Category Archives: Films

The Day the Earth Stood Still -How to Remake a Classic Well

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I remember when this 2008 film came out, as usual I missed it and I have only recently been able to watch it. There are many similarities between this modern remake and the original film, as I remember I think this received poor reviews and many were critical of it but I can’t see why, to me it’s an honest and modern remake.

Keanu Reeves plays Klaatu, the extra terrestrial visitor made to look like an adventurer that chanced to find one of the alien glowing spheres some seventy years or so before. His arrival is a mixed blessing because at first his spacecraft is mistaken for a meteor on a collision course with Earth. Only at the last minute does his craft slow to land.

Upon his arrival the military are instantly trying show their might and they end up injuring Klaatu. It’s only when a surgeon is called in that his injuries are taken care of and a fleshy out is removed to reveal Klaatu’s human disguise. Helen Benson (played by Jennifer Conelly) helps to nurse him back and forms a bond with Klaatu. The instantly suspicious government assume that the human race is in danger and try in vain to question Klaatu.

 

Klaatu is a far more powerful and dangerous character in this modern re-make, in the original he seemed to have no real power. But this modern version saw him Frying brains with no weapons, disabling an entire security for with an ear piercing sound and destroying attack helicopters. What was a little unclear was his intended mission, it seemed ultimately to destroy the Earth, there seemed no real in between

 

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Klaatu’s huge robot Gort was also far more menacing, much larger than the original and appearing to be made of a single mass of material with no seams at all. When he was being examined the menacing eye tracked his captors and it’s then that his menacing nature really showed.

In the original film Klaatu’s stated his Gort could destroy the Earth, but we never found out how. In this film we did, when they tried to drill into Gort he started splitting into billions of tiny nano bots which went about eating anything in their path and reproducing, laying waste to whole cities it was a truly ingenious twist on this tale.

Helen helped Klaatu’s to escape and avoid being captured, she also helped him find the places he need to go and more importantly the side to the human race that needed tobe saved. Helen was really the human emotion in the story in contrast to Klaatu’s very emotionless character. While this is needed, it would be a very dry story without Helen and her son.

Played by Jayden Smith, Helen’s son struggled with the stranger and showed the conflict within humanity, it’s struggle between the primitive survival instinct and the compassionate nature that is often so lacking. As often with Hollywood there was a human message in this and while it was clear it wasn’t too corny, although it has to be said at every point when the military show up and start blasting away it is hard not to groan at the lack of intelligence shown.

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In many ways this film did what the original couldn’t, it filled in the gaps and completed the plot. Sure their are differencesto the 1950’s version and in a way whichever way it went the film woukd have been slated. Imagine if it was the same as the primal with just some updated effects, that would have been disappointing. To me this film showed how to re-make a classic well, make sure you have plenty of the old ingredients with a little modern spice to make sure it’s fresh and up to date. Did this film deserve criticism, no way! If the people that saw it thought that they were going to see something either orignal or the same then whydid they bother? It was never going to be either.

Simon 🙂

Oblivion – What did I think?

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I loved Oblivion it’s a story with twists and turns. Full of big, powerful imagery and the sound track was amazing, it’s a real SciFi gem in my opinion. The pictures I’ve put up on this post (found on google image search) show some of the start imagery the film uses, the broken moon, ruined cities all this adds so much to the film’s ‘personality’. This isn’t a film review as such, although you would be forgiven for thinking so – this isn’t to be a film review blog – I just wanted to write about it because I liked the film.

Oblivion is a story about a post apocalyptic Earth after an attempted alien invasion leads to war, where the humans win, but the Earth is said to be scorched and mostly uninhabitable. Jack and Victoria live and work together to maintain the drones and power stations that are going to help them return to the rest of the remaining human race at Titan. This turns out to not be true at all and the story is turned onto its head when Jack realises that they are clones and there are many of them all over the Earth and that Jack and Victoria are working for the invaders – sucking the Earth dry of all it’s resources.

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Jack has dreams about another life and specifically about a woman who he thinks he remembers. Victoria is like a custodian, watching over him while on his missions and back at home, their relationship is shattered almost at once when he rescues the young woman from his dreams. Her arrival throws the whole story wide open, leading to Jack teaming up with those his thought were his enemy to finally destroy the TET – a pyramid like spacecraft that was the main vessel for the alien invasion.

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While watching this I couldn’t help thinking that Victoria knows more about what is really happening than shes lets on. Nothing is said, it’s all in the acting and the mood they give the character. She’s there to please, inform and maybe even control Jack without him knowing it. This rapidly falls apart when the young woman from Jack’s dreams is suddenly thrown into the mix and Victoria’s mood changes to something beyond jealousy.  This is for made what made the film entertaining, they left gaps in the plot that they let you decide for yourself, it’s not all spelled out and I can imagine different people having different views on this.


 

What I liked about this film was there was no lesson or something to be learned. Many SciFi stories do this, while it doesn’t ruin them I don’t always want a story to have a lesson. What this story was about though was living in a confined world and questioning what you’re told is your existence. This has been a popular topic in Scifi for many years, especially since the Matrix. But here we have Jack unknowingly trapped in a life which is a lie. It’s one of the most powerful parts of the story (and the ‘ah-ha’ moment when you’re watching it) when he finds out what there is beyond the radiation zone.

 

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If you’re into SciFi and haven’t seen it – I would recommend it, it’s powerful, clever and well constructed. The music is powerful and adds yet more dimension to the story. I enjoyed so much I hope they don’t ruin it with a second film.

 

Simon 🙂

Science fiction or possibility – The Martian

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Just the other day I watch the film The Martian on DVD having missed it at the cinema and had the DVD for months without having had chance to watch it.

The story hinges around scientist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) left behind on Mars after a freak storm forces the Aries 3 landing team to abort the mission. In the rush to evacuate Watney is injured and separated from the team, with the data from his suit indicating that he is dead they leave without him, presuming he is dead. Watney wakes having been impaled by  a mechanical part, which has destroyed his bio sensor (hence why his suit indicated he had died) and also sealed his suit – keeping him alive.

He gets back to the mission habitation module and starts planning how he’s going to stay alive until the next Aries mission arrives, he pins his hopes on being able to ration the food he has, grow more food and hope he can keep the life support functions operational. He also has to work out how to make his rover vehicle travel a huge distance to the Aries 4 landing site. The rover was only designed to travel around 30 miles, some few thousand miles short.

If this wasn’t enough, Watney needs to work out how he can communicate with NASA so they know he’s still alive. Meanwhile back on Earth they hold a memorial service for him and it’s only after this that images showing the rover has changed location tell NASA that Watney isn’t dead after all.

What follows is a story of courage, determination, survival, problem solving the shit out of everything as Watney takes one step forward and three steps back before he is finally rescued in what is probably the most ad-hoc fly by the seat of your pants rocket launch ever.


The things I liked

I liked the pace and the variety of the film, much of it was about Watney realising each of the problems he faced and one after the other solving them. One of the key moments for this was Watney growing potatoes inside the habitat module, and the magic of the moment he found the first plant growing.

There were moments of helpless humour, blowing himself cross the room with a hydrogen flame, falling through the roof of the rover as he jumps on  it trying to punch a hole through the roof. This is many senses is a very human story – we don’t have the hero making everything right and the whole thing running smoothly. He makes mistakes and learns from them, tries again and again to get to where he needs to be.

One of the surprises in the cast was seeing Sean Bean in it. I was wondering why this was as usually the Brit in a film is the bag guy. In a tiny little way you can kind of see a bad guy as he causes the crew of the Hermes to mutiny in order to rescue Watney.

But for me the reason why he was in this film was for one line. When the engineers are explaining how they’re going to save 5000kgs from the launch module, they have just finished explaining that all of the extra seat and the control modules have to go – the spacecraft being controlled remotely from the Hermes. The NASA official in dumbfounded at which point Bean’s line of “He hasn’t got the best part yet!” is slipped in. This kind or irony comes best from a Brit and it’s for that reason that Sean Bean is in this film I think – it magic and had me in stitches!

The things that were like “come on…”

When a spacecraft is orbiting a planet and at some point you need to make it home in a rush – it doesn’t happen. There is a window for which a spacecraft returns home, when a mission has been cut short you don’t suddenly pop home at a few hours notice. The fact that main spacecraft the Hermes had left Mars for Earth within a day of evacuating is to me the thinnest part of the story. I see why it had to happen, as without it there wouldn’t have been a story but in reality they would likely have been there months before heading back to Earth.

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Also – the 8 minutes it takes radio signals to travel to / from Earth seems to have been forgotten about – ok, I don’t want to watch 8 minutes of delay, but this wasn’t even indicated.

Finally and many of the films get this wrong – the mission commander get’s suited and booted into her space suit in literally seconds at the end when they need to grab Watney from floating away. It’s nail biting for sure, but it takes (apparently) over an hour to get into a spacesuit. I can forgive it to a point as it’s 2035 or something and it’s the future, but so far in 50 odd years they’ve not yet solved that problem.

Lastly on this, Watney needed to remove the nose cone of the launcher in order to escape, the cone (even under Mars’s light gravity) seems to weigh a huge amount. Is that right? Surely it would be a lightweight metal or composite?


 

My thoughts

This film raises a few points for me:

  • Watney reels off a set of legal facts during the film where he realises that he is in fact a pirate – the first human space pirate. This is to do with the legal system not yet accounting for exo-planet activity as such maritime law takes over. My point is… how useless is the legal system in reality?
  • The crew of the Hermes mutiny against NASA to save Watney. In reality, once humans leave Earth orbit, orders from command become worthless and in reality only the people on a mission are really in charge of themselves. Orders in reality are pointless and merely guidelines.
  • The reality of a real Mars mission is it has to be treated as one way only and has to be self sufficient. This is going to be an immense challenge, but one that can benefit all of mankind.

 

This is a really good film, being into scifi and an engineer also it really speaks to many things I find interesting. To me this was a film to entertain and to appeal to many genre’s and cultures. Because of this I personally think that much of the mood of isolation and desperation was lost in favour of a commander with crap taste in music and creating problems that didn’t really exist.

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This is all minor to me though, because I think if much of this had been done it would have made the film less popular and guess what – it has to make money. But, there were some magical scenes of Watney sitting on the martian surface looking out at the landscape, it was pretty epic and captured a feeling very close to isolation.

Because this was a good film with so much to it – I will be watching it again and praying they don’t make The Martian II – Damn we left the bugger behind again!

Simon 🙂

The Forbidden Planet

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One of the films I remember from my younger days (long, long ago, not in a galaxy far, far away) was the Forbidden Planet. It’s one of those old 1950’s sci-fi films, made when colour films had only just come to being. If you’ve never seen it before don’t let the age put you off, it a good film.

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Without spoiling the story, it’s got so much, a mystery that threatens the lives of everyone on the spaceship, a mad man that thinks he has control of what’s going on and of course Robbie. Possibly one the first robot icons of science fiction. He was clunky and slow but you felt you didn’t want to get on the wrong side of him.

The sets used to show the scale of the alien Krell technology are very impressive, the vast scales and depths come over very well. The music effects and the invisible monster bring a real sense of fear, while the blood and guts are never shown, you’re never in any doubt that the monster is vast and could easily tear a man apart. The viewer is spared the horror of the sight of the monster until near the end, but you still don’t get to see it properly adding to the suspense in the story.

The effects in the film while old are still very effective – even the battle scene with energy weapons is plausible, perhaps more than some of the acting – but this was made at a time when all Hollywood knew what to make was cowboy movies and war films. I would be bold and actually say it’s better than the original Star Trek TV episodes is a must for any Sci-fi buff who hasn’t seen it. But then, if you were a sci-fi buff, you probably already have!

Simon 🙂

2001 – A Space Odyssey

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My god – it’s full of stars! The words uttered by Dave Bowman as he’s sucked into the star gate. The line was never used in the film, in fact there wasn’t much of words used in the film. It was however full of beautiful and well selected music.

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The premise of the story centres around the monolith, a perfectly smooth black rectangular slab that seems to have powers beyond human understanding

 

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Have a look at the pictures from this – have a guess when the film was created? 80’s 90’s? Nope – 1968. This film could be put against other films made within the last 20 years and still stand up well against them. The film like the story hasn’t aged much because it was that well made.

There is very little dialogue in this film and to be honest it would have ruined the film if there was . This flim, this story comes up with some of the most iconic science fiction characters or fetures. The monolith, a source of power? a channel for an anien race? it was completely indestructible and what it was is never truly answered in any of Clarkes books in this series. HAL (Stands for Heuristic ALgorithm) the psychopathic computer on discovery that kills most of the crewand the mellow psycho tone in which HAL says “Dave – I think you should calm down and think things through”

This film captures in it’s feel many of the essences of what space travel will almost certainly be like – isolated, lonely and quiet. Something that would happen on Earth that is a small problem will be massively amplified in a spacecraft environment. All this was beautifully captures in stunning reality, both in the book and in the film.

It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, in fact at the premier many people walked out and Kubricks carrer was almost over as soon as it begun. But those people that walked out, came back becasue they wanted to know what happened and the rest as they say is history.

Could 2001 A space Odyssey be the greatest science fiction movie ever made? It’s tough to answer, but it’s up at the top at least. What do you think?

Simon 🙂

Pacific Rim

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As usual with films I was a bit behind when I saw this and it wasn’t at the cinema. But I wish I had.

The plot of this is uncomplicated, aliens attacking the Earth and the human race needs to stop them. Where the difference lies is that the aliens are coming from a portal at the bottom of the Pacific ocean and we as humans have created huge robots to fight them. Each robot has two human controllers, using their minds to control the robots function (one human can’t – it kills them).

Where the originality of this film lies is with the technology and the constantly adapting aliens, we still have a human council that seem incapable of seeing sense, the one person that defies them and find his own path to save mankind and the brash and headstrong hero who’s fighting his demons and trying to come to terms with their past.

It’s a metal grinding action packed, unsophisticated film with some really good little bits of humour and humanity in it. Apparently the Chinese really liked this film and saved it. I’m not sure I would want another though – it’s too much to expect us to like a second one of the same unless they find a way to give it a total re-vamp!

Simon 🙂

 

Tron legacy – amazingly unique or just brilliant CGI?

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I’m showing my age again when I tell you that I can remember when Tron first came out, with the dazzling blue lighted scenery, and a brilliantly different storyline making a film which we had never seen before or since.

So when Tron Legacy came out it begged the question, is this just Tron re-made or is this going to  be something different? Is it going to be worth watching?

Basically Tron Legacy knocked my socks off! One could argue that the plot at the basic level was the same as the first film, but there was so much more. The effects were kind of the same, kind of different. You had the nostalgic trip back to the early 1980’s when Sam went to Flynn’s. The games were the same, but different with the cycles racing but the disc fighting tournament.

The premise of the film was different, in that the errant CLU who was causing all the problems was attempting to make the ‘perfect’ system. This is the kind of thing that happens so much in SciFi, where a basic human instruction to a computer leads to untold chaos because of literal interpretation. Because of this, CLU had to be kept away from the ‘link’ and stopped from entering the ‘real’ world otherwise he would reign his chaos there too. There was so much more to the plot than the original, yet the old elements kept the nostalgia for the vintage viewer.

There are only two things I would have to say I didn’t like. Firstly is this film should and could have been made perhaps twenty years ago when Jeff Bridges was not so old, but then the music from Daft Punk was simply amazing and showed how much electronica has moved on since the 80’s. The second thing is Tron – now the baddie and CLU’s right hand man. I would have been amazing to see a dic battle between CLU and Tron. There was the brief conflict when Tron took out CLU at the end, but there could have been more.

What’s next though? Will there be another Tron based movie? The last we saw of Tron he turned from orange to white in the ocean, what has happened to Flynn? Is it over? I hope not… this was a good firm and it’s a great addition to the Sci Fi genre and I hope the visionaries that brought us Tron legacy will bring us more.

Simon 🙂

Interstellar

The other day I go the opportunity to watch a film I’ve had my eye on for ages – Interstellar. In short it’s about an Earth that is dying and the efforts of one man and his crew to find a suitable planet for the human race to live on. The human race is not yet able to travel between the stars, so we manage this by taking the Endevour (the space chip you see above) through a wormhole near Saturn. This worm hole doesn’t just take us a few star systems away – oh no. We don’t muck about – it takes them to another galaxy and a start system with three potential new planets.

The first thing I felt about this film was it felt in place very 2001 / Arthur C Clarke and in other’s a bit like Gravity. Which is ironic, because much of this film revolves around the human theories on gravity. The loneliness and the separation of the crew from their loved ones really comes out in this. and I feel mixed about this film because of the tragic swings in the story. Also when they discover a lone scientist who had survived in hibernation and later when their spacecraft is damaged. You can easily sense the increasing hopelessness.

There were a number of bit’s in the plot I really didn’t get. like how our hero (Matthew McConaughey) in sacrificing himself to the singularity end up in a dimension where he can see his daughters room and was himself the very presence his daughter could sense and was the person sending gravitational messages. He eventually ends up back around Saturn where he is rescued. It’s far fetched, but you can do that with Sci Fi where you can’t in other dramatic genre’s. Also one small point – if you need a space helmet to live on a planet, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be a good match for the human race I think.

It is a quality film and I’m glad I watched it, but it’s not something I could watch again and again. If you’ve seen it, let me know what you think.

Simon 🙂