Blade Runner November 2019

blade runner flying car

Anyone who has seen the classic sci-fi noirish film, Blade Runner, is well aware that the film takes place in a then-futuristic Los Angeles on November 2019. Mind you Blade Runner was released in 1982, so a date like 2019 seemed so far off to anyone around back then. Well, here we are at another date that was extrapolated upon in a past sci-fi work, and obviously many of the things projected for this date in Blade Runner have happened. In many instances we should all breathe a sigh of belief that some predictions for this date have not come true.

Blader Runner car over LA

Then again, some predictions that have yet to occur continue to capture our imaginations. The brightest examples are, of course, the flying cars that filled the rainy L.A. skies throughout the film. Only Back to the Future, Part II featured an equally impressive array and depiction of flying vehicles. There are real-life flying cars, but they are not commonplace nor as attractive as the spinners that Rick Decard flew in. Both the spinners and actual flying cars operate on the same propulsion system used by vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft. Although flying cars aren’t everywhere and there are many logistical and economic headaches that keep them from becoming commonplace like in Blade Runner (at least for the near future), we are closer and closer to seeing our skies filled with them. Some companies are anticipating such a scenario and are preparing for it. In Miami, the first flying car skyport is nearing completion at the 60-story Paramount Miami World Center, which will have a sky deck on its roof to accommodate flying vehicles. If successful, expect more high rises and more cities to build their own skyports.

Another thing depicted in Blade Runner that have not come to fruition was the advanced genetic engineering as shown with the film’s anti-heroes, the replicants. Artificially grown by the Tyrell Corporation, these replicants were created to serve as slave labor and were physically enhanced while hampered with very short life spans. Thankfully we are nowhere near this level of advancement so we do not have to grapple with the ethics of creating a sapient race of slaves. With the way the replicants were treated in Blade Runner and its sequel Blade Runner 2049, it would not be surprising when the clonal slaves mount a violent revolt against the society that despised them.

The replicants were used primarily in off-world colonies, which were never shown. Needless to say, we aren’t anywhere near having space colonies. This will change hopefully by the next decade or so when humanity ventures out to Mars and beyond. Until then, we have to take replicant Roy Batty at his word when he described the “Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion” and “c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhaueser Gate”during his famous poignant speech.

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Latest Terminator Suffers From More Than A Dark Fate. Major Spoilers

Terminator Dark Fate is the latest film in the long-running science fiction/action franchise that sees the return of creator James Cameron as a producer and contributed to the story, Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor and, of course, star Arnold Schwarzenegger as the famous killer cyborg.  The film has been divisive with fans because of rumors about certain plot points and this as such will affect reception of the film. As an action movie, Terminator Dark Fate is decent with some good action pieces and having Sarah Connor back in action is a treat. Unfortunately, the movie also makes the mistake of killing off a key character in the first few minutes. *What follows below will contain major spoilers, so unless you’ve seen the film, read at your own risk.

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In this case, John Connor, the savior of humanity whose existence was at the core of these movies, is gunned down as a child a few years after the events of Terminator 2: Judgment Day by yet another terminator sent back in time to kill him. Just like that, the events of the first two films are basically rendered pointless!  The film then jumps to 2020 and shows an augmented human called Grace (Mackenzie Davis), who is sent back in time to Mexico City to protect a young woman named Dani (Natalia Reyes), who now holds the key to the future of humanity. There is, of course, a terminator also sent back to kill her. This model, called a Rev-9 (played by Gabriel Luna) is basically two terminators in one, with a metal endoskeleton and a liquid metal exterior that can separate into a second cyborg. Basically, when John and Sarah destroyed Skynet in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, it created a new timeline where Skynet was never created, but instead has another artificial intelligence called Legion that comes into existence in 2042 that tries to wipe out humanity. When Grace shows up and escapes with Natalia only to be cornered by the Rev-9, Sarah Connor shows up and helps them to flee.

Sarah Connor reveals that she has been receiving text messages with the locations of terminators who were sent through time and she hunts and destroys them. The three women find the source of these texts, who is revealed to be the same T-800 that killed John, and now goes by the name of Carl. He currently sells drapes and has a wife and adopted son. Carl explains that it had no purpose after killing John and found a woman who was in an abusive relationship and it developed a conscience (!). He has been sending Sarah the texts to give her a purpose. Frankly, this part of the movies was ridiculous! I could see the terminator learning about human behavior similar to T2, but the idea of it raising a son and having a relationship with a woman is just not believable. Anyway, Sarah wants to kill Carl, but is stopped by Grace and Dani, and they reluctantly team up with Carl to take down the Rev-9. Without spoiling the rest of it, the ending is basically a rehash of T2, with a set up for the inevitable sequel.

Some reviews have said that this movie is better than previous sequels, but I disagree. Both Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Terminator: Salvation were better movies because at least they furthered the story in interesting ways. I always wanted the story to continue after the future-set Salvation, where we finally got away from the same trope of terminators being sent back to the past. Time will tell how this latest plot will go forward, if at all, but hopefully it will be something unique. I did like the future war scene at the very beginning that shows terminator endoskeletons rising out of the water and coming onto a beach, but it was all too brief. Another flash forward scene was somewhat interesting which showed how Grace got her augmentations after a battle with tentacled terminator models.

Linda Hamilton’s return as Sarah is great to see as she is now a grizzled warrior mourning her son and determined to get revenge on those who wronged her. Schwarzenegger is fine as “Carl” but the misuse of his character is not a good thing. Seriously, a drapes salesman? But more importantly how was he sent back in time if Skynet was never created? The terminators that Legion creatre in the future are different than the T-800 models. He should not even exist! Also, how does he know about these other terminators and Legion if he is not from that new timeline? It is never made clear.

The main problem with the idea of killing John Connor and just having someone else step in to the role of leader of the resistance is that it makes everything in the original Terminator film and T2 pointless. What if another terminator is sent back and kills Dani? No big deal, someone will just replace her! What happens when Dani and Sarah destroy Legion in the future? Again, so what? Another AI will take over. If they wanted to move on to new characters and settings, I can understand that.

Maybe the studio should have just made a full on reboot with no connection to the other movies. They keep trying to tie these films together and it makes everything awkward and convoluted. Terminator Genisys had this problem, as well. It started with a terminator being sent back to kill Sarah when she was a child, which changed events in the first film and erased the second movie. They should of just had that basic story of Sarah being targeted as a child as the first film in a totally new continuity with no connection at all with any of the other films and It would not have had any baggage to deal with. This is so frustrating since James Cameron developed the story, along with four other writers, and is behind this film. With the other derided Terminator films, it was easy to lay blame on Cameron not being involved. Well, there goes that argument.

As it stands, Terminator: Dark Fate is an okay action film and casual fans will probably enjoy it, but as a continuation of the Terminator franchise, fans will find it somewhat lacking since it makes the franchise’s logic even more confusing.

C.S. Link

Haunted Houses In Space

Alien, Event Horizon, Ship of Fools, Pandorum, Hull Zero Three, Life, Nightflyers, Dead Space, the list goes on. The basic premise of these stories are the same and boils down to a haunted house in space. It may sound like an odd combination, the haunted house in space, but when executed, this meshing of two genres usually produces some imaginative and scary sci-fi horror stories, films, TV shows, games, etc.

Why is this so? It all goes back to the concept that both genres when blended deal with the fear of the unknown. We don’t know what lies out in space, what we’ll encounter. But a core aspect of the classic haunted house story is the location itself. In such stories the protagonist is stuck in an old house and has to confront ghostly or demonic forces. Many of them are very terrifying and what makes them even more unsettling are their alleged basis on real events like The Conjuring films.

With sci-fi horror films the premise is moved out of rickety old houses and into a sci-fi setting, usually a spaceship or space station or a planet itself. Obvious examples include the mentioned films and games. Let’s focus on Alien. On a side note, its premise wasn’t new when the film came out in 1979 as a similar film It! The Terror from Beyond Space hit theaters way back in 1958.  Anyway, the crew of the space freighter Nostromo are hunted in their own spaceship by a murderous extra-terrestrial or xenomorph. Here you have the Nostromo, a spaceship, taking the place of the haunted house while the xenomorph is a perfect stand-in for a demonic entity or a ghost that is difficult to track. Adding to the horror element of Alien is the claustrophobic feel the spaceship emits. Corridors are dark and foreboding, hiding unexpected perils.

This type of setting highlighted the cult classic Event Horizon, a film that its director actually envisioned as a haunted house story in space. The spaceship design of the title ship is Gothic, cold, and even a bit Lovecraftian. Meanwhile, the non corporeal forces the rescue crew face are perfect updates on demonic forces and spirits as the film infers the spaceship Event Horizon actually traveled to hell and back.

What made the concept of Alien and others even more chilling is that unlike the traditional haunted house story, the characters don’t have anywhere else to go. They’re genuinely trapped. They cannot exactly just step outside the spaceship, it’s they’re life-giving oasis in the inhospitable environment of outer space. A common complaint about haunted house stories is that if a house is haunted why not just leave it and move someplace else? This doesn’t take into account poltergeists and demons that follow a victim everywhere, or the financial burden with suddenly leaving a home, but the question does have merit. The alien or other threat is on a spaceship deep in the cosmos? You’re stuck, my friend. Unless you want to take your chances with a lifepod in the middle of space, which ironically is how many of these sci-fi horror stories conclude. It’s that or take your chances and confront the threat head on.

Thinking about the characters’ limitations and the somewhat plausible nature of the threat then it’s easy to see why this type of sci-fi horror story is superior to a traditional haunted house tale.

 

 

 

Piling On The MCU And Other Superhero Movies

The continued dissing on the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and other superhero films by prominent filmmakers and actors has gotten ridiculous!

For years as the MCU gained more and more popularity and the films became more and more successful there have been grumblings from various actors and filmmakers who have not being involved in such films. They would pooh pooh the films and claim that they were only interested in real art and bemoaned the death of cinema. Most of us fans dismissed their rants and chalked them up to sour grapes and not bothering to understand the emerging cinematic genre.

But this piling on the MCU and the other superhero/comic book films is now overboard with the recent rants from Martin Scorsese and most recently Francis Ford Coppola. Frankly enough is enough.

Yes, we understand these filmmakers’ frustrations with getting their projects off the ground but to take it out on these films is uncalled for.  Of course, everyone is entitled to an opinion and certainly the superhero films won’t appeal to everybody. However, Scorsese recently said he has not watched most MCU films and then went on to make a broad statement about how inferior they are and called them “theme parks”, in other words, inconsequential fluff. To have such an opinion when not having seen many films of the genre is backward. This also infers that Scorsese has not seen superhero films that transcended the genre such as The Dark Knight, Logan, or Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Of course, the genre film he produced Joker does not count (note the sarcasm).

While many superhero films may not be high art and are harmless entertainment, there are many that are high quality films and yes this applies to many MCU films. There is not a need to list the many fine superhero films but it is clear that they contribute to the cinematic art form. Logan was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Academy Awards. It was the prejudice of many old fashioned voters that kept it from getting nominated for Best Actor or Best Picture. The same went for The Dark Knight, though Heath Ledger won a deserved Best Supporting Actor for his classic portrayal of the Joker.  Black Panther became the first superhero film to get the prestigious Best Picture nod, though there have been better superhero films. Nevertheless, this is an important achievement.

Superhero films are not alone in being disrespected by elite filmmakers. Sci-fi and horror continue to be disregarded by many of them even though many genre films are well made examples of cinema and have been very influential.

Keep in mind, much of this has to do with resentment. While Avengers: Endgame dominated the box office, Scorsese struggled to get his upcoming film The Irishman made and was forced to have it released through Netflix. The blame for this has to go to the studios who will only bankroll films that they are confident which will be successful, not just in North America but throughout the world. Superhero films happen to be the flavor of the decade. Each decade has a very successful genre that captures the public attention. Last decade it was epic fantasy films like the Harry Potter films or The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In the ’80s and ’90s it was action films, sci-fi epics, slasher flicks and disaster films. There was a time when the Western was the most popular genre, it is certain that many filmmakers back in the day grumbled about Westerns and how they couldn’t get their projects bankrolled. That is just the way it is. Sooner or later, some other genre will take center stage at the box office and there will still be complainers.

For us, we should ignore these critics, especially if they haven’t bothered to watch superhero films. As for them, maybe they should open their minds and genuinely give the films a chance. Either way, we know how great superhero films are and that should be enough.

José Soto

You Are About To Enter…The Twilight Zone: 60 Years Later

“There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.

Opening narration by Rod Serling to The Twilight Zone in its first season

The Twilight Zone is celebrating its 60th anniversary and is still regarded as one of the most influential sci-fi and fantasy TV series of all time. Its combination of surreal sci-fi and fantasy storytelling and eerie plots has made its many classic episodes quite memorable for genre fans of all types. Hosted and created by the late Rod Serling, his matter-of-fact introductions led viewers to witness many memorable stories that ranged from a gremlin trying to sabotage a passenger jet seen only by one hapless man ( played brilliantly by William Shatner) in “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”, to a bookworm (Burgess Meredith) who shuns society and yearns for solitude, and gets his wish after a nuclear war only to meet a cruel fate in “Time Enough At Last”.

The pilot episode “Where is Everybody?” started things off 60 years ago this month with an Air Force pilot in a seemingly abandoned town, who slowly succumbs to paranoia, as things are not what they seem. The plot twist at the end of “Where Is Everybody?” would set the tone for the whole series. Countless episodes had twist endings and examples of being careful what you wish for, as well as bizarre otherworldly happenings. Notable examples include: a woman chased by her double during a solitary road trip in “Mirror Image”, “The Howling Man”, which has a man chasing the Devil across the world using the staff of truth to keep him locked up in, a woman going to the top floor of a department store with creepy mannequins in “After Hours” or even seemingly benign aliens giving humans solution to world problems until their true sinister agenda is revealed in “To Serve Man”. These are just the tip of the iceberg with The Twilight Zone.

All of these many great moments have cemented the status of The Twilight Zone and led to many other anthology shows in its wake. Serling himself had a follow-up series Night Gallery starting in 1969 that was horror focused and not as well remembered. There have been two revivals in the 1980s (a film co-directed by Steven Spielberg, John Landis, Joe Dante and George Miller, and a TV show on CBS), a TV film in the 1990s based on Serling’s unused stories, a 2002 revival on the defunct UPN network, and one streaming right now on CBS All Access. Even shows like Amazing Stories, which was more fantasy based, and Tales From The Crypt can all trace their origins back to The Twilight Zone, which had all kinds of genres in its pallet.

The fact that it debuted in 1959 is also quite interesting since there was nothing like it on TV at that time. Unlike today with sci-fi being a huge industry, the era in which it came about was pre-Star Wars and Star Trek. Nevertheless, the show captivated audiences and even today it still holds up with its timeless stories and issues that it tackled. “Eye of the Beholder” dealt with body image and conforming to society’s standards of beauty and “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” showed how fear of an outside force can destroy a town. The fact that The Twilight Zone was a genre-based show allowed it to talk about issues such as these in an allegorical setting whereas a more realistic show could not, especially in the the late 1950s and early 60’s. It was one of the reasons why Serling created the show. He wanted to avoid censorship issues when crafting his imaginative and thought-provoking stories. This again, paved the way for later shows like Star Trek to do the same thing with its many takes on issues like civil rights and racism masked in the sci-fi setting of starships and aliens.

The Twilight Zone still gets accolades and is always included in listings of the top TV series of all time. TV Guide ranked it at #5 in their list of 60 greatest shows of all time in 2013 and in 2016 Rolling Stone ranked it at #7 for 100 greatest shows of all time. The Twilight Zone’s impact on pop culture also expands to other areas as well with a theme park ride in Disney’s Hollywood Studios park and numerous spoofs on The Simpsons. All of this for a show that was on the air when there were only three networks on TV and decades before the proliferation of science fiction, horror and fantasy in movies and television.

The power of these stories is still going strong after more than half a century and should continue to excite fans who have seen them countless times and gain new fans who will no doubt be drawn in by the iconic theme music that is still creepy to listen to even today, as well as Rod Serling’s famous words “Submitted for your approval…”

C.S. Link

*The intro shown below for The Twilight Zone is based on its first season. It’s not as famous as the iconic theme we all know of, but IMO is much eerier and more effective.