Terminator 5 News!

terminator_judgement_dayBefore 2013 ended, some news concerned a certain reboot emerged on the entertainment feed. Yes, after many unconfirmed rumors and updates about the upcoming Terminator relaunch, it now seems that some genuine, studio-backed news have been announced. Foremost amongst these was the casting of the two main characters, Sarah and John Conner.

After much consideration as to who would play role of the woman who gave birth to mankind’s salvation (no, not THAT one!), it has been officially confirmed that Emilia Clarke has been cast. Fans of the HBO miniseries Game of Thrones will instantly recognize her as the British actress who brought Daenerys “Stormborn” Targaryen to life.

emiliaclarke_0This announcement came mere days after the studio announced that it had Jason Clarke in mind to play the role of John Conner. The 44-year old veteran of such movies as Zero Dark Thirty, Great Gatsby, The Chicago Code is a much more seasoned choice than either Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy) and Boyd Holbrook (The Host). But he’s grizzled as hell and definitely has the look for John Connor.

What’s more, the casting of a 40 something man to play the son, and a 20 something woman to play the mother would seem to provide some hints as to the plot of the movie. Combined with the recently confirmed title – Terminator: Genesis – there is strong evidence to suggest that the story will revolve around John Conner going back in time to protect his own mother.

Jason Clarke-PhotosEither that, or the movie will consist of relatively equal parts of John Conner fighter the machines in the future, with flashbacks or cut-scenes showing the past, where Sarah battles to ensure her son lives to see the day when he will lead humanity to victory. Difficult to say, but personally I hope they go with the latter, since it offers a chance to cover both aspects of the story while giving the studio a chance to be fresh.

Other confirmed bit of information include that the studio is considering both Garrett Hedlund and Boyd Holbrook for the role of Kyle Reese, John Conner’s father and Sarah’s original protector. Arnold Schwarzenegger has already confirmed that he will be back for the fifth installment, and in the role of a Terminator. None of this “he’s the human template they built them from” crap!

terminator_SCCIt is also been made abundantly clear at this point that the movie will be a reboot of the franchise and the start of a new trilogy, retelling the events of 1984’s The Terminator, and is set for release July 1st, 2015 (Canada Day!). A TV series is also to be produced which will run parallel to the movie trilogy and intersecting at certain points in the trilogy’s narrative. So it won’t be a reboot of the Sarah Conner Chronicles.

All I can say is, this time around, they better get it right! Terminator: Salvation promised to be a reboot of sorts after the relative fizzle that was Terminator 3. But of course, the studio made a terrible blunder there by offering no solid resolution, and instead trying to keep the movie open-ended for the sake of potential sequels. Somehow, learning that Skynet was destroyed, but there was still a war on, just seemed like a transparent money grab.

terminator2_JDThis time around, I’m hoping the lesson will be learned. What we don’t need is a return to the original Terminator storyline. What we need is what we haven’t seen yet, a detailed account of the war against the machines and how it was ultimately won. Sure, bits and pieces were shared through Kyle Reese’s recounting and flashbacks, but that only made the story seem more interesting!

Now, and at last, it would be good if a movie covered the war and only the war. No more time-travel paradoxes, no fate crap (which John Conner repeatedly says does not exist!). Just show us how Conner managed to carve a resistance from a post-apocalyptic landscape, recruited people from the extermination camps, and turned them into an ass-kicking force that managed to stomp the machines and destroy Skynet.

So c’mon, Hollywood! Bring on the carnage!

Sources: denofgeek.com, (2), blastr.com, scified.com

How It Should Have Ended: The Terminator Franchise!

terminator_judgement_dayAs usual, HISHE has graced us with a silly, scathing and common-sense analysis of how a movie franchise was so full of plot holes so big, you could drive a truck through them! And in this installment, they tackle the ongoing (and worsening) Terminator series. Lucky for all of us this franchise is getting a reboot, because the last two movies really did a number on its credibility!

And doing a little crossover with Back to the Future, they pretty much tackled the central premise which emerged with the ongoing Terminator movies. Why send killing machines back in time to epochs that are closer and closer to the future in question? Why not go back in time to when they were a toddler and still toilet training? You could catch them while they’re on the potty instead of all grown up and qualified to use firearms!

Enjoy the clip!

Best Robot Chicken Moment Ever!

robot_chickenGod, I’ve been wanting to post this for a long time. Thought the episode is at least two years old, it still brings a smile to my face when I think about it. Not only is it a hilarious spoof on a cartoon that I watched as kid, it also manages to do a hilarious crossover with one of the best post-apocalyptic movies of all time! And when it comes right down to it, what is Inspector Gadget if not a clumsy, oafish version of a Terminator?

There have been several moments in this show’s history that I’ve found pretty damn hilarious. Between spoofing superheroes, comic books, Star Wars, Star Trek, and just about anything having to do with the 80’s, how could I not love this show? Relying on Seth Green’s usual combination of outlandish wit and a load of pop culture references, this clip is sure to please! If you haven’t seen it, do so now. I guarantee if you grew up in the 80’s, it’ll make your day!

Time Travel In Pop Culture

Hey all. Continuing in my series on time travel in science fiction, I am addressing some of the most poignant and memorable examples of the concept in film. Working in chronological order, and avoiding any examples of movies based directly on books (and their sequels), I have compiled a list of what I consider the top 12. Hope you enjoy, and remember that suggestions are welcome. No sense in limiting myself to one list, after all!

Time Bandits:
A cult-hit which is also a fond memory from my childhood! The story tells the tale of an imaginative child (Kevin) who loves history but lives a boring, materialistic life, who one night is whisked away by time travelers and taken on an incredible journey. All the while, we, the audience are left wondering if this just another flight of fancy, or if his reality is beginning to mirror his imagination.

The adventure begins when a group of dwarves pour out of Kevin’s wall and reveal that it is a time portal, and that the dwarves have stolen a precious map. They escape through the portal when an evil visage – the Supreme Being – appears behind them demanding the return of the map. After landing in the era of the Napoleonic Wars, Kevin learns that Randall and his friends were once employed by the Supreme Being to repair holes in the spacetime fabric, but instead realized the potential to use the map to steal valuable riches.

With the map and Kevin’s help, they visit several locations in spacetime, meeting historical figures and stealing valuable objects while Kevin documents their adventures with his Polaroid camera. Meanwhile, an sorceress named Evil is monitoring them and hopes to steal the map for himself. After several time jumps, Evil manipulates the group by luring them to his realm and the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness, where they are led to believe that “The Most Fabulous Object in the World” awaits them.

Evil takes the map and locks the group into a cage over an apparent bottomless pit while the group plans their escape. Evil quickly thwarts them, but then turns into stone and explodes. From the remains, an elderly man emerges, revealed as the true form of the Supreme Being. He orders the dwarfs to collect Evil’s remains, recovers the map, and allows the dwarves to rejoin him. The Supreme Being disappears with the dwarfs, leaving Kevin stranded behind with one last smoking piece of Evil’s remains.

Kevin then awakens in his bedroom and finds that it’s filled with smoke. Firefighters break down the door and rescue him, claiming that his parents’ new microwave caused the fire. As Kevin recovers, he discovers that he still has the photos from his adventure. As his parents look at a strange piece of rock in the microwave, Kevin tries to warn them off that it is a piece of concentrated evil and they should not touch it; nevertheless, both do, and suddenly explode and disappear…

The Terminator:
Here we have a classic example of science fiction and time travel, where parties from the future travel back in time with the intent of altering the future, only to beget it. Naturally, the two parties involved are warring factions, humans on the one hand and intelligent machines on the other. For both sides, victory in the past means victory in the future, and its a zero sum game!

Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the leading role as the Terminator, a race of cyborg that is specifically designed to hunt and kill humans. His target in the past is the woman (Sarah Conner) who will give birth to the man that will lead humanity to victory over the Terminators and their AI (Skynet) in the future. Naturally, the resistance sends back their own guardian, a soldier named Kyle Reese, to protect her.

In the course of fighting each other, they end up creating the very future that sent them back. Kyle Reese and Sarah Conner make love, which leads to Sarah becoming pregnant with John. The destruction of the Terminator machine produces the wreckage which, when recovered, becomes the basis for Skynet’s eventual creation. A temporal paradox is thus created, and Sarah is left with a heavy burden! On the one hand, she must raise the future leader of humanity, all the while being the one person who knows the future and all the horrors it will hold.

Back to the Future:
The classic comedy about the accidental time traveler, altering the past – and thereby the future – and all the hijinks that ensue. In this story, we get a teen-age apprentice (Marty) and his genius friend (Doc), who one night creates history when he invents the world’s first time machine. Shortly thereafter, said genius is killed by a group of terrorists, and the teen-ager accidentally escapes into the past and must get home.

Michael J Fox plays the role of Marty McFly, who by sheer happenstance is transported back to 1955, on the very date that the Doc first conceived of the device that makes time travel possible – the Flux Capacitor. Once in the past, he seeks out the Doc and the two begin to plot how to send him home.

However, there’s a snag. Due to Marty’s inadvertent tampering with the past, he has altered the flow of future events. By saving his father from a car accident, he ends up preventing him and his mother from meeting. What’s worse, by taking his place, he becomes the object of her affection.

Marty knows that if his parents do not meet and fall in love, he will never exist. So in addition to getting”Back to the Future”, he must ensure that that future – and he himself – still exists. Some close shaves result, but in the end, he is able to get his future father to step up, to take on the bully and win his mother’s love. He in turn is able to get the time machine into the right place at the right time to intercept a bolt of lighting which triggers the Flux Capacitor. Back in the future, he sees that things have changed, but in good ways. All seems well, until the Doc tells him they’ve got more time traveling to do!

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home:
Though time travel is a familiar theme in the Star Trek universe, Star Trek IV was the first example of it occurring in film. And for many fans of the franchise, the aspect of traveling back in time to the 20th century is what makes this movie the best in the series. For others, not so much… But regardless of individual opinions, the message of this movie was clear. Time travel is ultimately necessitated, not to alter the past, but to save the future

At the beginning of the film, an alien probe reaches Federation space, leaving a trail of neutralized ships in its wake. When it reaches Earth, it has a similarly damaging effect, neutralizing all power sources and vaporizing the oceans. The probe is in search of something, but all attempts to communicate fail. On their way back from Vulcan, the crew of the Enterprise are told to avoid Earth at all costs.

After some research, they realize that the probe is specifically looking to communicate with Humpback whales, a species which has been extinct since the 21st century. Kirk orders the crew to prepare for time warp, which involves sling-shotting around a star at maximum warp, thus picking up a boost of speed which will break the time barrier. They succeed, and find themselves in orbit of an Earth that doesn’t look that different.

Once in the 20th century, they begin searching for Humpback whales while doing their best not to alter the past. These attempts are somewhat frustrated when they are forced to look for a contemporary source of fuel for their depleted engines, and Chekhov is mortally injured while attempting to evade capture. In the end, they make a daring rescue and make it back to the present and the whales are able to save Earth, bringing with them a 20th century whale biologist who will oversee the repopulation of the species.

Flight of the Navigator:
I remember this one fondly from my youth. Released in 1986, the story revolves around an average 12 year old who finds himself “chosen” by powers far greater than himself to play a role far beyond his maturity level. A typical coming-of-age story, as provided by Disney, but involving space aliens and the laws of Relativity. Funky!

The story opens in 1978 when a boy named David (Joey Cramer), while camping, falls into a ravine and loses consciousness. When he awakens, he wanders home and finds that the year is now 1986. Shortly thereafter, an alien spacecraft crashes into some power lines and is taken into custody by NASA, but is impenetrable to their investigations. Meanwhile, David is examined by doctors who discover that he has accurate star charts in his mind, a detail which comes to the attention of lead researcher. Dr. Faraday (Howard Hesseman) at NASA.

After convincing him to come to NASA to let them research him, they discover that the star charts he holds lead to an alien planet called Phaelon. Time dilation also accounts for the fact that he has not aged, and they decide to keep him on lockdown. David then begins to hear a telepathic voice coming from the ship. With the help of an intern named Carolyn (played by a young Sarah Jessica Parker), he escapes from his room and enters the ship.

Once inside, he is told by the AI – whom he names Max (voiced by Paul Reubens) – that it’s mission is to travel to alien worlds, pick up organisms for study, then return them to their homeworld. In the course of studying David, he experimented by storing star charts in his mind since the average human only uses 10 percent of their brain capacity. Unfortunately, after dropping David off, he crashed the ship into some power lines before attempting to leave and lost all his navigation info.

He now needs to retrieve the info from David’s brain so he can return all the alien specimens to their own worlds. Together, they escape from the facility and begin flying around the world and into high orbit. Meanwhile, the NASA men put his family under house arrest. Upon seeing all this, David concludes that he doesn’t belong in 1986 and asks Max to return him to his own time, regardless of the risks. He does, and David returns to his family, happy to be home.

One of the main reasons this movie sticks out in my mind was because of the way it merged family-friendly material with genuine scientific ideas. All in all, it was impressive for a Disney flick, and even provided some hard sci-fi elements, such as time-dilation, artificial intelligence, and polymorphic materials. Seriously, a seamless ship that can morph its shape and is impenetrable, pretty advanced for ol’ Walt!

Army of Darkness:
Here is the cult hit that exemplified low-budget ham comedy! In this film, we have an unwitting time-traveler who is transported back in time to the Dark Ages where he is called upon to play the role of a hero. Initially resistant, he eventually takes to the role and ends up saving the day, and finding his way home.

The story picks up from its predecessor, Evil Dead 2, where a man named Ash (Bruce Campbell) is transported back in time through a wormhole after battling living dead forces in his own time. Equipped with a shotgun, a chainsaw, and some badass one-liners, he finds himself in deep past where warring kingdoms are threatened by the forces of the undead.

He is quickly informed that the Book of the Death (the Necronomicon) is responsible for all of their fates. His initial attempts to help them are frustrated when he botches the ritual for sending the book back into the abyss, and his newfound love interest is captured by the enemy.

However, in the end, he and his newfound allies come together to defeat the Army of Darkness in a pitch battle, and he conducts the ritual one last time to send the book into hell, and bring him back to his own time. Of course, one of the demons follows him, and he’s forced to get into it in the present! A gunfight ensues, the demon dies, and the women swoon. Ash is the king, man!

Freejack:
An early nineties take on the concept of time travel and a semi-dystopian future where clinical immortality is possible through the concept of “bonejacking”. Though negatively reviewed, the movie did capture a lot of Gibsonian, cyberpunk themes and had a more than a few braincells dedicated to it. In short, the time travel in this film involves capturing people from the past seconds before they die and bringing them into the future. Once there, they become vessels for the consciousness of those who pay to bring them forward. Those who escape are known as “freejacks”, property of the wealthy who must be retrieved.

Enter into this Alex Furlong (Emilio Estevez) who is brought forward by a wealthy industrialist Ian McCandless (played by Anthony Hopkins). He was supposed to have died in 1991 during a race-car driving stint, but now finds himself in 2009. The US of the future has become the picture of cyberpunk dystopia, where the rich rule and the poor are numerous and live by whatever means they can.Much of this is due to the “trade wars” which the US apparently lost to emergent Asian interests, who now run much of America’s economy.

He escapes to find his wife, Julie (Rene Russo), who is apparently in the employ of the man who paid to bring him back. He is eventually captured, but is saved thanks to the intervention of one of the chief execs who wants the boss to die. Essentially, if the boss doesn’t transfer his consciousness within a specific window, it will be lost for all time. However, a double-cross ensues, the boss’ chief enforcer Victor (played by Mick Jagger) shoots the chief exec, as it appears the transfer is complete and his boss is still alive and in control of the company.

It is revealed afterwards that the process failed, that Alex is still himself, and that Victor knew. He would rather work for Alex, a man he has come to respect, than the asshole who planned to usurp his old boss. He lets Alex and Julie go, who now have control of the company and continue to maintain the pretense that Alex is now McCandless. All in all, not a bad movie, though it was perhaps miscast and kind of cheesy!

Timecop:
In the near future, the Time Enforcement Commission is created once it is realized that time travel is possible. Known as Timecops, they are responsible for policing the past and ensuring the protection of the space-time continuum. One of their chief cops, Max Walker (Van Damme), is a man with a haunted past, as his wife was murdered years before by unknown assailants.

After conducting an arrest, he is made aware of a conspiracy to alter the future. At the head of it is Senator Aaron McComb (Ron Silver), head of the TEC, who is looking to change the past so that he will be president in the present. It is he who sent thugs back in time to kill Walker, due to the fact that he is getting wise to his schemes in the present. Apparently, he was the target, the fact that he survived and his wife was killed was entirely incidental.

Having learned all this, Walker makes an unauthorized jump into the past and meets his wife. After explaining to her what is going on, he urges her to keep his past self with her on the night of the attack while he deals with the thugs sent to kill them. A confrontation ensues in which Walker confronts McComb and kills him by merging his past self with his future self. This violates the law of the same matter of occupying the same space, and both die. He returns to a future (his present) in which his wife is alive and things are starkly different due to the death of McComb and all his schemes.

In essence, the story is all about the dangers of human avarice and the desire to control the future. On the one hand, it had its own a share of grey matter, but suffers from inconsistencies in that it tries to be an action flick and a respectable sci-fi piece at the same time. The brains comes from the fact that it actually incorporates ideas such as the “Ripple Effect” – i.e. unintended results of tampering – but this is watered down for the sake of getting to the action. Too bad too, because it remains a good and time-honored premise.

12 Monkeys:
Post-apocalyptic sci-fi meets psychological thriller, with plenty of bat-shit crazy material thrown in for good measure! Based on a classic premise of time travel being used to prevent a cataclysmic event, the story is a satire on the dangers of human avarice, control, and how easily chaos can result. And of course, there is a temporal paradox angle, where the actions of the time traveler end up fulfilling the very future they were trying to prevent.

The main character is a convicted felon named James Cole (Bruce Willis) who lives in a grim desolate future where human beings live underground. This is due to a virus released in 1996-97, apparently by a terrorist group known as the Army of the 12 Monkeys. To earn a pardon, Cole agrees to go into the past to collect information on the virus that caused the pandemic. His ultimate goal is to procure a sample and bring it to the future so a cure can be made. Unfortunately, the technology is imprecise, and Cole is sent off course many times.

In his first trip, he lands in 1990 and is committed by Dr. Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe). While in the institution, he meets another mental patient named Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt) a fanatical animal activist. He tries in vain to contact the future by calling a number the scientists are monitoring, but can’t get through. He then is transported to the future where he hears the garbled message, and is told that Goines is a suspected member of the the Army of the 12 Monkeys. Goines Labs, which his father owns, is apparently the producer of the virus, and Jeffrey is believed to be the one who spread it.

His next trip sends him to 1996, as planned. Once there, he kidnaps Dr. Railly and goes off in search of Goines. Throughout all this, Cole is troubled with recurring dreams involving a chase and a shooting in an airport. When he finds Goines, he learns that he is the founder of 12 Monkeys but denies any knowledge of the virus. Cole vanishes again and Railly begins to wonder if Cole is telling the truth when she finds a photograph from World War I in which Cole appears. Cole, on the other hand, begins to doubt his own sanity, but both he and Railly settle the question when she leaves a voice mail on the number he provided, creating the message the scientists played for him prior to his second mission.

They both now realize that the coming plague is real and that the Army of the Twelve Monkeys is a red herring. Believing they can’t stop it, they plan to fly off together to enjoy what time they have left. At the airport, Cole leaves a last message telling the scientists they are on the wrong track and that he will not return. He is soon confronted an acquaintance from his own time who gives him a gun and instructs him to complete his mission. At the same time, Railly spots the true culprit behind the virus: an assistant at the Goines virology lab named Dr. Peters who is about to embark on a tour of several cities around the world, which matches the sequence of viral outbreaks.

Cole attempts to shoot the man but is fatally shot himself while trying to get through security. As Cole dies in Railly’s arms, she makes eye contact with a small boy – the young James Cole witnessing his own death, which is what he keeps reliving in his dreams. Dr. Peters, aboard the plane with the plague, sits down next to one of the lead scientists in the future and comments about how the world is coming to an end.

Ultimately, this movie was effective because it combined aspects of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie with a psychological thriller. By employing an anti-hero like Cole, a convicted criminal as an anti-hero who’s sanity is in doubt, the audience is presented with the same kind of mind-bending questions the main characters are. At every turn, the reality of their situation remains in doubt, and given the situation, they would prefer insanity to the notion that the apocalypse they are trying to prevent is real. Naturally, this fatalistic story ends on a note of self-fulfillment, where prophecy comes true and the everything they’ve done to fight it proves fruitless.

The Primer:
This low budget 2004 film by master-writer Shane Carruth is perhaps one of the smartest explorations of sci-fi to ever be presented in film. In addition to its experimental structure and deep, philosophical nature, it employs an unapologetic, complex technical dialogue. After collecting the Grand Jury Prize at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, it has gone on to earn a cult following.

The story opens when a team of engineers create a machine that reduces the weight of objects, but has the unexpected side effect of causing time travel. After building a man-sized prototype, Abe and Aaron decide to cut their two other friends out of the discovery and begin using the device to make trades on the market. However, when a potential financial backer finds and uses the box, which leaves him comatose, Abe concludes that its too dangerous.

He uses a “failsafe box” – his own machine which he built in secret – to travel back in time and warn his past self not to make the box. However, he soon finds out that Aaron has already beaten him to the punch and used his own machine to go back in time and ensure that the time machine will be built. What’s more, he ensures that his past self will be able to build the machine all by himself, thus cutting Abe out of involvement down the line.

Abe eventually convinces Aaron to leave and not attempt to tamper with their past selves again. However, the movie ends with Aaron speaking on the phone to an unspecified person, relaying the information about the box to them. We then see a past version of Aaron working on a building-sized version of the box, indicating that he has ensured his past self will have control over time travel and continue to tamper with it.

The movie is considered inaccessible for obvious reasons. For one, its technical lingo is deliberately complicated and esoteric, and the confusing portrayal of time travel and multiple selves that comes from repeated iterations can make a person go cross-eyed! But just about everyone agrees, its smart, inspired, and was made on a shoestring budget by a very committed soul.

Mr. Nobody:
Here we have a very interesting story that addresses the concepts of time travel, post-mortality, and the theory of multiple universes. It also embraces the familiar themes of choice and free will, exploring the different consequences that come of them, and tops it all off with a pseudo-spiritual psychological twist. Like many other films listed here, audiences are left in a state of wonder about what they are seeing and whether or not it is real or imagined.

The story opens in 2092 with the introduction of Nemo Nobody (Jared Let0), a 118 year old man who is the last mortal on Earth. Nearing death, people want to hear about his life and experiences, which he begins to relate with the help of a psychiatrist and journalist. However, when the prodded, he begins to spit out contradictory stories that occur in a non-linear narrative which revolve around three points in his life – age nine, when his parents get divorced; at age fifteen, when he fell in love; and at age thirty-four, living his adulthood.

At nine, his parents get divorced, prompting to choose whom he’s going to live with. As a result of this, different scenarios happen which affect his future. With his mother, he finds that there are two choices involving a young love of his named Anna, but neither work out in the long run. In one, he misses his chance while young and reconnects with her later, only to find her unavailable. In the second, they fall in love and enjoy many years together but are sadly separated. They make plans to meet up when older, but he her loses her number and subsequently any chance at finding her again.

With his father, who becomes an invalid that he must care for, all the while writing a fantasy novel about life on Mars, things take a similar course. Here, events revolve around another series of love interests, and he is called upon to make decisions which will effect the outcome of his life. In one, he is rejected by the woman he loves and is rendered paralyzed after he drives off in frustration and crashes. In another, they get married and she dies in an accident, and Nemo dies in space after spreading her ashes on Mars. In yet another, their marriage is destroyed due to his love’s affliction with borderline personality disorder. In the next, he takes random chances and ends up getting murdered as a result of mistaken identity. And in the final one, he wakes up in a strange world where he finds a tape of himself, as an old man, telling him that he does not exist.

After all this, Mr. Nobody tells the journalist and shrink that they both don’t exist, that they are in the mind of Nemo as a boy when he is being forced to choose between two futures. Back at the railway station as a nine year old, Nemo creates a third and totally unexpected choice for himself by abandoning both parents and running away from the tracks, escaping his dilemma and moving towards an unknown future. He then finds himself as the adult Nemo sleeping on a bench by the lighthouse and waiting for Anna to return. When she arrives, the two embrace and are ecstatic over their reunion.

The movie then cuts to the precise moment where Mr. Nobody dies of old age and the expansion of the universe comes to a halt and time reverses itself. The imaginary 118 year-old man then cackles triumphantly as he springs back into awareness with the realization that his younger self has finally found his one true love and life and conquered causality.

Like I said, can’t tell if it’s real or fake, for in the end, any or all of the timelines being mentioned here could be in the mind of one of Nemo’s selves. However, in presenting this non-linear and highly subjective narrative, the movie provides a fitting commentary on the nature of time and choice. With every decision we make, a million potential outcomes are brought to life and die out in the blink of an eye. If one were to truly examine the course of their life’s events and seek to understand the outcomes, they surely would go mad! But ultimately, the movie ends on a very happy note, showing that free will is what is important and the means out of an endless stream of fatalism and predestination.

Safety Not Guaranteed:
Here is a movie that is not only unique, it’s also based on a true story. In addition, it was just released this past June and earned the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Inspired by an actual classified ad that appeared in a 1997 issue of Backwoods Home Magazine, the movie tells the story of a man who is seeking a companion for time travel, saying that he has done it only once before and, naturally, “safety not guaranteed”.

The story opens with a disillusioned college graduate named Darius Britt (Aubrey Plaza) who takes a job at a Seattle magazine where her father works. After finding the article, he asks Darius to help track down the man and earn his trust. She eventually locates the man, Kenneth Calloway (Mark Duplass), and tells him she wants to be his time traveling companion. Kenneth, despite being paranoid that he is being watched by secret agents, puts his trust in Darius and the two begin to conduct training exercises for the mission.

Eventually, Kenneth tells her that his mission is to go back to 2001 and prevent the death of his old girlfriend who was killed when someone drove a car into her house. In time, Darius begins to develop feelings for him and tells him that her motives involve saving her mother who died when she was young. However, she soon finds that his ex-girlfriend is still alive and that it was Kenneth who drove into her house with her in the car. Having begun to suspect that Kenneth may not be insane, this revelation leads her to question his sanity once again.

Afterwards, Darius is questioned by two government agents who have been following Kenneth since they think he might be spy, apparently due to his communications with government scientists. This throws her into further disarray, and she returns to Kenneth’s house to confront him about Belinda. However, Kenneth claims that if she is alive then his time traveling must have worked. Her father then arrives to warns Kenneth that the government agents are on his property. Kenneth panics and runs, Darius follows him, and finds him on a boat with his time machine.

After telling him that she’s sorry but what she shared was real, Kenneth tells Darius that the mission has changed. He now intends to go back with the intention of saving her mother. As her father and the government agents close in, Kenneth activates his time machine and the boat disappears. In the end, things end on a happy note, with every indication being given that the time machine works and Kenneth was telling the truth all along.

Naturally, this movie has earned a great deal of accolades and rave reviews, and for obvious reasons. In the end, it presents viewers with a scenario where a person may very well be insane, but clearly has a good heart and understandable intentions. Throughout the movie, we are thrown curve balls that make us question whether or not this is real or the product of a delusional mind, made all the more poignant because Plaza’s character seems to be genuinely falling for him. In the end, we are thrown a bone with the happy resolution, with everything leading up to that point making it all the more suspenseful and engrossing.

Summary:
And that’s time travel in film! Hope you all enjoyed it, because I sure as hell enjoyed taking the trip down memory lane. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m feeling nostalgic and want to catch up on some old hits. I imagine some of you have some movie watching you want to do now too 😉

The Post-Apocalypse in Sci-Fi (Part II)

Akira:
This futuristic tale takes place in Neo-Tokyo, an ultra-modern city that was built on the ruins of the old after an incident touched off World War III. This is a major them in the movie Akira and manga it was adapted from. Throughout the entire story, there is a pervasive sense of shock and horror over the destruction of the old city, and a sense of dread that it might happen again very soon…

Enter into this story the characters of Kaneda and Tetsuo, two orphan boys who belong to a biker gang that is constantly engaged in battles with other gangs for control of the streets. Being children of the system after their parents died in the war, all they really have is each other and the other members of their biker gang. These surrogate families and their ongoing feuds provide a sense of community and an outlet for their pent-up energies, living in a world characterized by boredom and angst and haunted by a past filled with horror.

In addition, you have Colonel Shikishima, a man who witnessed WWIII and has dedicated himself to the rebuilding and ensuring that it never happens again. In addition to being a main character, he is representative of the generational gap in the story. As a stern, disciplined military man who was shaped by apocalyptic events, he is appalled by the sense 0f self-indulgence which he feels has set in with the younger generation.

And the apocalyptic nature of the story is something which is demonstrated over and over through intense scenes and nightmarish visions. In short, it’s an awesome take on the post-apocalyptic scenario, which could only come from firsthand experience.

Alas, Babylon:
This 1959 novel by Pat Frank is one of the first post-apocalyptic stories of the nuclear age and has remained a science fiction ever since. Taking place in small town in Central Florida, Fort Repose, the story opens with a veteran-turned-lawyer named Randy Bragg who gets a cryptic telegram from his brother who works for the Strategic Air Command. He informs his brother that he will be sending his wife and kids to stay with his Randy, and ends it with “Alas Babylon”, a biblical reference which his brother uses as a euphemism ford disaster.

In time, he learns that the bad news concerns a potential Soviet attack, which inevitably takes place after much escalation. After bringing his sister-in-law and her kids to their home, they are all awoken in the night to the sounds of Miami being bombed. They residents awake to witness a mushroom cloud forming over Tampa shortly thereafter, and the events which characterize the following 24 hours they come to name “The Day” – i.e. a one day war.

The story delves into the effects of “The Day”, which are felt differently by people in Fort Repose. Tourists are trapped in their hotels, convicts escape from jails and prisons, the local retirement homes are filled with panicked people, and just about everyone tries to withdraw their money from the local bank and buy up supplies. The only reliable means of news comes through short wave radio.

As chaos begin to set in, Randy begins to organize neighbors to provide housing, food, and water for themselves and organizes the community to defense itself against highwaymen. As an active Army Reserve officer, Randy learns that he has the legal right to exercise martial law, and an order comes in over the short wave from the acting Chief Executive (who is governing from a bunker in Colorado) for any surviving officers to form local militias.

In the end, military helicopters arrive to evacuate people, but are refused as the locals tell them that they want to stay in the new home they have built. They learn the war is over, that the USA prevailed, and that country is now being run from Denver. However, the victory came at a tremendous cost, Millions are dead, entire stretches of the country are irradiated and won’t be habitable for a thousand years, and the US is now a third-rate power that is dependent on third world countries for aid. Faced with this prospect, the people of Fort Repose settle in and decide to face the “thousand year” night that is coming.

This book not only introduced readers to the likely prospect of what would happen in the event of WWIII, it also presented a likely scenario of how that was going to happen. While it the Soviets were apparently planning an attack in the first place, it was an accident that touched everything off. And in the end, how people went about rebuilding and trying to restore some semblance of normalcy was quite classic. In addition to inspiring numerous generations of nuclear holocaust fiction, numerous apocalyptic franchises owe an allegiance to him, not the least of which is the re-imagined series of Battlestar Galactica.

The City of Ember:
This post-apocalyptic story, written by Jeanne DuPrau in 2003, takes place in an underground city named Ember. After many years of continuous habitation, the city is slowly running out of power and supplies. Similar to in tone and structure to Suzanne Martel’s 1963 story The City Under Ground, this city was apparently built to ensure that humanity had a place to live and wait out the effects of nuclear war.

The story begins when a two protagonists, Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow, receive a message which is apparently left by “the Builders” containing clues that could lead them back to the outside world. This message was kept in a box that was passed down from mayor to mayor, with instructions that it be opened after two hundred years. Until recently, the box had been lost, but as soon as Mayfleet and Harrow find it, the race is on to decipher it and find a way to the surface.

In the end, the children follow the note’s instructions through a series of caves that lead them towards the surface. When they see the city from above, they realize that they are underground, something which they never knew before. This scene, which calls to mind Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”, provides the story’s big revelation. The story then ends on a cliffhanger note with the girls trying to alert the other inhabitants of what they’ve found.

The Matrix:
The setting and back story of the Matrix revolve around two fundamental facts: One, that a terrible war between humanity and AI’s took place in the future; and two, that what is left of humanity lives underground due to the devastation wrought on the planet’s surface. Enter into this the concept of the Matrix, a simulated reality where humans are kept docile by being fed the lie that they live in the pre-millenial world, at a time when human’s were still in charge.

But of course, not all human beings are able to accept the program and experience a sort of existential crisis as a result. When Mr. Anderson, hacker alias Neo, is presented with the answers he so desperately seeks, he is horrified to learn the terrible truth. Not only was it the year significantly later than he thought, but the world as he knows it was destroyed long ago. All major cities reduced to rubble, the sky itself has been “scorched”, and the surface rendered a cold, uninhabitable shadow of its former self.

This is a crucial element of the Matrix, which is not just a sci-fi story set in a post-apocalyptic world, but a metaphor for truth and “false consciousness”. With reality so displeasing and harsh, there are many who would prefer the warm comfort of a simulated world, which just happens to be a recreation of happier, stabler times. The metaphor is not just thick, but multi-layered!

It is for this reason that the majority of human beings accept the programming of the Matrix, even if they are only aware of this acceptance on an unconscious level. It is also the reason why those who choose to opt out of it, due to an innate feeling that their reality isn’t real, is a choice which must be made many times over. As Cypher himself demonstrated in the first movie, not everyone has the stomach for the real world, and will willingly betray their comrades for a chance to be put back inside. Others however, find hope in the prophecy of “The One”, the person who’s arrival will herald the end of the war and peace for humanity at last… or so it seems!

The Omega Man:
Released in 1971 and starring (once again) Charlton Heston, this movie post-apocalyptic film is a classic amongst film buffs. Based on the 1954 novel, I Am Legend, this story has gone through many adaptations over the years and has been spoofed and imitated endlessly. Though the plot was updated for the most recent version (2007, starring Wil Smith), much of the elements – a post-apocalyptic world, a lone human survivor, fighting against mutants – have remained the same.

Essentially, the plot takes place in a world that has been devastated after a terrible plague was unleashed and wreaked havoc on the world. In the film versions, this involved biological warfare between the Soviet Union and China – or a mutated cure for cancer – but was only hinted at in the book. In any case, the story revolves around a man named Robert Neville, a doctor who seems to be the last man on Earth, hence the term “Omega Man”.

Though technically not the last living creature, Neville appears to be the last human being who has not succumbed to the most dreaded aspect of the plague – transformation into a flesh-eating mutant. Whereas most of humanity died after exposure, a small minority was converted, leaving an even smaller minority of infected to be hunted as prey. Living in a fortified apartment with an arsenal, Neville spends his days patrolling the abandoned city and killing members of “The Family” – the albino mutants who are hunting him.

At the same time, Neville is dedicated to finding other survivors who have not turned. Eventually, he is saved by one such group of people, but discovers that they are not immune as he is. He decides to treat others using his own blood as a serum, while at the same time escaping to the wilderness to start a new life while leaving the mutants to die in the city. Ultimately, Neville is forced to sacrifice himself to stop the Family from overtaking the rest of them, but the survivors make it out, carrying with them a vial of his blood.

Though significantly different from the original novel, all versions of the story deal with a world in which all of humanity has been wiped out by a biological agent, not nuclear war or a natural disaster.

The Road:
This 2006 novel by Cormac McCarthy, which was adapted into a 2009 movie of the same name, takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where a father and son wander the landscape together. Though it is not specified what caused the destruction they are forced to witness and endure, what is clear is the effect it had on the survivors. Most people have given up hope in the ashen landscape, while others struggle to stay alive and some even turn to cannibalism to survive.

The plot involves an unnamed father and son who are venturing south towards the coast because they have realized that they will not survive the winter where they lived. Though the father is dying and they have barely any possessions to speak of, and the land in between is filled with horrors, the two keep going, fending off roving bands of cannibals and raiders and maintaining hope that the coast will be their deliverance.

All along, is father assures his son that they are the “good guys” who are “carrying the fire” through a dark terrible land. In the end, they find no refuge when they reach the sea and are forced to venture back inland, but the father finally succumbs to his illness and dies. He tells his son to maintain hope and to speak to him in his mind after he is gone, and the boy holds a vigil for days over his father’s body when he finally passes on.

With no idea what to do or where to go, he is eventually found by another family who claim to have been tracking them. The father of the group assures him he is one of the “good guys” and asks the son to join them. With no other options available to him, he agrees to join them and they set off together to find a new home.

Inspired by McCarthy’s own relationship with his son, and a great deal of speculation about what the apocalypse would look like, this story is a very personal take on the end civilization and the struggle to survive. Whereas a great deal of the survivors have resorted to unspeakable acts in order to stay alive, McCarthy redeems humanity by showing the lengths to which regular people will go to protect their families and ensure that good people live on when all the world goes to hell.

The Scarlet Plague:
Here we have a post-apocalyptic classic that predates the nuclear age. Written by Jack London and published in 1912, this story was the original “last man on Earth” scenario which inspired such works as I Am Legend and many others. In addition to being based on the idea of a plague wiping out nearly all of humanity, the stories resolution involves the main character imparting his knowledge to others to ensure that something survives when he is gone.

The story is set in San Francisco in the year 2073, sixty-years after a terrible epidemic, known as the Red Death,has depopulated the planet. Enter into this the story’s protagonist, a man named James Howard Smith, a survivors from the pre-plague era. As an aging man living in the San Francisco area, he is faced with the unpleasant question of what will happen when he dies. As one of the few people who is old enough to remember the pre-plague days, he possesses rare knowledge which will be lost.

Through Howard’s narrative, we learn how the plague spread throughout the world and of the struggles of the handful of survivors it left in its wake. This is apparently being told to his grandchildren, who he has decided to teach everything he knows to ensure that his knowledge will not be lost.

Much like the novels it helped inspire, the Scarlet Plague’s real value lies in its personal nature, relating how the struggle to survive goes beyond the mere physical. In the end, it is when people are facing death that what is most important in life is realized and affirmed. Or to put it is as Commander Adama did, “It’s not enough to survive. One must be worthy of survival.” Sorry! My mind keeps going back to BSG with all this post-apocalyptic talk. More on that one later…

The Terminator:
Central to the story of the Terminator franchise is “Judgement Day”, the day when humanity was nearly destroyed in a nuclear holocaust that was triggered by the sentient machine known as “Skynet”. This serves as the backdrop to the story, along with the ensuing war between the human resistance and the machines its spawned.

Though the majority of the story takes place in modern-day Los Angeles, a great deal of attention is dedicated to the war in the future and what life is like for those who survived Judgement Day. Kyle Reese described his life in the following way: “There was a nuclear war… There were survivors. Here, there. Nobody even knew who started it. It was the machines… I grew up after. In the ruins… starving… hiding from [Hunter-Killers]. Patrol machines built in automated factories. Most of us were rounded up, put in camps for orderly disposal. ”

Eventually, these camps were liberated by John Conner, the leader of the Resistance. After training and equipping the survivors, effectively turning them into a fighting force, Conner led them in a protracted war against the machines. For the most part, the resistance lived and operated out of underground facilities and went out at night to fight HK’s and Terminator’s, guerrilla-style. Survivors and refugees were gathered in these facilities, and their defenders were forced to constantly be on guard against infiltrators. Eventually, John Conner organized all his fighters into a massive offensive force and led them against the Skynet’s central HQ, destroying it and winning the war for humanity.

It was for this exact reason that the machines built their time machine and began sending Terminators back into the past. Since they could not defeat Resistance in the present, they reasoned that eliminating their commander before he was even born was their only recourse. This provides the set up for the entire franchise, with both the machines and the Resistance sending people back in time; the former to kill him and the latter to protect him and ensure that the war could be prevented.

The Walking Dead:
Fans of this franchise will know instantly why I’ve chosen to include it on this list. Not only is it a gritty, realistic take on the zombie apocalypse, but it also manages to capture the essence of survival and the struggle to stay human when everything around you has fallen. Part of what makes this show so bang on is the fact that the character’s personal struggles go well beyond the need to stay alive.

In addition to finding food, ammo, and a place to set down, there’s also the constant battle to keep hope alive. This takes them at first to the CDC, where the expect to find answers, a cure, and some protection. But of course, all they find is a single scientist who can explain how the zombie illness works, but has no idea how to cure it.

And of course, the familiar and realistic themes of loss, suicide, procreation, betrayal, and brutalization play a central role to the development of the story. Everyone who has survived the zombie apocalypse has lost people near and dear to their heart. As a result, many people have a hard time going on, some of whom commit or actively contemplate suicide. Rick and Sarah, the show’s main protagonists, also face a tough choice when they realize she is pregnant. Essentially, they’re not sure it would a good idea to bring a baby into this post-apocalyptic world. Much like the decision to carry on, it often seems that embracing death would be a far more merciful decision.

Amongst the other main characters, there is also the extremely difficult choice between survival at all costs and maintaining one’s humanity. Whereas Shane seems to favor survival, and becomes a hardened, amoral man who will kill anyone who gets in his way, the elderly Dale is committed to not being pulled down into a world of misery and letting it change him. With everyone else, the decision is the same, with people falling to one side or the other and divisions setting in.

Avatar!

Oh, I was dreading doing this review. Although I do LOVE trashing bad movies, there a couple reasons why I wasn’t looking forward to doing THIS one. For one, I didn’t want to have to see it again. Second, it’s kind of a controversial subject, this being such a big movie and all. Those that liked it seemed to really like it, those who didn’t REALLY DIDN’T! That’s the funny thing about James Cameron movies, I guess. At least when it comes to everything since Titanic. But I’ve got little to say on the subject that isn’t directly to related the movie’s content, hype, and how it was TOTALLY OVERRATED! Yeah, this is Avatar… whatever.

Avatar (the Cameron flick, not the Japanese anime!)
Yes, that’s another well-known fact about this movie. In addition to sharing so many plot elements with other films (most of which James Cameron did himself), it also shares a name with a Japanese anime of the same name. To keep things differentiated, the anime and the live-action adaptation, directed by M. Night Shyamalan (huh! another terrible director!) went by its alternate name The Last Airbender. Personally, I think Cameron should have changed the name of HIS movie. Avatar, the anime, came first, and Cameron’s movie had far more to be ashamed of!

In any case, this movie was treated favorably by critics for a number of reasons. Foremost were the visual effects, which everybody agreed were pretty damn impressive! Then there was the powerful story-telling. Uh… okay. Then there was the multi-layered thematic nature of the film. Right! However, those of us who aren’t superficial morons who aren’t ignorant of cinematic history (or real history for that matter) noticed a few things that didn’t quite measure up to all the hype. Here they are…

1. Insipid Plot:
So many critics liked the story, huh? Odd, because what I saw was cheesy, cliched, and actually kinda racist film. And here was what made it all that… and by that I mean, really really bad! For one, the idea of an idealized native culture that is being ruthlessly exploited by evil corporations and their military stooges. Sure, sounds familiar enough, and its pleasing that in this context, the native species would be given its due considering how the opposite attitude – that of Europeans “civilizing” the “savages” of the world – has been so widely accepted for so long.

But it’s still pretty insulting. Simply flipping old racist constructs on their head and idealizing the victims doesn’t set the record the straight or undo the harm. If anything, its more for the sake of the victimizers that this is done. In short, its easier to vilify one’s ancestors in fiction that to actually address how that kind of shit went down in the real world. In fact, one thing I loved about the popular response to this movie was the people who came forward and demand that audience who claimed to love the movie do something about actual exploitation and genocide in the real world. Love the Na’vi, you gullible fops? Then fucking stop the ongoing oppression of First Nations!

Second, if you think about it, this movie was kinda racist itself. The Na’vi were helpless before the onslaught of the human corporation and their armed forces, until a defector came along and led them to victory. Can you say “Great White Hope”? Bingo, these people had to be rescued! What is that if not a heaping dose of the more recent, but not less racist notion that the indigenous people of the world who’ve been traditionally wronged by westerners can only be saved by them? God forbid you’d ever think that these individuals can help themselves, or need a break from being saved! Hell, it was the idea of “saving them” that created this whole problem in the first place! But I’m getting preachy here, moving on! Sure, there were lots of fitting elements that are taken from real history, such as the residential school which they had set up for the Na’vi, and the whole “negotiations for their land” angle, but it was all so painfully obvious! Which brings me to point two…

2. Obviousness:
Where to start? How about “Unobtainium”? Seriously… how lame was that?! We already have the many, many instances in the movie where people go on about how rare and valuable this mineral is. You don’t have to give it such an blatant name! Second, the name of the planet… Pandora. Also a patently obvious reference to the heavy handed moral of the story, which is that humanity shouldn’t be messing with people and places it doesn’t understand! There was that horrid speech the CEO (played by Giovanni Ribisi) gave where he talks about how precious and valuable “Unobtainium” is, and how the “flea-bitten savages” are getting in the way. And did anyone else notice that their was a Dream Catcher and other Native artifacts being prominently displayed on the wall behind him? Was that not just the most blatant case of symbolism ever? We get the allegory, and we also get that the guy’s a greedy little bastard. You don’t have to show AND tell us is such an insistent way.

And of course, there’s the divide between the scientists and the corporation and its military enforcers. Whereas the former appreciate the planet and its people and want to understand it, they wanna rape it. Add to that the clear and obvious indications that Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) was going to defect and that he and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) were going to get together. All of this stuff has been so done to death that it was obvious how it was all going to play out as soon as the introductions were finished! Sure, its nice to have a script that writes itself, but man, a few surprises would be nice!

3. Weak Characters:
To put it simply, the characters in this movie are cardboard cut-outs. On the one hand, you’ve got the conflicted hero with the sympathetic injury, the hardened military man who doesn’t give a shit, and the corporate sleazebag who only cares about the bottom line. On the other, you’ve got the down-to-death native characters: the wizened old chief, the stern second in command, and the beautiful chiefs daughter who loves the foreigner. Holy shit were these last elements stolen out of Pocahontas, and it wasn’t even original when they did it! The former characters were largely stolen from Dances with Wolves, though just about any movie about the closing of the frontier would do here! As I’ve said already, there’s absolutely nothing original here, just a rehashing of old ideas and things that have been done to death.

4. Recycling:
According to Rotten Tomatoes, critics praised Avatar for its “imaginative, absorbing storytelling.” That’s also funny because when I watched this movie, all I saw was a whole heap of things Cameron’s already done, of course with some Pocahantas/Dances with Wolves stuff thrown in for good measure. For starters, you’ve got the theme that was present in Aliens, of the evil mega-corporation that is motivated by unbridled greed and using the military to further its aims. And let’s not forget those armored mechs, which very much resemble the cargo loaders from Aliens as well! Hell, even Sigourney Weaver was in this! I know Cameron likes to reuse actors, but given all the parallels he made to Aliens already, her presence was just a little tongue-in-cheek. Oh yeah, then you’ve got the unlikely love story between star-crossed lovers who managed to succeed against all odds. That’s Titanic right there! And the whole human-machine hybrid (some alien DNA sliced in there for good measure)? That’s right out of Terminator!

So really, the only thematic element in this movie that Cameron hasn’t already done was the whole raping the virgin planet and exploiting the natives thing, but that he simply ripped off from half a dozen other movies! So really, nothing this movie did was original! Sure, some would say that the concept of a massive, planet-wide organism who’s neural pathways connect everything is cool, but that’s been done too, by Stanislaw Lem no less. And when he did it, it was original, hence better (see Solaris)!

5. The F/X ARE The Movie!
The best criticism I’ve heard yet about this movie has to do with Cameron’s motivation for making it. I mean, if you think about it, what was the purpose of creating this… thing? It certainly wasn’t to tell a story that needed to be told. And it sure as hell wasn’t to add to the already impressive array of original franchises Cameron has under his belt (see Aliens and Terminator). Overall, it really seemed like the only motivation Cameron had in making this movie was to test out the latest in F/X technology. That and making an obscene amount of money! But really, one of the biggest selling points of Avatar, which the studio and distributors advertised ruthlessly, was the fact that it boasted the latest in CGI effects, 3D, and fully mapped-out virtual environments. Kinda reminds you of Lucas, huh? Another guy who makes movies simply so he can create something that has the latest in F/X… and no story. In fact, you might say that Cameron was even hoping to replace Lucas as Hollywood’s pioneer in the field of F/X. There’s something cool about being on the cutting-edge, but as many people have told Lucas, F/X do not a movie make!

And while we’re on the topic, what was the hell was all that stuff about people feeling depressed and experiencing withdrawal symptoms after they left the theater? I kid you not, apparently some people felt so depressed after returning to the real world that they reported suicidal thoughts! WHAT? Did they really think the movie was that beautiful? Sure, it was impressive, but personally, I also the whole set-up looked artificial and overdone! In addition to the Na’vi looking like a bunch of cartoon characters, the “rich” 3D environments were so obviously rendered. Some people obviously found that impressive, but really, all I could think was how CGI it all looked. Far from being immersive, it was actually kind of repellant. If the Matrix sequels and Star Wars prequels taught us anything, it was that saturating every scene with digital effects doesn’t make a movie look or feel any more real. It those case, it had the opposite effect; people were very much aware of the fact that they were watching something that WASN’T REAL. And when it comes to movies, suspension of disbelief is everything!

Okay, now for the good stuff. It WAS entertaining. And I liked the fact that this time around, the natives kicked ass! I was totally set for a sad ending when the final fight scene was happening, which would have been far more realistic considering that’s how it happened in the real world. But I think we can all agree, this way was much better! Screw you ya corporate-military asswipes, Eywa don’t take shit from nobody! But alas, I couldn’t get over the way this movie was pitched at sort of a fifth-grade level. It was cheesy, cliche, full of obvious references, recycled elements and themes, and really didn’t give us anything new aside from the special effects. And even those felt cheesy, and definitely weren’t enough to overcome the weaknesses of the plot (and I saw it in Imax!)

Clearly, the movie was a confluence of motivations that came down to money and testing out the latest digital effects. It pioneered the use of the new 3D technology – yet another thing that’s being recycled here – and as expected, other studios and movies are following Cameron’s lead (which was clearly the point!) And of course, Cameron made his obscene amount of money, once again earning the prize for top grossing-film of all time, as well as half a dozen Academy Awards for best visuals, effects and art direction. Mercifully, Cameron did NOT quote the movie when he got up to accept this time. Remember that dreadful “I’m king of the world!” speech after Titanic? Douche…

All in all, I think this movie is best filed in the guilty pleasure column, somewhere between Independence Day and Army of Darkness. Maybe you got other titles in mind, point is, don’t expect a lot from this one!

Avatar:
Entertainment Value: 7/10
Plot: 3/10
Direction: 8/10
Overall: 6/10

Updated Review List

Hello, and welcome to my updated review list. After many, many reviews and plenty of change-ups in the lineup, I decided it was time to revise my master playlist. I do this mainly for the sake of being succinct, seeing as how I put up three in the last two months. The first was dedicated to initial ideas for reviews, the second to all the ones I forgot, and a third for animes that I realized were being neglected. There was also the constant need to go back and alter these lists so that I could indicate which reviews were covered and when. So to simplify things, here is my new master list, with the titles that have already been covered listed first with the date of their review provided. As usual, I will try to stick to this lineup, but some of the later ones might be brought forward if it seems like its taking too long to get to them.

Enjoy! Oh, and fyi, suggestion are still welcome!

1. Terminator: Salvation – July 7th
2. Independence Day – July 9th
3. Blade Runner – July 10th
4. Alien franchise (movies 1 through 4) – July 10th, July 11th…
5. Dune (1984, and the 2000 miniseries) – July 14th, 16th, and 18th
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey – July 21st
10. Starship Troopers – July 28th
11. Akira – Aug. 2nd
12. The Terminator franchise (movies 1 through 3) – Aug. 7th, Aug. 13th…
13. Equilibrium – Aug. 14th
14. The Star Wars prequels – Aug. 24th and 25th
15. The Matrix Trilogy – Sept. 4th, 11th, and 17th
16. Strange Days – Oct. 18th
17. Ghost in the Shell
18. V for Vendetta – Oct. 21st
19. Avatar – Sept. 29th
20. District 9
21. I, Robot – Sept. 27th
22. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
23. 28 Days Later – Oct. 28th
24. Ninja Scroll
25. A Clockwork Orange
26. Predator franchise (1, 2, and Predators)
27. Screamers (first in the Philip K Dick lineup)
28. Impostor
29. Paycheck
30. A Scanner Darkly
31. The Adjustment Bureau (finishing off the PKD segment)
32. Lord of the Rings (like I said, some fantasy will slip in, and allowances must be made for such classics!)
33. Willow (another fantasy honorable mention)
34. Solaris (the original and the Soderberg remake) – thanks to Tom Sharp for the suggestion!
35. Inception
36. Metropolis
37. Princess Mononoke
38. Vampire Hunter D.
39. Sunshine
40. Children of Men
41. The Watchmen – Oct. 12th
42. Tron (original, and Legacy)
43. Wall-E
44. Twelve Monkeys
45. Iron Man