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Tag Archives: sciencefiction

The sequel to Blade Runner is my most anticipated movie in the last few years. I even gave up the chance to watch it on several flights because I wouldn’t finish it in one sitting (it’s almost 3 hours long). I was looking forward to this sequel because of oh so many reasons: 1) I enjoyed the original book by Philip K. Dick, 2) The original movie evoked a technological future and imagery that was appealing, 3) Denis Villeneuve was directing and his work on The Arrival was top notch, and 4) The teaser trailer was tingling and portended good things for the full film.

So with those high expectations, I watched the movie and I think it rated 4 out of 5. However, I don’t think it lived up to my hype. I gave it a 4 because my general criteria is that if the movie is interesting enough to be thought provoking, it deserves a 4. BL2049 is one of those movies that I can imagine English class dissecting in the future. The idea of ‘What is life/sentience?’ is a theme throughout. We already know about the human and replicant divide, but now there are also holograms/AI.

However, it was also disappointing because the mood was too overwhelming. I think the story could be told in 2 hours, except Villeneuve went a little overboard in establishing the tone of the world with minimal dialogue. The story itself is moderately interesting with a little twist but the pacing is too slow.

Finally, watching this movie ended up being depressing. Instead of evoking and inspiring a technological future, it suggested that the future is bleak and dystopian, even in LA proper (I guess all the good stuff is in the outer colonies). Las Vegas is completely bombed out as well. Maybe that was the goal but if so, it just doesn’t leave a good feeling – and in fact the future world of Ghost in the Shell felt more interesting (even if the movie sucked). So an unhappy 4 out of 5 here.

I never heard about the movie Passengers until I saw people watching it over a few flights. It turns out that I enjoyed this movie a lot.

The main reason is because it is a classic sci-fi movie. It happens in the near future, where humans have reliable space travel and colonization. A ship with over 5000 colonists and crew are travelling 120 years in a sub-light ship to a new world. The trip is mostly on auto-pilot and everyone is in hibernation. Except, an asteroid field causes one hibernation unit to fail and awaken its inhabitant. This happens about a quarter of the way into the trip so he’s destined to not just live out his life and die of old age on the ship, but to do so alone.

The movie portrays him as he goes through a variety of stages – from denial to despair, to making the most of it, to finally trying to decide whether he should forcibly wake up another traveler (spoiler: he does!). Then the cycle happens again with the newly awaken.

I think the idea is fascinating – to have an entire self-functioning and renewable spaceship at your disposal, at the cost of being alone. I’m glad that the movie spends ample time exploring this idea and developing the characters through that. It is a thought starter and the main reason why I enjoyed this movie.

There are also some external challenges that move the movie along. I wasn’t a big fan but it’s necessary for the movie – it doesn’t detract from it at least. However, I think this movie does what scifi does best – creates an interesting and plausible situation in the future and examine how it would be handled. Because of this, I give it a 4 out of 5.

I would’ve passed on this movie as just another Hollywood sci-fi flick, except that a couple of months ago I saw the trailer to Blade Runner 2049. I’m looking forward to that sequel and when I was reading about it online, the fan reception was positive because Denis Villeneuve was directing.

The Arrival was also directed by Villeneuve and it was supposed to be moody and atmospheric. I think it was quite successful at that. Even though I saw it on the plane, the sound was spectacular, especially during the scenes with the aliens. The audio made the aliens seem scary, even though I knew this was not a scary movie (and the aliens themselves weren’t scary). I guess it might have been a bit of the audio, and a bit of the “unknown” factor.

This film navigated the fine balance between disbelief and realism. The idea of learning the alien’s language and time travel (paradox) is actually a bit farfetched; but it was believable enough in the context of the story. Overall the film was interesting and a four out of five stars from me.

I enjoyed this book and am glad I finally read it. Like some of the other novels I have read recently, it was engaging and I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened.

The plot is about a child, the human race, and how the child is trained to save the human race from an interstellar enemy. There is a movie version, and I saw a bit of the ending previously. Like most stories, the good guys win – but it was interesting to see how it got to that point. The majority of the book covers the time when Ender (the child) is going through primary school. Of course, instead of primary school with kids – it’s the military…with kids. The battle simulations that he played were fun to read.

The second half of the story, where he actually grows up and embarks on his mission in life was rather short. After the author spent all that time writing about Ender’s “childhood”, I thought there might be more about the actual war. It’s almost like he had a page limit and had to tell the story within the allocated length.

Although this was a fiction novel, I think it was really interesting how authority (and later Ender) engineered situations and brought out leadership capabilities in talented individuals. I’m sure it wouldn’t work in all situations (i.e., non military ones), but reading techniques with a story is definitely much more interesting than a self help book.

I also found it interesting that while the book was written in 1985 and is science fiction, the idea of the Internet and social networks were fairly accurate!

I really enjoyed this book, so much, that it took me almost half a year to read. I could’ve finished it in a few days, but I didn’t because I wanted to savour it and enjoy it; rather than reading it in interrupted segments while I was waiting for other things.

Most people will know this Phillip K Dick novel as Blade Runner, although I haven’t seen the movie in well over a decade (but I think they’re doing a remake of it now). But I like the book version of Dick’s works rather than their film adaptations – the books are more weird and subversive.

The reason I liked DADoES is that it is the most exciting book I’ve read in awhile. It is plot driven and has a lot of “action” but it also has some interesting questions about human classes – are people human, “specials” (radiation affected humans) or androids; what really is the difference between them, and should we treat them differently. Although this is set in a futuristic world, you can imagine that those same questions can be posed today in our culture.

There is also the question of whether Deckard is an android (i.e., replicant). I remember that that was raised in the movie, but I didn’t read anything that would specifically point that out (nor was there anything that would disprove it). But it’s one instance where knowing the ending actually made the book more interesting, as I was thinking of his reaction to situations and how they would sway the argument one way or the other.

In preparation of perhaps watching the remake of Total Recall (mostly because it was filmed in Toronto – I recognize the subway car in the trailer), I did some pre-studying (much like Batman) with the original Total Recall that was released in 1990.

I had seen Total Recall before, but in bits-and-pieces and probably sanitized for TV. This was the first time I’ve seen it in uninterrupted order, and the first thing I noticed is that the beginning is unbelievable. Basically Arnold says Hi and then decides to go to Rekall to forward the plot. Thankfully it gets better from there.

The second thing I noticed was that it is very violent and bloody, but the fighting is horrible. There is no sophistication (or seemingly choreography) in the fighting; it felt like brawling. The gunplay was also stupendous. Ignoring that fact that they have unlimited bullets (it’s the future!) and that the heroes can never get hit, why do the cops wear bullet proof vests when any bullet goes through it? This contributed to my impression that the movie was campy.

I was also distracted by the juxtoposition between futuristic and dated technology. Every time they had something cool, such as touch sensitive dynamic nail colors, they have some 1990s junk like big cathode ray tubs. I wonder if we will look back at Minority Report in 20 years and make the same comments?

The redeeming point about Total Recall is the ambiguity about whether he is dreaming (or reliving a memory) or not (which I assume the concept is from the source material). They really do keep you guessing and provide enough hints on both sides that you really are not sure. Was Hauser’s videos done by holography? How did the man with the briefcase find Quaid in the random hotel? However, I don’t think this twist redeems the movie enough, and while many critics had good reviews for Total Recall, I’d only give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Fan Expo happened late last month. I didn’t go this year because I figured $35 (Saturday admission was $6 more than the other days) was not really worth it to walk around merchandise booths (where I wouldn’t buy anything), look at former B-list sci-fi actors (i.e., really D-list) from afar and line up for the privilege of doing those things. I did show up to try and hang around to see how people were dressed up, but they changed the layout this year and I was successful. I did end up seeing the Delorean from Back to the Future!

Anyways, perhaps it was the event that sparked me on a sci-fi trip in the last little while. Star Trek and Star Wars are the two big sci-fi franchises, and I think everyone is pretty familiar with them. I have interest in some other smaller ones too, like Babylon 5 and Stargate. But what I have been reading about recently, is Dune.

I first learned about Dune by playing the RTS Dune 2. That was pretty fun! Then I played Dune 1 (which was more of a RPG) and saw the 2000 Sci-Fi channel mini-series remake of Dune (I also bought the DVD somewhere…). Those was pretty good too, but then I never paid too much attention to it afterwards as I’m not a fanatic.

Recently it has captured my attention. While it is classified as science-fiction, I’ve come to realize that it is not the classic science-fiction that I enjoyed when I was younger. In the past, I read sci-fi books because they had all these interesting technology concepts that we don’t have today, but would be cool if we did. There certainly are technological advances in Dune, but there aren’t many; in fact, in the history of the Dune universe, all “thinking machine” level technology (i.e., computers) were eradicated!

What is captivating about Dune is the political struggle and posturing that takes place. Throughout the 15,000 year history, there are about 5 factions at any one time competing for power, and none of them can outright rule because they are all dependent on each other. Whereas Star Trek/Wars might be Axis vs Allies, Dune is very much like the current global-economic relationship.

Unlike our world though, where changes have real-life consequences, and time moves second-by-second. You can quickly move across thousands of years in Dune. You can see how families are merged and alliances are made. It’s like reading the history of Western Europe, except the authors made it interesting!

Maybe this will prompt me to start reading the Dune novels (all 8 of them?), although it is just so much easier to read about them on Wikipedia…