I am ashamed. I have done it again. I watched a movie based off something else without interacting with that something else first. Although, in my defense, I did not know that The Circle was based off a book until after I watched it. Wait.. that seems like it makes it worse. My bad, everyone!
I am a strong believer that comparisons should not be made when they are not meant to be. For example, Tolkien has expressly stated that he did not write The Lord of the Rings to be an allegory. Treating it as such is doing a disservice to the author. I certainly hope I am not guilty of doing the same here, but it is hard to watch The Circle without George Orwell’s 1984 coming to mind. As I was watching the film, I actively tried to stop 1984 from coming to mind. That did not last. Unfortunately, the movie version of The Circle does not come close to living up to 1984.
Fair warning: 1984 spoilers will follow. In 1984, Winston Smith does not buy into the ideals of the Party (for a long while) because of basic logic. The entirety of The Circle seems to lack logic. Mae Holland nearly instantaneously believes that she is stealing from those who cannot experience life the same way she does simply because she does not broadcast it live for all to see. How? There are so many steps between those two statements. The philosopher in me hurt a little at this one. This conclusion leads her to make the decision to go “fully transparent,” aka wear a webcam and live stream her life at all times, except the bathroom. Mae just buys into the entire company so quickly. She never stops or even slows down to consider reasons or consequences. Now, I will say that Mae deciding to wear a webcam is actually where the best part of the movie comes in, which is the comments from her viewers. As someone who watches a fair bit of Youtube and Twitch, I found these comments both hilarious and realistic. It was almost as if they copied and pasted comments from these websites and tailored them to fit the film. I am not saying this is what was done. But they likely could have done this, and I don’t think we would have known the difference. Despite her decision to revolutionize the world and be the first human to go “fully transparent,” it looked as if she still worked the same job the entire film. I’ve never owned a company, but I would promote the person who was responsible for hosting millions of viewers in my company every single day. And the storyline with Ty didn’t really work. Arguably one of the smartest people on the continent idly sits by as his creation is used for purposes he never intended. Bailey and Stenton were portrayed as having appeased him. But if Ty were truly pacified, he would not have shown Mae the negatives of The Circle. So he must be disgruntled on some level. If he were not entirely pacified, why would he not do something? He didn’t need Mae to bring down Bailey and Stenton. It just doesn’t make sense.
In the end of 1984, the Party eventually converts Winston into believing and thinking like they want him to. They accomplish this through the horrific and brutal process of mentally breaking a human. He fights until the end, but then becomes a compliant part of Ingsoc. In the ending of The Circle, Mae sort of fights back against The Circle but actually just decides to go along with it, wear her cam again, and kayak in front of drones. I guess. I am not really sure what happens. We are never told what happens. The best I can conclude is that Mae was not all right with the version of The Circle that Bailey and Stenton were creating, so she exposed them for what they were. Once she got rid of them, someone (presumably Mae) continued to run The Circle differently. That’s the best I can do. Not showing the entire conclusion is not a problem. Not showing the entire conclusion and not giving the audience the tools to logically reach a conclusion is. Clearly, we can reasonably conclude that Bailey and Stenton broke a few laws. But what was their end goal? How much wrong had they done to get here? What was Mae okay with and what wasn’t she? How does The Circle (or something similar) still exist? The theme of the lack of logic carries through to the conclusion.
But what I find most offensive about The Circle is that it had everything it could ever want to work with, but never made anything of it. The concept is remarkable. The story is relevant and real. The actors and actresses are incredible. But nothing comes of any of this. It just seems such a shame.
My name is Chuck, and these are my thoughts. Now I would like to know what you think. What did you think of the concept of the film? Do you think the plot was handled well? Can you make more sense of the ending than I could? If so, please tell me. Leave a comment down below, and we’ll talk. Enjoy the day!
Next week: The Magnificent Seven