Amazon's 'Upload' offers revisionist view of heaven - Catholic Courier
This is a scene from "Upload" streaming on Amazon Prime. This is a scene from "Upload" streaming on Amazon Prime. (CNS photo by Amazon Studios)

Amazon’s ‘Upload’ offers revisionist view of heaven

NEW YORK (CNS) — “The best days of your life could be after it’s over” is the sales pitch in “Upload,” a new comedy-drama that offers a revisionist view of heaven. The 10-episode series is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Series creator, co-director and co-writer Greg Daniels, who honed his comedic skills on “The Simpsons” and “The Office,” has fun, of a sort, envisioning the afterlife as a hedonistic resort where every amenity is offered, from unlimited food and drink to spa treatments and recreational activities — including sex.

The five-star hotel theme resembles scenarios in the 1991 film “Defending Your Life” and the recent television series “The Good Place.”

Those approaches were tame, however, compared with the sexual activity, nudity, bawdy humor and offensive language on offer in “Upload.” The resulting off-color silliness, though it has a morally acceptable undertone at times, is strictly for mature viewers with a high tolerance for racy material.

Admission to the virtual heaven in “Upload” comes at a cost, and it has nothing to do with forgiveness for your sins. This afterlife is a conscious choice — and is stratified according to the ability to pay. The wealthiest on earth gain unlimited access to boundless joy, while the poorest are relegated to dingy basement rooms where the cafeteria is run by Lean Cuisine’s test kitchen.

An unexpected admission to this world is Nathan (Robbie Amell). It’s the year 2033, and the popular party boy is enjoying life. He has a good-looking, rich girlfriend named Ingrid (Allegra Edwards) and a promising career as a computer coder.

This happy-go-lucky narcissist seemingly has it all — until his self-driving car crashes. Rushed to the hospital, a dying Nathan is given a choice: the operating room or the Upload room.

Ingrid insists he choose the latter, and she will foot the bill. Nathan resists, reluctant to die so soon and unwilling to make an eternal commitment to Ingrid and her filthy lucre.

The clingy dame wins the day; Nathan’s consciousness is “uploaded” and his lifeless body put on ice. A lookalike avatar materializes in “Lakeview,” a virtual resort offering “timeless Americana.” Thanks to Ingrid, Nathan is at the very top of the food chain, and his every wish is granted.

To guide his transition, Nathan is assigned an “angel,” an employee of the tech firm that manages the resort program in the real world. Her name is Nora (Andy Allo), and she can virtually pop in and out of Lakeview whenever Nathan calls.

“This is the first day of the rest of your afterlife,” Nora says.

Nathan, depressed that his real life has ended, is overwhelmed at first. Nora offers a secular mantra to repeat over and over: French philosopher Rene Descartes’ famous formula, “I think, therefore I am.” Secular humanists would, presumably, approve.

Not so people of faith, such as Nora’s beloved father, Dave (Chris Williams). A widower and ailing, Dave believes in the traditional concept of heaven and the human soul, something lacking in avatars.

“You don’t believe in that old stuff?” Nora asks.

“How can heaven not have your mother in it?” Dave replies.

Intriguingly, Nathan also has doubts. On his admission to Lakeview, he selects “nondenominational charismatic Christian” as his creed. (There are multi-use chapels in the resort to attend if desired.)

Terrified of spending eternity in a fake existence, Nathan contemplates suicide by jumping into a data stream, which would destroy his consciousness.

Nora rides to the rescue. “Life is the most magical gift there is,” she explains. “And if there’s a God he’s amazing because he gave us life and the gratitude and creativity to keep it going as long as we possibly can.”

Nathan takes the bait, unaware of Nora’s ulterior motive: She’s fallen hard for her charge, even though human-avatar relationships are forbidden.

“Upload” charts a predictable path for Nathan’s redemption as he recalls his foolish past and gains a new perspective on “life” — with the help of Nora and a therapist who happens to be a talking dog.

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McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.


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