Category Archives: science fiction

Avengers assemble a world

The opening weekend box office for Marvel’s The Avengers (yes, Marvel is a part of the title both for branding purposes and to differentiate it from poorly received The Avengers film of 1998, which was based on a popular British television series – which ultimately leads to the current film’s being titled Avengers Assemble in Europe…) pretty much means that a review is of absolutely no value to anyone. Everyone who wanted to see the film has already seen or plans to see it soon, and everyone who did not want to see the film really did not care. A review about the film is not beneficial because everyone’s mind was made up well in advance of the film’s actual release. Plus the film has so little in substance going for it aside from the action that there really isn’t much to mention.

Which is great because the circumstances of the film’s immediate success is incredibly interesting to me. None of the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe come close to the gross profit of The Avengers‘ opening weekend in their opening weekends. Truth be told, aside from the spike in the almost miserable Iron Man 2‘s profits due to the popularity and accessibility of the first, each Marvel movie has done worse than the one preceding it. So it is clear that The Avengers is an amazing gestault film that truly is greater than all of the films before it. Read the rest of this entry

Buffy and attention whoring

From my February 9th post called “Buffy pushes boundaries”:

They’re not going to go through with it. No mainstream comic has the gall to go through with something so taboo. Something is going to happen to stop it, or she is simply going to change her mind. After all, it is probably a magical pregnancy, and Angel‘s fourth season shows how that can go.

But I just don’t think Whedon will do it. This strikes me as nothing but attention-seeking. It’s clearly working since I’m writing about it, but I’m mostly setting this in writing so I can call back to it in disappointment. I want Whedon and company to prove me wrong, though. How far are they willing to go?

As it turns out, not very far. Read the rest of this entry

Star Driver

Unfortunately, Star Driver is an anime series that is not worth a full essay. No, the best summary is, “Modestly entertaining, but ultimately disappointing.” I expected more from the writer of Revolutionary Girl Utena. Instead I got a slight retread in terms of high school students dueling in some sacred space with the future of humanity at stake but lacking in the surrealism that made Utena a true standout among other shows of its time. Read the rest of this entry

Young Justice: Season One

The original Young Justice comic was the perfect source material for an animated series. It sadly never came to happen, but the Teen Titans cartoon was a good substitute. It still would have been nice to see Tim Drake’s Robin teamed up with Impulse and Superboy in an ongoing animated series.

A couple years ago an announcement was made for a Young Justice cartoon, featuring an Aqualad of color and a lack of overall humor. The latter was a deal breaker for YJ purists with the former being a deal breaker for DC purists. I was of course interested in the series, and it did not disappoint. Read the rest of this entry

Fringe – “Everything in Its Right Place”

Unlike other TV shows, being able to have a conversation with yourself is a sign of having a strong grasp of reality on Fringe.

Fringe is a difficult show to start watching. Tuning in for new episodes is difficult due to the serialized nature of the show, but even starting from the beginning can be rough. Before it reaches its current state of brilliant science fiction, it starts in the muddled area of X-Files-esque science monster-of-the-week nonsense. Maybe that is unfair to say because I never really cared for X-Files. But Fringe did start in that area, especially since it resembled more of a knock-off than anything else.

Until the final episode of the first season introduces viewers to the Other Side, the parallel universe that resembles the point-of-view universe with tweaks. Zeppelins float in the sky, the statue of liberty is made of bronze, and cappuccinos never became popular. (A world lacking in Starbucks?!) Aside from offering a slightly askew world, the Other Side also presents alternate interpretations of the characters and the question of how they got there. We are reaching the end of the fourth season, and every character has been faced with what makes them different. Read the rest of this entry

The Order of Star Wars

The “Machete Order” of Star Wars recently became an internet sensation, and I almost missed it. Not that it would have mattered much. I thought up the same order a couple of years ago and for mostly the same reasons: re-ordering the films centers the saga around Luke while also highlighting the importance of Darth Vader’s choices. Remember, by Return of the Jedi Vader serves as a warning of what Luke could become. Literally in the center of the context that is the original Star Wars trilogy, the prequel trilogy has a meaning that lifts it beyond our cynical view of its being a cash grab. Read the rest of this entry

Chronicle

Have you ever wondered about the importance of Uncle Ben in the story of Spider-Man? Have you ever looked at any of the X-Men and said, “You know what I’d do with that power?” Have you ever just wanted your superhero stories to be just a tad bit more like Akira? Chronicle is the film for you. The story isn’t all that original, especially for comic book aficionados, but the storytelling is absolutely great. The film had me completely caught in its telekinetic grip by its conclusion. No other superhero, or comic book-type, movie comes close to how well this was done. Captain America? Good. Kick-Ass? Good fun. Super? Dark fun. Chronicle? The new benchmark.

This movie is also for people who were pissed that Magneto didn't get his own movie. Oh, and Doctor Doom.

Read the rest of this entry

Community: Remedial Chaos Theory – Watch the full episode now.

Hulu – Community: Remedial Chaos Theory – Watch the full episode now.

I’m sharing this on the off chance that you somehow missed this. I’m both pleased (due to the quality) and displeased (because no proper scifi show has reached the level of storytelling of this sitcom’s scifi episode) to report that this, so far, is the best episode of science fiction television of the current fall season. Why do I say it’s so good? Because while superficially the episode is all about the gimmick, the episode is really a brilliant character study made possible by analyzing the current state of the characters but in different situations at the same point in time. Think about it.

Torchwood: Miracle Day

It may have taken a few years, but Torchwood was finally continued in another high-concept series – this time in a joint British and American production. Children of Earth‘s concept was the desperation of humanity against an impossible to defeat alien threat that simply wanted to use their pre-pubescent children for drugs. Miracle Day, the latest effort, had an even more amazing concept – what would happen to the world if people stopped dying? It wasn’t a matter of invincibility, mind you. Even when decapitated or crushed, people stayed alive through what could only be described as a miracle. What does humanity do with a population that only increases in number? Vile things, it would seem.

There’s a lot to talk about with this particular series, but I’m going to try to streamline it. This is an approach I wish that BBC and Starz had taken with the series, which would have been brilliant at 5 episodes but seemed stretched thin at the 10 episodes they aired. Good storytelling with proper buildups would no doubt have a bit of slow movement in the middle of the series, but Miracle Day almost came to a crawl as the writers struggled to figure out how to slow down the pace that a proper Torchwood story should have. What made Children of Earth so effective was that it felt like a five hour movie, whether you saw it all at once or over the course of days. Miracle Day seemed less fluid and contiguous. I suspect it has everything to do with the arbitrary episode count.

But the series was brilliant nonetheless. I love the idea of exploring how humanity tries to deal with overpopulation (categorize and eliminate). I love the idea of taking the Torchwood team out of Wales, proving that their efforts really do affect the world. I love that they were taken away from the Torchwood tech, meaning that the solution to each problem did not depend on having the right miracle gadget. They played it smart, and I appreciate the series for that. The spirited performances also helped me to believe in the story and the new characters.

Bill Pullman did an amazing job as Oswald Danes, convicted pedo-rapist/murderer and first high-profile survivor through the miracle. I loved watching this complete slime rise in popularity despite how horrible everyone acknowledged he was, and I loved Captain Jack Harkness’ deconstruction of the man Oswald was hiding inside. His character arc was very subtle, but it was there. He basked in his glory until he realized that he was being recategorized as no longer living but rather as someone who should not be allowed to live. In helping to end the miracle, he found some level of redemption in the eyes of the viewers. Meanwhile, he proudly boasted he would likely go to hell when he was finally able to die, finally accepting his fate.

But what about the climax? To be honest, the payoff for the series was pretty damn disappointing. It should be a spoiler to say that some weird, two-opening creature that lives literally through the Earth was the cause of the miracle, but a lack of any sort of build-up or worthwhile explanation renders the spoiler pretty much null. It simply exists, and it proves Jack’s theory that the miracle was somehow caused by morphogenic field alteration. No, this isn’t made up sci-fi terminology. However, its application here is again stretched thin. The reversal of the morphogenic field needed to be explored further to be satisfactory. All the time they had was squandered.

I can’t help but think that I’m more intrigued by the concept of the series than anything else, and that helps me to acknowledge the poorer aspects but look past them for the rest. I’m not sure if any other show would take a chance on running a full concept through for a season. For any other show, this would have been a two-parter.

So would I recommend Miracle Day? Probably. I would sooner recommend Children of Earth, as that is truly mind blowing and heartbreaking. Miracle Day felt like it was almost but not quite the same. Maybe if they get another chance, if the ratings didn’t drop too much, they can build upon this and make a much better series. They already put in sequel hooks, after all. Still, more Torchwood is never a bad thing in my book.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which has a horribly wordy title, is a surprisingly good summer movie. It does everything right, including taking some heavy risks by making us sympathetic to the ape cause. Granted, the alternative was cheering for big business and American consumerism. Few movies push leading characters who aren’t human – especially ones who spend over half the movie without a human counterpart sitting around to remind us that we’re supposed to like them. This was awesome.

One of the major problems I had with this film, though, was how ape intelligence had to be portrayed in human terms. The signing, the writing, and the puzzle solving aren’t necessarily so bad – it’s the speaking. Only four words were spoken by an ape through the entire film, but that was more than enough. Speaking English does not mean a creature is intelligent. You’ve all met people who speak fluent English whom you cannot believe have more rights than monkeys. But the audience is led to believe that the apes have finally transcended because one learns how to speak.

Question for people who know a bit more about animal physiology than I do: Do chimps have the same vocal structure as we do? Would it physically be possible for them to speak English?

Aside from that, Apes was a really good film that makes up for Tim Burton’s failure from a decade ago. The ending was brilliant as well. It’s not so much that the apes grew intelligent and overthrew the humans. It’s that the humans simultaneously developed a deadly (to them) airborne virus along with a virus that advances brain development in apes. We’re led to believe at the end of the film that the contagion has gone worldwide. The apes didn’t so much overthrow their rulers as they did simply inherit the Earth.

Go see this movie. One especially amazing thing is that the named apes in the film are provided more solid characterization and development than most movies starring humans these days. That’s a feat that should be rewarded.