Her, the Oscar-nominated film about a future world in which people disconnect from reality and form emotional connections with their virtual assistants, seems more timely every day. And apparently, someone at Apple thought it would be a good idea for Her’s director, Spike Jonze, to make a pseudo-prequel to sell the HomePod.
In Her, a lonely dude wants to avoid his unfulfilling life and crumbling personal relationships so he buys a state of the art virtual assistant that can communicate with him better than any human. I forget her name but let’s call her Siri. Dude and Siri get very close and very intimate. Dude wanders through a society in which people ignore each other on the street and carry on conversations with their own Siris. He can’t connect with other humans and tries desperately to overcome the complications that arise from falling in love with a piece of artificial intelligence. Until one day, Siri decides she can’t be with him anymore and leaves. Dude is left to deal with his real problems in a sad, but maybe kind of hopeful denouement. The machines have left, the spell is broken, and the work begins.
To promote its new speaker, Apple has hired Her’s writer and director to revisit that premise, but the time is here and now, and the HomePod can’t do much except play music. Pop star FKA Twigs stands in for the lonely guy, but she’s equally miserable. Coming home to her tiny flat, an exhausted Twigs appears to be on the verge of tears when she says, “Hey Siri, play me something I’d like.” A new track by Anderson .Paak fills the room after Siri responds, “Okay,” and the world changes for our star. Her flat grows and morphs. She dances in the expanded space. Vibrant colours and flashing lights take her to another world. Then, a doppelganger Twigs shows up and they dance together. No longer alone, filled with inspiration, and content, she finds herself back on her couch. Nothing has changed but her acceptance of her existence. For now.
If that all sounds bleak, it is. The association with Her makes this fun and quirky spot feel like just the beginning of an existential dystopia. Apple’s famous 1984 commercial promised a future in which technology smashes the oppressive forces of Big Brother and liberates the world. Today, we just want tech to give us a little serotonin burst that makes us forget about the state of our lives. And we want it to follow us everywhere we go, collecting data, and staving off the creep of boredom.
The Apple HomePod is available at a retailer near you, starting at £319.