"Tesla: Origins" Is Full Of Sublime Self-Important Silliness

What’s the official Association For Ethical Comportment In Web Punditry Mislabeled As Journalism policy on graft-solicitation? I ask because I’d like a new Tesla and, in today’s exercise, I have an opportunity to hail a Tesla brand endeavor as one of humankind’s boldest artistic statements. If the association folks give the thumbs-up, I’m ready to break out the grandiloquent dictionary and start throwing around adjectives like “callithumpian,” “xyresic” and “butyraceous.”

I mean, I really want a Tesla and I can’t afford to buy one right now. It’s unfair that my kid should be relegated to spitting up on a commoner’s back seat in a lesser species of automobile. Next to the Tesla, every automobile is a lesser species of automobile. Have you seen this thing? FYI, my birthday is later this month.

Alas, given that I am a man of unflinching integritude - think Abe Lincoln, minus the height, facial hair, lean torso, taut chin flap, eloquence and dignity - I cannot do this. Because while “Tesla: Origins,” is a great many things (like the car), none of them are good (unlike the car - again, Tesla car = much-needed evidence that American entrepreneurial spirit still exists beyond the creation of weather apps). In fact, the clip plays like a “Saturday Night Live” parody of an overly self-assured brand’s self-mythologizing advertising.

Billed as the company’s first “experimental” film, “Tesla: Origins” takes place in the cosmos. No, really, it does: The video starts with a shot of what appears to be the sun. From there, it segues into a sequence where lightning shatters the calm of a desert night and some kind of unidentified object streaks through the sky. That object does not appear to be a Tesla, as a Tesla is a car and not a rocket ship.

Fifteen seconds in - o happy day! - we’re treated to our first sighting of the car. As far as sightings go, however, it’s basically Bigfoot-as-photographed-by-a-girl-scout-on-her-dad’s-last-generation-cell-phone: All we see is the car whirring about in the desert, captured by a camera that appears to be located on the International Space Station. Then we descend into a series of super-hi-def close-ups of water juxtaposed with electric towers.

But wait! Now there’s a rattlesnake and now we’re back in space! For a couple of seconds! Then we see a car, presumably the Tesla, illuminating a dark garage and a meteor shower and more lightning and the reverse-explosion of what appears to be a stitch-free volleyball filled with milk.

The rattlesnake bites. The car executes more impressive desert wheelies. We are given a revealing - and by the ADD standards of this clip, lingering - look at the right headlight, which looks to be everything one expects in a right headlight and yet somehow more. Then the Tesla drives off towards a distant city outlined in light, and we’re done.

The overall effect is one of sublime self-important silliness - that is, unless I’ve misread the clip (it wouldn’t be the first time) and “Tesla: Origins” is actually intended as a wry commentary on blowhard marketing. But I don’t get a wry-commentary vibe from the press release touting the film: “Pacing, sound design and visuals blend together effortlessly in ‘Tesla: Origins’ as we open on an epic journey through space and time. Abstract and beautiful, the compelling film unveils Tesla’s birth from the ether of the universe, arriving on earth to harness the energy of the cosmos and bring electricity to our barren world.”

I’d watch something that fit that description - hell, I’d abandon my current religion to follow a prophet preaching something as grand and all-encompassing. And I think I get what the filmmakers (and press-release writers) are trying to convey here: Tesla is one with the sun and the wind and the sky, etc. But there’s a way to get this we-are-a-child-of-the-elements message across without rehashing every last creationist cliché.

Tesla is an elite brand with an elite product. As a maker of “experimental films,” though, it’s no James “Jimmy” Franco. Perhaps the company ought to restrict its ambition to completely redefining what consumers can expect from the automobile industry.

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2 comments about ""Tesla: Origins" Is Full Of Sublime Self-Important Silliness ".
  1. Jeff Robinson from JRC Limited , July 3, 2014 at 5:16 p.m.
    Thanks Larry, another entertaining piece. I think this goes a long way past "self-importance". And even if Tesla is one with the sun, the wind, and the sky what's that got to do with me and wanting to drive one.
  2. David Vawter from Doe-Anderson , July 4, 2014 at 9:58 a.m.
    An epic catalog of every auto advertising cinematography cliché of the past 20 years.