AI Presents Pluses and Minuses in New Apple TV+ Mystery Series, ‘Sunny,’ Starring Rashida Jones

 Rashida Jones, left, and Hidetoshi Nishijima pose for a photo in Tokyo on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, during a media event for the Apple TV+ series "Sunny." (Photo/Rodrigo Reyes Marin)
Rashida Jones, left, and Hidetoshi Nishijima pose for a photo in Tokyo on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, during a media event for the Apple TV+ series "Sunny." (Photo/Rodrigo Reyes Marin)
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AI Presents Pluses and Minuses in New Apple TV+ Mystery Series, ‘Sunny,’ Starring Rashida Jones

 Rashida Jones, left, and Hidetoshi Nishijima pose for a photo in Tokyo on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, during a media event for the Apple TV+ series "Sunny." (Photo/Rodrigo Reyes Marin)
Rashida Jones, left, and Hidetoshi Nishijima pose for a photo in Tokyo on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, during a media event for the Apple TV+ series "Sunny." (Photo/Rodrigo Reyes Marin)

As an actor and a writer, Rashida Jones has spent a lot of time thinking about artificial intelligence. The use of AI was a major issue at the bargaining table during last year's Hollywood strikes. AI is also front and center in her new series "Sunny" for Apple TV+.

"My feeling today — because it changes every day — is it’s here and there’s no going back. There’s an inevitability that we have to accept," Jones said. "We need some kind of collective ethical parameters about how we use this because it is pretty scary... It's out of our control at this point."

In "Sunny," Jones plays Suzie, an expat in Japan whose husband Masa (Hidetoshi Nishijima of "Drive My Car,") and son Zen are missing after a plane crash. She is gifted a companion robot named Sunny as a condolence gift from Masa's employer. Suzie is shocked to discover Masa worked in robotics and programmed Sunny specifically with her in mind. She thought he worked in refrigeration technology.

With Sunny at her side, Suzie begins looking into who Masa really was, compared to who she thought he was. As she delves further into the mystery, Suzie discovers that in the wrong hands, the code to creating robots like Sunny can be dangerous. Judy Ongg, annie the clumsy and Jun Kunimura also co-star.

Katie Robbins adapted the series for TV from the novel "The Dark Manual" by Colin O’Sullivan. She says that while there's an optimism to the series from the connection Suzie feels to Sunny, it's also a cautionary tale.

"What AI does in the course of this show, is help people who are turning inward and who have trouble connecting with others. It's beautiful," said Robbins. "But because it is human-made, there’s also tremendous potential for it to be abused and used in dangerous ways."

The speed at which AI developed in the real world as Robbins wrote the series came as a surprise.

"When I was first writing the show, I was working with an AI consultant and a roboticist and they would sort of talk about this being on the horizon. And I was like, ‘You’re crazy. This show is science fiction. This is never going to happen.’ And they were like, ‘Watch out.’ And then while we were shooting, ChatGPT came out, and as a writer, I am incredibly concerned about the capacity of generative AI."

In Jones' scenes, Sunny was a less-sophisticated robot in need of human help. Actor Joanna Sotomura was in a nearby tent voicing Sunny's lines and making facial expressions the robot would mimic. "That actually gave me a little bit of relief because I was like, ‘Oh, we’re nowhere near this being an integrated part of our lives,'" Jones joked. "There was a lot of, effort, both within production and post-production, to get her to feel and seem like this highly functioning thing."

So, would Jones want to own a robot in real-life?

"To comfort me emotionally? No. To fold clothes and do dishes? Yes, very much so," she quipped.



Movie Review: In ‘Deadpool & Wolverine,’ the Superhero Movie Finally Accepts Itself for What It Is 

Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds attend the premiere of "Deadpool & Wolverine" in New York City, New York, US, July 22, 2024. (Reuters)
Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds attend the premiere of "Deadpool & Wolverine" in New York City, New York, US, July 22, 2024. (Reuters)
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Movie Review: In ‘Deadpool & Wolverine,’ the Superhero Movie Finally Accepts Itself for What It Is 

Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds attend the premiere of "Deadpool & Wolverine" in New York City, New York, US, July 22, 2024. (Reuters)
Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds attend the premiere of "Deadpool & Wolverine" in New York City, New York, US, July 22, 2024. (Reuters)

If one thing is certain about “Deadpool,” it’s that its titular hero, for reasons never explained, understands his place in the world — well, in our world.

Indeed, the irreverent and raunchy mutant is sure to belabor his awareness of the context in which he lives — namely an over-saturated, increasingly labyrinthine multibillion-dollar Marvel multiverse which spans decades, studios and too many films for most viewers to count.

From its inception, the “Deadpool” franchise has prided itself on a subversive, self-aware anti-superhero superhero movie, making fun of everything from comic books to Hollywood to its biggest champion, co-writer and star, Ryan Reynolds.

It’s no surprise then, as fans have come to expect, that the long-anticipated “Deadpool & Wolverine” further embraces its fourth wall-breaking self-awareness — even as it looks increasingly and more earnestly like the superhero movie blueprint it loves to exploit. That tension — the fact that “Deadpool” has called out comic book movie tropes despite being, in fact, a comic book movie — is somehow remedied in “Deadpool & Wolverine,” which leans into its genre more than the franchise’s first two movies.

Perhaps this gives viewers more clarity on its intended audience. After all, someone who hates superhero films — I’m looking at you, Scorsese — isn’t going to be won over because of a few self-deprecating jokes about lazy writing, budgets for A-list cameos and the overused “superhero landing” Reynolds’ Deadpool regularly refers to.

But this time around, director Shawn Levy — his first Marvel movie — seems to have found a sweet spot. Levy is surely helped by the fact that the third film in the franchise has a bigger budget, more hype and, of course, a brooding Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

That anticipation makes their relationship, packed with hatred and fandom, all the more enticing. Their fight scenes against each other are just as compelling as their moments of self-sacrificial partnership in the spirit of, you guessed it, saving the world(s).

Speaking of worlds, there is one important development in our own to be aware of ahead of time. The first two “Deadpool” films were distributed by 20th Century Fox, whose $71.3 billion acquisition by the Walt Disney Co. in 2019 opened the door for the franchise to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, “Deadpool & Wolverine” takes full advantage of that vast playground, which began in 2008 with Robert Downey Jr.’s “Iron Man” and now includes more than 30 films and a host of television shows. The acquisition is also a recurring target of Deadpool’s sarcasm throughout the movie.

Although steeped in references and cameos that can feel a bit like inside baseball for the less devoted, “Deadpool & Wolverine” is easy enough to follow for the casual Marvel viewer, though it wouldn’t hurt to have seen the first “Deadpool” and Jackman’s 2017 “Logan,” a harbinger of the increasing appetite for R-rated superhero violence. The Disney+ series “Loki” also gives helpful context, though is by no means a must watch, on the Time Variance Authority, which polices multiverse timelines to avoid “incursions,” or the catastrophic colliding of universes.

A defining feature of “Deadpool” has been its R rating and hyper violent action scenes. Whether thanks to more money, Levy’s direction or some combination of the two, these scenes are much more visually appealing.

But “Deadpool & Wolverine” does succumb to some of the deus ex machina writing that so often plagues superhero movies. Wade Wilson’s (the real identity of Deadpool) relationship with his ex (?) Vanessa is particularly underdeveloped — though it’s possible that ambiguity is a metaphor for Deadpool’s future within the MCU.

The plot feels aimless at points toward the end. One cameo-saturated battle scene in particular is resolved in a way that leaves its audience wanting after spending quite a bit of time building tension around it. While there are a few impressive stars who make an appearance, audiences may be disappointed by the amount of MCU characters referenced who don’t make it in.

The bloody but comedic final fight scene, however, is enough to perk viewers back up for the last act, solidifying the film’s identity as a fun, generally well-made summer movie.

The sole MCU release of 2024, “Deadpool & Wolverine” proves it’s not necessarily the source material that’s causing so-called superhero fatigue. It also suggests, in light of Marvel’s move to scale back production following a pandemic and historic Hollywood strikes, that increased attention given to making a movie will ultimately help the final product.