HBO Films' Fahrenheit 451
is inexplicably set in Cleveland, Ohio. The adaptation of the 1953 Ray Bradbury novel, a sci-fi classic, stars Michael B. Jordan as fireman Guy Montag in a dystopian near-future where books are burned, independent thought has been outlawed, and pivotal moments occur in "the woods outside Bedford."
The most bizarre thing about the film, which is often on the edge of being decent, is that Cleveland looks like freaking Shanghai. Projected onto massive skyscrapers are live-streams of book burnings and exhortations from the "Ministry," to "Stay Vivid" on "the nine," the apparent evolution of the internet after a (recent?) Second World War that left millions dead.
The Nine is run by an Alexa-like operating system named "Yuxie." And to the extent that there is written language, words have been mongrelized and hideously abbreviated into emoji-like glyphs.
In an early scene, the Cleveland fire department gives a school presentation. It was actually one of the few scenes that I found compelling, in large part because it's easy to see how kids would view a charming, studly guy like Michael B. Jordan as a celebrity. But before a giddy burning demonstration for the youngsters, both To the Lighthouse
and Moby Dick
are shown on screens. Each are about a paragraph long. Anything beyond that, says Captain Beatty (played by a steely Michael Shannon), is insanity.
Later, after Montag has begun to question the truth about his world, a rebel type named Clarisse (Sofia Boutella), tells him that there were once 6,000 languages in the world. "Now there are less than 16."
Check out the image above. That's Captain Beatty in conference with other Ohio fire chiefs, dudes from Cincinnati, Dayton, Canton, Akron, Toledo and I think Youngstown. The big face in the middle is the Columbus chief. Lol. They're getting ready to go on an enforcement spree to track down a piece of software or code or something called the Omnis that I never quite understood.
Anyway, there aren't any recognizable Cleveland landmarks. The train that Montag takes to visit Clarisse is clearly not the Rapid. But at one point, a fire truck rumbles over a bridge that feels vaguely Cleveland-ish.
Reddit user Scruff91 summed things up
"Movie sucks, but with some friends and booze it's pretty fucking fun to rip apart. Especially if you're all from Cleveland. It's like a Black Mirror episode that sucks and features great actors giving the worst performances of their careers. But it's also set in Cleveland with hella skyscrapers and holograms and shit. Would recommend."
premiered Saturday and is now available on all HBO streaming platforms.