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September 11, 2018

Lana Condor Jumps From Rom-Coms to Sci-Fi in ‘Black Mirror’-Esque ‘Warning’

Superhero universes have basically overtaken the Hollywood market; this much is not news. Comic book movies undoubtedly serve as a huge platform for many an actor today. Yet despite the fact that Lana Condor made her feature film debut within the massive X-Men film franchise — the sixth-highest grossing series of all time (at the moment of writing this article) — her turn as the fan favorite mutant Jubilee left plenty to be desired.

That was not even her fault. Jubilee was entirely sidelined in X-Men: Apocalypse, with much of her role being relegated to the archives of deleted scenes.

Rather, it took a romantic comedy to really make the world pay attention to Condor. Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before took pop culture by storm. As part of the big rom-com revival of 2018, it stands out as one of our favorite summer movies, and definitely one of the most delightful films of this whole year, too. Everyone’s talking about Noah Centineo’s Mark Ruffalo vibes, but they wouldn’t be quite as endearing without Condor’s Lara Jean. She is an ethereal onscreen wonder who exudes expression and sincerity; a heroine that we need more of ASAP.

Thankfully, we don’t have to wait all that long for more Condor. She will be seen in another rom-com titled Summer Nights at some point and will appear in James Cameron’s passion project Alita: Battle Angel, as well. The latter is due for release at the very end of this year.

In the meantime, Condor will test the waters further with a much more experimental genre offering as well. According to Deadline, she is now part of the ensemble cast of Warning, a science fiction film from first-time feature director Agata Alexander.

The film has been pitched as something akin to the Pedro Almodovar-produced Wild Tales and the creepy anthology series Black Mirror. Co-written by Alexander, Rob Michaelson (Cheap Date), and Jason Kaye (The 5 Minute Sketch Show), Warning will depict several interwoven character arcs situated sometime in the near future. The story aims to unpack concepts of existentialism, including “loneliness, death and the meaning of life.”

Per Deadline, Condor and Benedict Samuel (Gotham) are the newest additions to Warning, joining James D’Arcy (Agent Carter), Laura Harrier (BlacKkKlansman), Mena Massoud (Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan), Alex Pettyfer (Magic Mike), and Charlotte Le Bon (The Walk). This certainly makes for an eclectic mix of performers, from established character actors and those who’ve dabbled in leading roles more substantially, and relative newcomers. However, as Alexander’s work across multiple mediums demonstrates, she revels in all things weird and seemingly discordant.

Alexander has mostly made a name for herself in video directing, especially within the electronic dance music scene. She began her career at the EDM-based HARD music festival with the most fascinating trailer. Alexander’s bizarre but infectious promo spot involves dogs, cats, and ducks dressing up to represent different artists on the festival’s line-up in 2013. And the best part about it is that it actually works.

Honestly, a trailer filled with cute animals in a variety of outfits is bound to get heads turning by default, even for those who aren’t familiar with EDM or the HARD festival. But the mashup of presumed adorableness still has a bite to it, as there are jokes both silly and crude in the HARD Summer 2013 clip. Alexander showcases a knack for engaging with vibrant and eye-catching imagery in bold ways in her first outing alone.

Alexander has since made trailers for other yearly HARD events. She has further branched out to direct music videos, too, working with the likes of Destructo and Dillon Francis. Here, more examples of her experimental levity can be found.

This is made the most apparent in the short film Exit Through the Donut Hole (in and of itself a titular pun on the Banksy documentary). What was supposed to be Francis’ music video for his track “I Can’t Take It” became a 15-minute mockumentary starring Francis that tracks the everyday life of a donut. Yes, it is every bit as wacky as that brief summary sounds.

Exit Through the Donut Hole really isn’t too concerned with the musical track it’s based on; we barely hear “I Can’t Take It” in the video. Instead, Alexander and Francis go all in with the film’s donut protagonist, who has a complicated relationship with a head of broccoli and has a crush on a taco vendor. The donut is also an activist for its own kind and ends up fighting a couple of cops who treat him and his broccoli frenemy with disrespect.

Exit Through the Donut Hole sports a concept so absurd that viewers can do nothing except suspend disbelief and enjoy the ride. Based on a strong script and Francis’ natural comedic timing, it presents a commendable narrative arc regardless of its ridiculous premise. The short gloriously pushes the limits of imagination and creativity.

To now imagine how Alexander will tackle social satire in the vein of the deeply surrealist Wild Tales and Black Mirror‘s confronting frameworks is thus very intriguing. Both of those properties are suspenseful and very darkly comedic, and absolutely align with Alexander’s overall vision.

That said, Alexander’s penchant for striking images has gone far enough to court controversy. She made headlines last year for a tonally dissonant HARD festival trailer involving men donning prosthetic breasts. Although the promo was ostensibly meant to broadcast support for female artists in the music industry, it missed a mark with its feminism through its attempts to satirize the issue of sexualization.

Alexander’s filmography has been demonstrably varied across a series of short films, and not all her work resonates. Nevertheless, she has been extremely consistent in her quest to spark conversations with her art. That could bode well for all of Warning‘s cast, but particularly for the likes of Condor who’s just getting started with what will hopefully be a long and versatile film career. Warning will be a challenge, but for the time being, I’m intrigued.

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