I went into this movie expecting to hate it. Based on what I'd heard, I was planning for a clunker with bad effects. I'm happy to say I was pleasantly surprised. The visuals are amazing, and the plot is hopeful and interesting, centered mostly around a negative "self-fulfilling prophecy" playing out in our reality. Without getting into spoilers, there's a good reason for our current obsessions with negativity and dystopia and apocalyptic zombie movies. We're being told the world is going to hell, and we're buying into it.
I can understand some of the negative criticism. There are too many CGI robots, enough to make action scenes feel boring. A weird tonal shift happens early on, amping up the violence and throwing viewers for a loop. And many of the action scenes feel hurried and overworked. The ten-minute house invasion section was so rushed, a dozen nifty inventions are thrown at the viewer so quickly, they can't be appreciated. Plot holes and "wait, what?" moments abound, as they do in most big films nowadays. I hate being asked to not only suspend my disbelief but ignore things like physics. When a huge metal ball explodes over your head, you run away. When the film shows it crashing onto a platform where your character was standing, the viewer thinks: "oh, my, is she dead?" Of course not. She's fine, and it's not explained. People fall in water and are dry in the next moment. Humans are vaporized by mean robots and nobody cares or notices. It feels like a great fourth draft of a script that needed a little more polishing.
Unfortunately, the movie feels 20% too preachy, hitting us over the head with dangers like global warming and obesity and famine. But it takes a hopeful view, assuming that, if we work together, we can solve these problems and others. It's a hopeful message, something akin to the 1950s and 60s when the world was recovering from a devastating world war and anything seemed possible and we were landing people on the moon and making strides on social issues like civil rights and the prevention of global conflicts. Clooney and the other actors are good, although the lead actress seemed a little overwhelmed, and you can't base a huge movie like this on essentially four characters. They needed more people and more character arcs to make it have an impact.
But, in the end, this hopeful film asks us to believe that progress is a good thing, but only if that progress is in the service of good. This movie trades in a different message: hope, and hopefulness, and using our combined smarts to figure out solutions to problems. That's not something you hear a lot any more, and it was refreshing to see, especially in a big Hollywood blockbuster. It harkens back to that old Einstein saying, which is highlighted in once scene: "Imagination is more important than knowledge." And that's not a bad thing.