Intriguing, but ultimately frustrating
Doc explores the world of Internet-based civil disobedience collective Anonymous
Director Brian Knappenberger had a difficult task when making his documentary We Are Legion: to create a portrait of a group with no definite members, leaders or structure. It’s a group that has heretofore prided itself on secrecy and privacy - Anonymous.
They are an infamous “collective” (a term used very loosely here) of hackers, Internet saboteurs, and self-proclaimed activists.
Knappenberger is a relative greenhorn in the documentary industry - his only credits thus far are a travel show and a couple episodes of PBS’s Frontline.
Thus, in approaching We Are Legion, he had given himself a daunting task: to document the ostensibly un-documentable. What emerges is more coherent than it might have been, but ultimately it is a flawed product.
The idea of Anonymous grew out of some of the darkest holes of the Internet - those message boards and forums for the Internet-obsessed, whose lives consist primarily of computer-facilitated interaction.
They found through years of this burgeoning culture that they had interests in common besides posting funny or odious clips.
It grew from just getting jollies to something more serious.
Because of their intimate relationship with computers, and the modern world’s dependency on them, they found themselves in a unique position of power over these new lynch pins of economy and government.
But as a consequence of their inherently disparate opinions, stemming from the medium’s tendency towards heady individualism, the manifestation of this lacked any cohesion.
Their projects ranged from petty revenge tales to those of rampaging morality. Because they were able to form without criticism or outside opinion playing any part, their power was used with impunity and, in most cases, in incredibly juvenile fashions.
They were X-Men without a Professor X.
This is the story that is told, I think, somewhat unintentionally.
We Are Legion does a great job at painting a picture of something nebulous, and making it accessible to people who aren’t very familiar with Internet culture.
Unfortunately, this is a case of a group writing its own story, and for the most part, the representatives that Knappenberger have dredged up are juvenile, coarse, near-illiterates in some cases (a girl takes credit for facilitating the uprising in Tunisia while simultaneously grossly mispronouncing the country’s name).
Any dissenting opinions or criticism are noticeably absent from this otherwise well-produced documentary.
Intriguing, but ultimately frustrating in its one-sidedness.
Published in Volume 67, Number 9 of The Uniter (October 31, 2012)