Archive

Archive for the ‘Speculative Fiction’ Category

Some thoughts on the movie ‘Prometheus’

Has anyone seen Ridley Scott’s new film ‘Prometheus’? I saw it last week with my nephew. There has been a hell of a lot of hype about this film, and probably for good reason. A prequel/re-imagining of ‘Alien'; after 33 years?! It sure sounded interesting.

Here are my initial impressions: Visually stunning; chuck full of religious/mythological allegory; Michael Fassbinder does an amazing job portraying David the Android!; a story that was all over the place and glaringly inconsistent; thought-provoking; confusing; supposedly intelligent characters who do really stupid things; and did I mention it was quite beautiful?

Yes, I was really hoping this would be a great film, and maybe someday it will be considered such; but for me there were just too many glaring things about it that were ridiculous or incomprehensible. One thing is certain: ‘Prometheus’ has generated an almost unprecedented amount of discussion across the Internet. I mean, it’s incredible how much this one film has stirred people up! Which is kind of cool in itself.

Everywhere I look on Science Fiction and Movie websites, people are delighted, outraged, flabbergasted by this film! They’re coming up with amazing theories on what the movie is about, and obsessing about every little detail of the convoluted storyline and its allegorical implications. I’m not going to attempt to delve into any of that (Osiris/Space Jesus) stuff, or how this movie might or might not tie into the original ‘Alien’ universe. But I will direct you to a few interesting web pages where other people do! If you have seen the film and it drove you a little nuts, too, check out the links below. (Warning: many spoilers ahead!)

PS: Since we’re talking Science Fiction, the second season of the TNT show ‘Falling Skies‘ premiered last Sunday, and it was pretty cool. I mostly like this show. It’s fun! And it looks like season 2 will be better/grittier/more interesting than the first season. And damn it; I just enjoy Noah Wyle! Check it out.

There’s not enough good Science Fiction on TV right now, besides my beloved ‘Fringe‘ (looking forward to the final season in September). There’s also a new Canadian show called ‘Continuum‘ that I enjoy.

Bye for now!

Prometheus Unbound: What The Movie Was Actually About

What is Going on in ‘Prometheus’?

Why Films Like ‘Prometheus’ Are Driving Me to Alcoholism

John Carter (of Mars!) Reviews

March 26, 2012 2 comments

Yesterday my son Arthur and I went to see a matinee of the Disney Studios film ‘John Carter’. I must say right off the bat: I really enjoyed this movie. And the day after viewing it, with the images and characters still bubbling around in my mind, I’d have to say that I loved it! Perhaps partly because I read the first three Barsoom novels as a teen, and this film wonderfully captured for me that nostalgia; the feel of reading the Burroughs stories for the fist time.

If you’re not familiar with ‘John Carter’, the movie, (as opposed to the rookie doctor from ‘ER’) it is director Andrew Stantons adaptation of the first of Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom novels, ‘A Princess of Mars’. Burroughs, who also wrote the ‘Tarzan’ series, created a bunch of stories about the world of Barsoom (that we call Mars) about a hundred years ago. The first novel is about Civil War veteran John Carter who is mysteriously transported to Mars and his adventures with Dejah Thoris, Princess of the city-state of Helium.

Since the movie first came out I kept hearing about what a disappointment it is; how it didn’t make a billion dollars the very first weekend it premiered. I read a couple of reviews that said the story was incomprehensible; the acting was bad, and so on; even though the previews looked pretty darn cool to me! But Arthur wanted to see it very badly, so I went with not very great expectations. And I was very pleasantly surprised. The movie was just great fun! I actually liked the actors and how they portrayed their characters. And it was apparent to me that the filmmakers spent a lot of time and attention to detail. The scenery and special effects are gorgeous; from the ancient cities, the details of Martian airships and machinery, the costumes, to the amazing CGI creation of the four-armed, green-skinned Tharks. I think Stanton’s film did an admirable job capturing that steampunk/swashbuckling/science fiction-fantasy spirit of those Burroughs stories, while actually improving on the original (like the explanation for Carter’s transportation to Mars, and bringing in elements and characters from the second Barsoom story, ‘Gods of Mars’). I thought the pacing, the interaction of the characters (even the computer-generated ones) and the story-within-a-story was very well done. It’s got battles, action, romance! It takes itself quite seriously, but with a nice balance of humor in just the right places. And I loved the ending! Every change that was made to the movie definitely improved the overall story.

I don’t know: maybe people who didn’t like or understand the film were not familiar with the source material; or maybe they were just a lot younger than I and found elements of the story too familiar? Even though the original story is the template, along with the works of Robert E. Howard and a few other writers, for most of the Fantasy/Sword and Sorcery stories that have come out in the past century! Edgar Rice Burroughs and others inspired much of the books and films that have come after them, not the other way around! I think ‘John Carter’ is a worthy homage to the spirit and imagination of those early pioneers of imagination.

So please go see the movie while it’s still in theaters (we did not see the 3D version, and it was breathtaking). Because the ending made me really hope that they make the next movie in a proposed trilogy about John Carter of Mars. I enjoyed my time in that mythical Mars called Barsoom, and would like to explore it further. (I like to pretend that this story takes place in an alternate universe where Mars still harbors life). Also the possibility of the Therns making mischief on Earth of the 1880s could be a lot of fun!

Update: Because I received a comment on this post with links to a Facebook page and a website of people who loved ‘John Carter’ and, like me, want to see another film made in this series, I’m adding these two links: https://www.facebook.com/groups/backtobarsoom/ and http://backtobarsoom.com/.

Below I’ll leave you with some of the numerous favorable reviews that really do more justice than I have here.

http://www.mountainx.com/movies/review/john_carter#.T2–z7ujHRY

http://www.forbes.com/sites/carolpinchefsky/2012/03/11/4-reasons-why-john-carter-was-surprisingly-awesome/

http://blogs.indiewire.com/leonardmaltin/john-cartermovie-review

http://www.americanprofile.com/articles/john-carter-movie-review/

Regarding Science Fiction and Fantasy

My last post about the Sword and Sorcery yarns I read in the 70’s got me reminiscing quite a bit about the books and authors who have shaped my consciousness and my world view. Of course, I’m just talking about fiction now; non-fiction is a whole ‘nother story! (Religion, philosophy, history, mythology, etc.)

It’s interesting to look back (from my advanced age…eh, hmm) at the incredibly imaginative authors and stories I read in my teens and early twenties. I started out reading a lot of science fiction, simply because it was so much more interesting than mundane fiction, and because it stretched my imagination, my sense of wonder, so much more than any other form of fiction.

Yesterday I dug out a book of short stories called ‘Galactic Cluster’ by James Blish that I remember reading when I was 11 or 12 years old. What a trip it was to read a story I hadn’t read in about 43 years! That particular book came out in 1959! So even when I was in my late teens I was reading a lot of science fiction that was written in the fifties or sixties (‘The Foundation Trilogy’, ‘Dune’, ‘Childhoods End’, ‘Cities in Flight’; to name but a few). And most of those authors were scientists of one kind or another.

In those days science fiction and fantasy were fairly distinct genres. But today there’s not much difference between the two; they’re pretty much lumped together under the same umbrella. And it seems to be a natural progression. As Arthur C. Clarke is so often quoted as saying: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. As todays science fiction writers try to imagine technologies sufficiently more advanced than what we have now, future science becomes more ‘fantastical’ all the time. And one needs a very creative mind indeed to try and imagine what the human race will make of itself (if we can refrain from destroying ourselves and the environment that sustains us, that is) in even as little as a hundred years from now. I love how many of todays authors are quite adept at moving between genres (horror, sci-fi, fantasy, historical) and have helped blur the old-fashioned notions of genre altogether.

It’s interesting how storytelling originally started out as the fantastical, larger-than-life tales of Myth. Stories of supernatural beings, heroic adventure and the archetypal journey through the stages of physical and psychological development that all people share from birth to death; and perhaps what we hope for and fear beyond death. The stories our myths have carried through the millennia, though fiction, are also true as tutorials about navigating human life and consciousness; about trying to understand what it is to be ‘human’. And this is the same thing that good science fiction attempts to do in our own rapidly-changing age. That’s why I love science fiction and fantasy so much! They incorporate all other types of human knowledge (psychology, history, religion, sociology, biology) as well as the technological sciences, into posing possible answers to the BIG QUESTIONS of human existence: Where did we come from? Where are we going? What is the nature of consciousness; the Universe; Time and Space? Do we really have Free Will? Can we create a better future for ourselves or are we bound to committing the same mistakes over and over again?  What is our place in the universe? And most importantly: what does it really mean to be Human?

To me, this is the most amazing thing about science fiction/fantasy literature, and why I believe it’s the most important form of fiction. Our modern Myths. The template for what is possible. And with our scientific knowledge growing at an almost exponential rate, these questions are more important than ever if Humanity is going to survive.

It makes me truly sad to think that many people from generations before my own were indoctrinated with the idea that ‘Science Fiction’ dealt only with rockets and bug-eyed monsters; lurid pulp magazine covers and shoddy B-movie matinees at the local cinema; ie: ‘Plan 9 From Outer Space’.

But getting back to my original thoughts…

When I was younger I looked down at fantasy writing from my high horse of science fiction. But I grew to discover the value and purpose of fantasy, thanks to Tolkien and Ursula Le Guin and numerous others since. Sword and Sorcery was almost another distinct sub-genre; but after delving into the works of Burroughs and Robert E. Howard, I came to appreciate the value of a good, old-fashioned adventure yarn as well. I guess all types of fiction have their own special appeal. BIG IDEAS and visceral adventure all have their place in the grand experience of being human!

Since we’re talking Science Fiction, here are a few links of interest. In the Asimov interview, he pretty well predicts internet education as it exists right now! And the last link by Neil deGrasse Tyson is all science, not much fiction. I hope you enjoy them:

Your Picks: Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books

10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the Original Star Trek

Isaac Asimov on Bill Moyers World of Ideas pt 1

Neil deGrasse Tyson: We Stopped Dreaming

The Fantastic ‘Fringe’

Just a brief blog post today about my favorite science fiction series on television right now. Fringe just keeps getting better and better since its debut three years ago. And it’s been renewed by Fox for a fourth season. Considering the Fox network’s record  for canceling thought-provoking, original and creative series in the past (Firefly, Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles) I cannot be happier!

Last Friday’s episode was another emotional, intense and hilarious excursion into creative television which is rarely seen these days, especially on a commercial network. And what an interesting use of animation! For those who have not seen Fringe, I don’t want to go into a full synopsis (though I have links below that will) because you really must watch the first seasons of this show to appreciate the wonderful characters and storytelling. So please, PLEASE go check it out on Netflix or buy the DVDs of the first two seasons of Fringe! And when season three finishes in three weeks go watch that when it becomes available, too!

The acting, the writing, the character development of this show is truly remarkable. I’ve recently started watching some of the first episodes from season one. And though I didn’t feel the show moved into the realm of greatness until near the end of season one, I find that even the pilot episode was quite phenomenal in retrospect. By the second season Fringe went from being a ‘bizarre event of the week’ structure into focusing more on the overall series narrative about the alternate universe, the Observers and Walter’s role in all the ‘Fringe’ events. I love the way that little events from the early episodes are connected to the whole picture of what is happening now and in episodes to come. And I just love the way this show has gotten me so emotionally involved with the character’s lives, even some of their counter-parts in the other universe (Fauxlivia, Walternate). I sincerely care about these people! The writers of Fringe have taken characters who seem to be the ‘bad guy’ initially and actually allowed us to sympathize with them by seeing their perspective. Despite some of the wacky story-lines, they’ve made this show feel more ‘real’ to me than many main-stream TV series. I’d say that’s quite an accomplishment!

And unlike ‘Lost’, I believe the writers of Fringe actually know where their story is going and how all of the pieces will eventually come together.

Fringe has something for everyone; mystery, science, horror, romance, (with a bit of soap opera thrown in) and some of the funniest moments I’ve seen on TV! That’s all I have to say for now.

Fringe Spoiler Alert: Apocalypse, Sex and Doomsday Devices – Oh My!

‘Fringe’ Friday: Fox gives you props

Leonard Nimoy really did take too much LSD on Fringe

Anna Torv: The season finale left me speechless

Quotes

The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist. The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just that way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever.
When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in bad condition in the particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments.

-Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

“If you need something to worship, then worship life – all life, every last crawling bit of it! We’re all in this beauty together!”

Paul Atreides from ‘Dune Messiah’ by Frank Herbert

Only in silence the word,
only in dark the light,
only in dying life:
bright the hawk’s flight
on the empty sky.

-Ursula K. LeGuin: Earthsea

Categories: Speculative Fiction
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.