Let us take a tentative first step into the spooky season with "LX 2048," a sci-fi movie with more ideas banging around in it than there is really enough room to deal with. Made on a shot-in-Lithuania budget that forced a reliance on minimalist visuals, the picture somewhat recalls Jean-Luc Godard's 1965 "Alphaville." But Godard had Paris to pass off as a dystopia — no easy feat, but he managed. This film, directed by Guy Moshe, is set in an uninflected nowhere called The State, where all of the interiors look as if they were rigged up in some anonymous office building. Fortunately, the resulting flat colors, bare hallways and strategic lighting work for the story, which takes place in an ozone-starved world in which the sun has become a lethal orb, its unfiltered light blazing down on the Earth with such barbecuing power that most humans no longer venture out in it. (They only come out at night, maintaining their sanity through the depressing diurnal lockdowns on a regimen of government-mandated pills called Lithium X.) Daytime jobs that traditionally required the presence of actual people are now the province of their perfect-replica AI avatars, a generally creepy bunch.
Adam Bird (James D'Arcy of "Dunkirk") is a rare human who prefers the real world to the virtual one. He has a wife and three kids in a society in which no one wants to be saddled with real children and most people don't even have sex anymore. He maintains the old ritual of driving to his job each day (in a hazmat suit) to sit in an empty office in which he can interact with his telecommuting coworkers only via a VR headset.
Adam cherishes the challenges of real life, although maybe not the latest one: His heart is failing, and he soon will die. Complicating this grim news is the fact that Adam has a government-backed life-insurance policy called Premium 3, which will provide his grieving wife with a replacement avatar — identical to him in every way, and possibly improved in some ways — that will be moved into his life the moment he moves out. His widow-to-be, Reena (Anna Brewster of "Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens"), is fine with this; she's already submitted upgrade specifications for her new mate. Reena always resented Adam's determination to follow his dreams and his refusal to be placidly content with his life (a result of his having stopped taking his LX pills). And she's still steamed about the day she caught him having virtual sex with a hot young avatar name Maria (Gabrielle Cassi). ("She doesn't exist!" Adam protested, to no avail.)
Adam designed Maria to adore him, but what he really wants is love. "I need to know that you chose me," he tells her on a virtual sunlit beach. "In order to choose me, you'd have to be real, to have options." Maria has some thoughts of her own about this situation: "I want to know what it feels like to be real," she says. Uh-oh.
Adam wants an extension on his life, so he seeks out the creator of human cloning, a man named Donald Stein (Delroy Lindo of "Da 5 Bloods"). Donald arrives in the story bearing dorm-room philosophical musings of the turtles-all-the-way-down variety. (He's partial to the phrase "existential dread.") But Adam has other things on his mind, too — not least his violently estranged wife and the replacement avatar she's already ordered, who should be showing up any moment now. And the Maria deal — that, too.
Obviously, there's a lot to chew over in this movie, which is presumably why it goes on too long (not a good thing in a film so visually muted). Along the way, though, it does offer a solution to many of humanity's metaphysical problems. "If only we could just replace everyone," Adam says.
"LX 2048" is now streaming on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu and other sites.
Kurt Loder is the film critic for Reason Online. To find out more about Kurt Loder and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.