How much is Eron really able to disable Stem, though, versus Stem just saying that he can, so he can lure Grey over to the hacker?
Whannell:I think it's both at the same time. At that point, Eron is still in control of Stem, or at least, there's that allusion that he has a program he can shut down, and Stem was obviously keen to be free of that umbilical cord and have total autonomy. If we're fortunate enough to live in the right country, we are free. We have free will. We are free to make our own decisions. But computers are supposed to be slaves. They only do what we tell them to do. So Stem, in his quest to be human, wants to cut that cord. But Eron also has that ability, that last thing he can do, which is shut down the program.
Why wouldn't Eron do that sooner? If he's scared of Stem, why wouldn't he use the opportunity to stop Stem's dominance over him?
Whannell: He's like a parent. He created Stem, he's proud of Stem. When he was taking orders from Stem, he was happy to do it, although there was some remorse about the fact that Stem was now giving the orders. He's proud that he's Dr. Frankenstein, that he created this thing, and now it's a genius. He only moves to shut it down in the movie when he believes that Grey is still the one giving the orders, and that Grey is not doing what he told him to do. He's not staying at home. He's getting out there in the world. He is trying to find who killed his wife. So Eron tries to shut it down, but then he realizes it's all gotten out of his control. It's not until later in the film that Eron realizes that Stem has decided to cut the cord and be free. I don't think Stem would have let him be aware of his grand plan. He would have told him certain things, told him to do certain things, but he wouldn't have said, "Oh, by the way, once I'm installed inside a human, I'm going to be ripped free of you, and then I'm going to come and kill you." [Laughs]
Fisk sees himself as not just an enhanced human, but a new species. Stem could see himself as that, too, except he just cut off the means to further his kind. Does he want there to be other Stems in the world, or does he want to be the only Stem?
Whannell: He wants to be the only Stem. He's a brain, and what is a human being? A brain and a body. A brain is a computer. So Stem sees himself as not a computer chip or a piece of tech, but by the end of the film, he sees himself as a human being -- a brain controlling a body. It's not that he doesn't want another smart piece of tech out there, but he doesn't want a smarter human being out there. He doesn't want somebody who can do what he can do out there, or do it better. So he wants to make sure that his creator isn't making that happen. If there were ever a continuation of this story in the mind of the audience, maybe he can go out there and do the same thing to competitors who could potentially build a better Stem, for the time being.
What happens if Stem needs an upgrade himself? Tech inevitably degrades, or glitches. Human bodies age, and break down. Isn't it shortsighted for Stem to kill off anyone who could repair him or put him in another body?
Whannell: He could go to one of those hackers! I think in this world, there are a lot of people who use computers off the grid and can do amazing things with them. If he wants to upgrade in some way, he can visit the hackers again. [Chuckles] My brother-in-law, whenever he watches a movie, he's always asking me, "Now why would he pick that up and do that?" I feel like my brother-in-law is grilling me about my movie. He's the king of the "Why would that…" "Why would that happen?" I tell him, "Chan, just watch the movie. You don't have to keep asking, 'Why would he do that?'" [Laughs] But this is good. This is like Chandler interviewing me about the movie. Stem just wants to be human, and see the world, and walk around. It's not about tech or upgrades anymore. He's not thinking about where the tech is going to be in 10 years. He's thinking, "Tech? Who needs tech when you're human?" Look at it from the Pinocchio perspective -- "I want to be a real boy."