approach to filmmaking.
“We legacy media may be unconsciously reacting to new media,” says Lord. “We are all trying to figure out how to live in the new world. It changes people’s behavior. It changes the way we find and experience love. It changes our way of life. Of course, the stories we tell and the way we tell them will also change and reflect that. “Into the Spider-Verse” certainly reflects having a lot of content from all eras in your brain at once.
The best favorite image “Everything, everywhere, all at once”, also reflects our media-bombarded multi-screen lives. Writer-directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, whose film is in the running for a leader 11 Oscars, say they wanted to channel the confusion and heartbreak of living in existence everywhere that tech moguls like Miles Bron helped create.
“The reason we made the movie is because that’s what modern life is like,” Kwan explains.
So even though Miles Bron won’t be going home with an Oscar on Sunday, he still wins, in a way. It’s his world. We just live in it.